Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Did Piers Morgan do for Dubai?

I came to Dubai to find out if it really is all it’s cracked up to be, and the answer, if you like sun and fun, glitz and glamour is a resounding ‘yes’. As for the credit crunch, everyone I have met here says the same thing, Dubai won’t just survive, it will thrive and that’s because it’s bursting with ambition and drive all lead by one man’s extraordinary vision and utter determination to turn this place into the biggest and most successful city in the world.”

In January this year the Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan produced a program where instead of interviewing rich but vacuous celebs he went off to meet the rich and vacuous non-celebs of Dubai.

Dubai resembles what Albert Speer might have come up with had he teamed up with Walt Disney to make a New Berlin in the Persian Gulf. Its architecture and interior design is of such monstrous bad taste that it does a lot to reinvigorate the notion of art having a moral dimension.

Piers though gushed about the seven star luxury hotels, he gawped at the huge skyscraper, he marvelled at the artificial archipelago called The World. He missed completely the slave labour camps where the indentured Indian migrant workers lived in squalor. He also missed the censorship of the press, a bit bizarre for a former editor of a couple of British tabloids. Whether or not he also missed the equally dubious sex industry that thrives amongst the pleasure domes we don't know, but it didn't appear in the program anyway. However what's all that when you're having fun in the sun with a lot of ex-pats looking to rake it in tax free.

Well, now the wheels appear to have well and truly come off this bandwagon. It's been quite a week for crashes. We've had Tiger Woods and an Italian Police Lamborghini, but biggest of all has been the Dubai stock exchange, which has just closed after its worst ever day's trading.
All the signs are that this is the start of an economic shock that will echo around the world. The recently bailed out British banks are trembling at the thought of having even more of their assets wiped out. Other small countries with economic troubles are terrified of what this might mean for them. If the fall of Lehman Brothers showed that no company was too big to fail, Dubai might be about to tell us that even countries can go bankrupt. Other small countries with dreams of wealth above their means must be worried. Ireland must be very scared.

Piers Morgan's views on this are not known, but shortly after Dubai he was gushing over Jordan. Ms Price has just quit the I'm A Former Celebrity jungle after the public voted to make her eat half the bugs in Australia. Piers is apparently back with a new series soon, so anywhere else he lands should perhaps be worried.

Nothing is inevitable until it happens, but with Dubai it always seemed like it was going to be a race to see whether the ecological crunch or credit crunch got them first. Here the neo-liberal dream tried its hardest to defy reality. Artificial islands like The World were build a few inches above sea level as if Climate Change wasn't happening and the ice caps weren't melting. Skyscrapers were built on the never-never as if the economic bubble was going to keep on expanding forever. Each citizen now effectively owes the rest of the world over $400,000. It's going to be hard to see how they can afford to carry on importing fresh water, let alone avoid inundation by the ocean.

Perhaps in years to come an alternative to a tour of the pyramids will be a cruise round the drowned metropolis of Dubai. Inevitably the tour guides, like Simon Jenkins, will be quoting Lord Byron:

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,

Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws

The only shadow that the Desert knows:

"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,

"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows

"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,

Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose

The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder, and some Hunter may express

Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness

Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,

He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess

What powerful but unrecorded race

Once dwelt in that annihilated place

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Climategate - Nothing To See Here

Nothing lights up the Climate Change denial blogosphere more than the whiff of righteous indignation when they feel they're on to a scandal, and it was no surprise that the hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit set fingers twitching in darkened rooms across the English speaking world.

The concrete jungle of UEA seems a strange place for a global conspiracy to have its HQ. It's probably full of lovely people, but looking at it you imagine that after dark Alex and his fellow droogs from Clockwork Orange run riot in its concrete passageways. Blofeld for sure would have had something rather better. However just such a conspiracy is what the deniers believe they've found.

It's still early days for figuring out what exactly was in the emails, but it does appear that material was hacked for several weeks in a sophisticated operation and that what has been published is a selective and partial version of several conversations, some a decade or more old.

Some of the allegations of conspiracy are derived from single words int he messages; "trick", "fudge" etc, whilst others relate to alleged professional misconduct; the suppression of controversial papers, the displaying of data in misleading way and the subversion of Freedom of Information requests. As well as the emails computer code used to make climate models was hacked and this too is the subject of controversy.

Interesting though is what is not in the emails. Had anyone hacked the account of my old physics department I suspect they'd have found that 90% of the messages were about Dungeons and Dragons and most of the rest would have revolved around futile attempts to get laid. There's none of that ere. There's also no references to One World Governments, gravy trains of government funding or Shape Shifting Reptiles from outer space.

What is also missing is any context for these messages, and this is very important. An important strand of the allegations is the alleged nobbling of professional publications and scientific papers by Climate Change sceptics. Specifically this refers to the journal Climate Research , which is alleged to "encourage the publication of crap science". Seeing as how the editor and half the board subsequently resigned after the publication of one such paper, the CRU people may well have had a point.

Not that everything in the emails can be discussed quite so lightly. If a Freedom of Information request has been dodged that may actually be illegal and if relationships between warmist and sceptical scientists are as bad as they seem then maybe some of them shouldn't be involved in the peer review process. Also the computer code, whilst not shown to be fixed, is certainly complicate and opaque. There is an argument for suggesting that scientists should standardise their software and put code up for review when papers are published.

A conspiracy though there is not, and neither has the basic science of Climate Change been dented. The tea cup is currently experiencing a Force Ten gale, but that's all.

The denier blogosphere is still buzzing, but increasingly the deniers are now asking why the mainstream media has dropped the story. The leaks have become like Desdemona's handkerchief; conclusive proof of infidelity to those already maddened by paranoia. Just a handkerchief to everyone else.