This Would Be Illegal

At least, I think it would be.

These are the requirements for one of the most sought after careers on the planet: the chance to go into space. The European Space Agency has announced that from May it will be recruiting a new cohort of astronauts. But although the ESA has said it will consider applications from all 17 EU states, unless the UK government changes its position on funding human spaceflight any British applicant selected would be blocked from beginning the training.

The Constitution they\’re pushing through right now bans discrimination on the grounds of national origin. Thus the proposed action would be illegal.

Good

The European commission is backing away from its insistence on imposing a compulsory 10% quota of biofuels in all petrol and diesel by 2020, a central plank of its programme to lead the world in combating climate change.

Amid a worsening global food crisis exacerbated, say experts and critics, by the race to divert food or feed crops into biomass for the manufacture of vehicle fuel, and inundated by a flood of expert advice criticising the shift to renewable fuel, the commission appears to be getting cold feet about its biofuels target.

Under the proposals, to be turned into law within a year, biofuels are to supply a tenth of all road vehicle fuel by 2020 as part of the drive to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the same deadline.

The 10% target is "binding" under the proposed legislation. But pressed by its scientific advisers, UN authorities, leaders in Europe, non-government organisations and environmental lobbies, the commission is engaged in a rethink.

"The target is now secondary," said a commission official, adding that high standards of "sustainability" being drafted for biofuels sourcing and manufacture would make it impossible for the target to be met.

As ever, having the bureaucrats trying to pick a technological winner was a disaster.

No, It Wasn\’t Me

I hear a rumour that after the ASI do on Wednesday that someone or other had their breakfast bought by Plod.

I also hear that it was rumoured to be myself, as I didn\’t blog that day.

Nice story, except I was on a train to Exeter in the morning and a flight to Portugal in the afternoon, which is why I didn\’t blog.

But who is it who can tell us what Her Majesty provides for breakfast?

I\’m All of a Flutter

My word, Polly T does rather lay into the tax system today. And, umm, quite rightly too (not what you expected to read here, did you?).

Those at the very bottom pay a far higher marginal tax rate than those at the top, with a bungled benefit system imposing a 70% tax loss for every extra pound they earn.

Indeed, it\’s the overlap of the tax and benefit systems. Solvable in a number of ways: lower benefits perhaps (perhaps not a good idea), greater tapering (very expensive), no means testing of benefits (hugely expensive but possibly the way to go with a citizens\’ basic income) but te simplest i simply to take the poor out of the tax system altogether.

He could take all 10p payers out of tax altogether, a move that would cost £7bn and cut everyone\’s tax a bit, with the lowest-paid gaining most.

Of course, I and other vicious right wingers like the Adam Smith Inst would go further. Let\’s really bang that tax free allowance up to £12 k or £14 k, really take the working poor entirely out of the income tax system.

Indeed they are right as secret fiscal drag, failing to raise thresholds, has quietly brought more people into higher tax brackets – but not the richest, whose earnings rose fastest; no new tax band for them.

We\’ve been muttering about fiscal drag for a long time: as wages generally rise faster than other prices, tax bands should go up faster than the general level of prices. Something whih has deliberately not been done, pulling people into those higher tax bands indeed. We could though use this very same argument about raising the IHT limits…..given the rise in house prices.

Now the Fabian Society proposes ways to start winning back the argument. It is too late, the society thinks, to win back IHT. It suggests a capital receipts tax used in other countries, where recipients of gifts are taxed over a lifetime instead of estates after death: everyone could receive up to £80,000 tax free, with tax rising gradually until £260,000, and everything above taxed at 40%.

Not a bad idea: tax the recipients, not the estate.

How odd that, on personal allowances at least, Polly is now onside with the Adam Smith Institute.

Tee Hee.

Tony Juniper:

More recently still, however, and based on an analysis of conditions in the past derived from ocean bed sediments and ice cores, leading climatologists led by NASA\’s Jim Hansen have suggested that even 350 ppm might dangerous.

….

While the climate change sceptics and deniers comprise an ever-dwindling band, they are still undermining our last chance to deal with the climate change emergency. I\’m sure they\’ll be here again today, peddling the junk science of special interests and the ill-conceived, unreferenced and non-peer reviewed tripe loaded onto the websites from which they seek solace from the reality of global warming.

You are, of course, aware that the Jim Hansen paper is not peer reviewed? That it is a "pre-paper"? Further, that it is making very contentious (code for "no one else as yet agrees") points about climate sensitivity? Ones which very few indeed take seriously as yet?

 

Greenland Slipping into the Sea

Or rather the ice upon it:

But her team also found that, when considered over the whole year, the surface meltwater was responsible for only a few per cent of the movement of the glaciers that they monitored. Even at its peak, it appeared to contribute only 15%, and often less, to the annual movement of the outlet glaciers at the edge of Greenland.

"Considered together, the new findings indicate that while surface melt plays a substantial role in ice sheet dynamics, it may not produce large instabilities leading to sea level rise," says Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington. "There are still other mechanisms that are contributing to the current ice loss and likely will increase this loss as climate warms."

"To influence flow, you have to change the conditions underneath the ice sheet, because what\’s going on beneath the ice dictates how quickly the ice is flowing," said Das. "If the ice sheet is frozen to the bedrock or has very little water available, then it will flow much more slowly than if it has a lubricating and pressurised layer of water underneath to reduce friction … It\’s hard to envision how a trickle or a pool of meltwater from the surface could cut through thick, cold ice all the way to the bed. For that reason, there has been a debate in the scientific community as to whether such processes could exist, even though some theoretical work has hypothesised this for decades."

So we\’re back to the idea that it will melt, but not the catastrophic and immediate slipping of all the ice into the ocean. Back, in fact, to the 2500, 2700 AD timescale for that sea level rise which we think will occur.

Whatever discount rate you use (and whatever growth rate to the economy you apply) it\’s really rather difficult to construct a case that we should do something now to prevent that happening then.

For example, using the 3% or so global growth rate, in 2500 those people extant then will be more than 2 million times richer than us. At 2%, 17,000 times richer.

They can deal with it themselves.

Intelligent Life

Well, yes, it would be interesting to find it here first….

But this calculation isn\’t as bleak as you might think:

The chances of finding intelligent alien beings on other Earth-like planets are tiny new research has concluded.

The likelihood were are not alone and intelligent life has evolved is just 0.01 per cent on each suitable planet according to calculations by one scientist.

Assume that his calculations are correct: does that mean the possibility of intelligent life out there is low? It really rather depends upon how many planets there are out there….and with billions of stars, I\’d say that the probability is really rather close to unity.

That is, the probability on any one planet is low, but the presumed number of planets makes it almost a certainty. After all, we\’re here, so we know that it can happen, don\’t we?

 

This Will Be Fun

Tesco is to test putting "carbon labels" on its own-brand products next month in a move to enable consumers to choose products which are less damaging to the environment.

The retailer will put carbon-count labels on varieties of orange juice, potatoes, energy-efficient light bulbs and washing detergent, stating the quantity in grammes of CO2 equivalent put into the atmosphere by their manufacture and distribution.

As the scheme expands we might see some very angry people. Imagine what will happen when Spanish tomatoes, or New Zealand lamb, are marked as having lower footprints than domestically produced equivalents. Going to make those food miles people look pretty stupid, isn\’t it?

Glory!

Umm….

Yet wherever you live, there is no way back from crack, the ultimate dead-end drug. You either stop taking it, or you die.

Where I live, out here in the real world, stopping taking crack is known as a way back.

Vitamins are bad for you

No, really:

Popular vitamin supplements taken by millions of people in the hope of improving their health may do no good and could increase the risk of a premature death, researchers report today.

So, Linus Pauling was wrong then.

But Patrick Holford, a nutritionist who has formulated supplements for the company Biocare, said: "Antioxidants are not meant to be magic bullets and should not be expected to undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

"When used properly, in combination with a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking, antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health."

Yes Patrick darling, but if you\’re doing all of those things then antioxidants are hardly necessary, are they? But then sales would suffer, would they not?