Australia’s rogue leader

The Observer, 19 April 2015

You state that there is “only a limited amount that Australia can do on its own” to save the Great Barrier Reef (Destruction of the great coral reefs is a problem for us all, April 12) Well, it could start by changing the policies of its own prime minister.

Tony Abbott, who  describes climate change as “absolute crap”, abolished the  Climate Change Commission and the following year scrapped Australia’carbon tax. Already  Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal, but Abbott has sanctioned the construction of new ports near to the Great Barrier Reef to supply China.  Undoubtedly he will be one of the main obstacles to progress at the  climate change summit in Paris later this year. When the Great Barrier Reef has been destroyed, Tony Abbott will be remembered as the rogue Prime Minister who finished it off.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

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Air pollution

The Independent on Sunday, 19 April 2015:

Air pollution, causing 30,000 deaths each year in the UK, is not a new problem (“Supreme Court to rule on illegal pollution levels”, 12 April). In 1984 I gave evidence to a House of Lords select committee on the health effects of traffic pollution and presented United States data which showed higher rates of lung cancer in urban areas, even among non-smokers. Their lordships recommended catalytic converters, but the main problem was particulates from diesel engines and this problem has continued unabated.

For four years, the UK government has been resisting legal challenges to reduce pollution. The World Health Organisation recommends 25 micrograms per cubic metre as the maximum 24-hour level for small particulates, but this is regularly breached in UK cities. A recent study in The Lancet showed deleterious effects on the foetus at levels below 25, so the Government seems prepared to hazard the welfare of pregnant women rather than inconvenience car manufacturers. Why has no one made this an election issue?

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Former chair, Campaign for Lead-Free Air

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

World Bank must do more on fossil fuels

The Guardian, 15 April 2015:

The figure for fossil fuel subsidies of $1tn given by the World bank includes approximately $500bn in direct subsidies from selling petrol at below cost, and another $500bn in tax breaks, which include VAT exemption for airline fuel and, in the UK, tax incentives for fracking companies (End subsidy on fossil fuels now April 14). It does not include the health and environmental costs to society of carbon emissions. In 2013, the IMF used a figure of $25 per tonne of CO2, which adds $800bn to the estimate, but this is almost certainly an underestimate, as most commentators put the price at $50 or higher. In either event the world community is shelling out $2tn annually to promote an activity likely to end human civilisation as we know it. By contrast, renewable energy receives just $80bn in global subsidies, or $1 for every $25 spent on fossil fuels.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Politicians must curb grip of media moguls

The Guardian, 9 April 2015:

How refreshing to read an unexpurgated account of Rupert Murdoch’s political machinations, but let us not forget the pernicious influence he has exerted on the climate change debate (Murdoch’s grip is loosening. All that protects him is fear April 7). In the US, one voter in four believes that climate change is a conspiracy dreamed up by scientists to further their own research budgets, a delusion that can be laid squarely at the door of Fox News, owned of course by Rupert Murdoch. An academic study showed that Fox viewers actually know less about world affairs than people who don’t watch any news at all!

Murdoch’s support of fracking is reinforced by commentators such as Matt Ridley whose sceptical views on climate change are given prominence out of all proportion to his scientific credentials in publications such as the Times and even the Wall Street Journal. Leaders in the Times such as the one entitled “Frack, Baby, Frack” illustrate the atrocious lack of balance that now afflicts this once great newspaper.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire