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Underwater Britain Sunday November 19 2000

The forum is now closed.


Has the effect of the Sun been taken into account. As an example sea wave heights follow a cycle very close to the sun's own cycle. I think that too much emphasis is put on fossil fuel burning and not enough on natural occurrences.
Andy Graves
Plymouth

Why aren't the other countries giving money to the British government to help the flood victims ? Because the British give money to American when they were hit with floods & hurricanes last year in Orlando.
John Birkby
Leeds

I think education leaflets should be produced, not only regarding what is happening to our planet and why, but also that the Earth's resources are not limitless, they will run out and it could happen in their lifetime or their childrens.

We need to change attitudes and use the technology we have to our full advantage

S Trew, Tiverton
A lot of the problems are caused by ignorance or the belief that it will not affect you or your immediate family. Also the government should offer training schemes for environmentally efficient energy/transport systems. Technology and science classes in schools should teach about the advantages of "new" over "old" technology in more depth than has previously been considered. We need to change attitudes and use the technology we have to our full advantage. We have some wonderful technology that needs to be developed to fit in with peoples lives not to line businessmens' pockets.
Miss S Trew
Tiverton

Thank you to all that have contributed to this page. You have restored my faith in the intelligence of the British Public. I now realise I am not the only one fuming every time the media present the view that human induced Global Warming is taking us to global catastrophe as scientific fact. All we seem to get is "this is all because of global warming" and no one seems to come up with any hard data. Shame on you Vivian White! You have confirmed my view that journalists never let the truth come in the way of a good story. Unfortunately, the programme was so poor it did not even present the arguments supporting the GW Armageddon view. It was simply a collage of the last two weeks' news clips. Of course, a couple of "scientists" were wheeled out but not even they came up with any facts just pure speculation. It is interesting how many institutions have sprung up with "climate change" in their name. Change, why not science? I bet the funding is good. As for Mr Dixon, one would not wish to be uncharitable but frankly the "waterproofing" of his seaside abode gave the game away about the reliability of his testimony. Dear BBC, if all you can now produce is drivel of this kind then I can well understand your moving Panorama to such an obscure time slot. I can only expect that you will let it die a natural death. Shame on you!
M Sammut
Newcastle upon Tyne

It started at Rio. What a great wheeze for Kenneth Clark to bring in the fuel escalator and avoid increasing income tax. There are many doubts as to whether carbon dioxide is affecting the climate at all. Many scientist think it is part of the earth's natural cycle.
D H E Knights
Ashford, Middlesex

It seems like the hysteresis of greenhouse gases in excess to the norm being in the atmosphere means we have to do not one thing or another, but to prepare properly for floods using all known technology of any age, and reducing production of greenhouse gases as equally drastically
Richard Laughton

There is no doubt that global warming is taking place. In the past hundred years or so the average temperature around the globe has risen by 0.5C. This may not sound a lot but it could, if the trend continues, have disastrous consequences. The most obvious of these is a rise in sea level brought about for two reasons. Firstly because as temperatures rise a melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would occur, and secondly because as water is heated it expands - hence the same amount of water would fill a greater volume resulting in ocean levels rising, flooding low lying areas. Other consequences of global warming are less obvious - one of the most extreme being an extinction event. It is timely that the BBC are currently screening a series by David Attenborough related to extinctions. All species have an optimum set of conditions under which they thrive. Increasing the temperature of a species' habitat would force it to adapt, or if it cannot adapt it would simply die out. Reducing biodiversity in this way could be catastrophic. However some caution needs to be exercised when apportioning blame. In recent years both the government and the press have sought a scapegoat in the form of car exhaust fumes. Although cars do contribute to global warming they are not the sole cause. Burning of fossil fuels generally by industrial nations increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas this results in global warming. But a far greater effect on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere results from the deforestation that is taking place around the world, particularly in South America. Finally a word of warning to us all - if no action is taken to prevent global warming taking place the situation could rapidly spiral out of control.
Peter Webb
Crawley

Interesting programme. But no mention of the region that could be hit hardest, yet survived unscathed: East Anglia and Fenland. The waterways drain a catchment as large as any in Britain, and a good proportion is at or below sea level, yet no serious flooding was reported anywhere. The key surely is that the water engineering system, developed from the original Dutch drainage, benefiting from ample floodwater buffers (the "washes"), and equipped with a co-ordinated system of centrally controlled sluices, allows even the flows of recent times to be managed, contained, and allowed to run off in a controlled fashion. Surely a lesson for flood planners elsewhere, even if the implications are expensive.
Ted Harding
Manchester

I'm an engineer working on flood defence schemes;

We cannot afford to cast all flood-plain as non-developable in the UK

Tim Dawe, Long Eaton
I would like to have seen more content about the issue of 'flood-proofing' buildings which are built in flood- plain (as is done in USA for example) where the ground floor is non-living space, and all living areas are at first floor or above - as other people have commented. We cannot afford to cast all flood-plain as non-developable in the UK; there just isn't the room if all other pressures on land-use or designation are to be accounted for as well. I will give an example of a southern county planning officer who, after discounting Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, existing built-up areas, Green Belt and a couple of other designations of similar ilk, was only left with flood-plain for any further development. A lot of brown-field sites are in flood-plain too; are we to ignore them as well? I also want to respond to those who query who is responsible for maintaining the rivers. The legal responsibility for this lies with the landowners alongside the river (called riparian owners), not with any authority (unless they're the landowner). The Environment Agency has legal powers to carry out river maintenance and flood defence works, but it has no actual legal duty to do so! Internal Drainage Boards and Local Authorities have similar powers where they are the relevant drainage authority, but the duty lies with the landowner(s). Regular dredging would also badly affect the plants and animal/insect life living in and on the river channel or river bed because of the regular disturbance and silt disturbance.
Tim Dawe
Long Eaton, Derbyshire

Very biased programme full of bad science. You have become a mouthpiece for a bunch of extremists. Global Warming BALONEY - NASA say the earth is cooling. Now who do we believe NASA or a bunch of nutters. Hmmm tough choice.
Roger Thorpe
UK

Is there any evidence to suggest that the recent high rainfall levels and changes in mean temperatures we have observed might be a return to how things 'used to be'? The rebirth of old rivers and streams suggests that at one time these watercourses were permanent fixtures - which in turn suggests that natural water table levels were far higher. We have kept records for what is a geological instant - a few hundred years - and base our beliefs primarily on those data. Some of the re-emergent streams were present for thousands of years before drying up a couple of hundred years ago. Who's to say that rather than the effects of Global warming - we may just be emerging from a dry spell?
Jon Andersson
Worthing

I am soon to do a presentation on global warming at university and from the evidence I have seen it is impossible to attribute one event as being caused by human activity. However, it raises some interesting political issues i.e. as the industrial, developed countries are the major sources of C02 emissions, is it fair to expect all countries contribute to the cost of doing something about it? Future development in the periphery is going to mean a huge increase in the periphery but is it fair to deny these nations the benefits of economic development which we have enjoyed since the Industrial Revolution? Clearly much depends on future developments in less developed countries. For once, the developed and less developed world are aligned in the impacts of a global environmental problem that demands global political co-operation.
Angela Evans
Builth Wells

It seems an obvious option to me that as these occurrences are bound to happen more often - the reservoirs and flood dams should be dug deeper. I'm sure this simple step would go a long way to reducing the risk of flooding.
Des
Bradford, West Yorkshire

LA's having given permission for housing on flood plains should share costs of raising houses with piling and jacks with the developers. Alternatively ground floors of houses should be converted to garages and workshops, 1st floors to kitchens and living areas, lofts to bedrooms and bathrooms.
John Busby
Bury St Edmunds

The programme properly made comment that burning of fossil fuels contributes to release of carbon dioxide etc. What was a little misleading was the flashed images of transport, implying that transport of people is the problem. This is not the case. The major industries responsible for the release of Co2 are construction and food. Everything produced has an energy profile. The production of bricks and mortar are a tremendous consumer of fossil fuels as is the production, distribution and storage of foodstuffs. The images shown on the programme included all buildings built of bricks and mortar, most of which had Upvc windows and doors, a flood defence warden who appeared to live on her own in a great big house, clothing worn by the participants a mixture of synthetics...... must I go on. The solution is not with governments, it is with communities, and in the hands of the people themselves. What is needed is a major rethink of the way we live and of our voracious consumer lifestyle. The Government's role in this is to improve education, not on the three R's but on the essentials of life and how we live. Further info on the real cost of producing transporting storage etc can be obtained from The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales. A very good programme, but not entirely balanced.
Malcolm Drew
Salisbury

It seems to me that we have done with defences and drainage systems that speed up the time it takes the water to get from the flood plains into the river system.

We need to stop speeding the passage of water up, and start employing some different holding techniques if we can't stop building on the flood plain

Owen John, Cheltenham
This really defeats the whole point as the reason we are getting so many problems is that the water is getting to the rivers too quickly!!. If the passage of the water was slowed down, as it always has been by the flood plains and drainage basins, the pressure on the rivers would be spread out over a longer period of time, and therefore would be lessened. We need to stop speeding the passage of water up, and start employing some different holding techniques if we can't stop building on the flood plain.
Owen John
Cheltenham

Good programme regarding the increasingly more frequent and devastating floods. Would it have been possible to cover more on the aspect of loss of flood plain land? Do we have figures regarding to volumes of water storage capacity lost or number of new houses flooded that were originally on flood plain land? Do all the planning application officials dotted about the country realise the scale of the water that is held in flood plain land? Would it be possible to follow this programme up with an investigation into this area of flood protection?
Anthony Malone
Northampton

This year has seen a peak in sunspot activity. Whenever sunspots reach such a peak our weather becomes much more inclement. I do not doubt that global warming is a reality, but what I do question is whether human activity is having as drastic an effect as some scientists would have us believe. There are many cycles of inclement weather recorded in human history, many of which occurred long before the invention of the internal combustion engine. There are so many variables in the weather that no one can be sure as to what is the true cause of all this. Besides, many scientists do very nicely in perpetuating the idea that humans are responsible for our present problems. This is not to say that we should therefore discount it altogether, but we should be wary of vested interests. Before we condemn ourselves for these problems I would suggest that we carry out much more research into solar activity, and try so see whether or not the sun itself is undergoing one of its many cycles of contraction and expansion. I also believe that historical records will show that inclement weather patterns follow such cycles.
Alan Davies
Aberdare

Yet again we have the Government blaming every flood or storm on Global Warming. The Earth's climate has been subject to major change for Billions of years, not just a few hundred.

It is about time that the Government received Scientific advice based on what is known

Jon Corfield, Telford
Ice ages have come and gone throughout the Earth's history, and long before Human influence could be used as the scapegoat. Climate change is influenced by Volcanic activity, by variations in the Tilt of the Earth toward the Sun, and by varying levels of the Suns activity. All these things change over periods of thousands of years. It is far too complex to be explained by the very recent activities of Humankind. It is about time that the Government received Scientific advice based on what is known. At the moment they seem to be receiving exactly the advice they want to hear. As to the recent floods, I am sure there are many people alive now who can recall equally severe conditions earlier this century. If you look at the longer term picture (i.e. Geological timescales) then it is clear that the Earth's climate as a whole is now in a relatively calm period . The only certain thing is that the Earth's climate is a complex system which has endured through periodic change, sometimes violent change. Carbon emissions are largely from natural sources, so it would be nice if Mr Prescott and Mr Meacher would get some decent advice, and stop trying to prove the most convenient theory to fit the current taxation policies.
Jon Corfield
Telford

Power stations are one of the biggest sources of pollution. People need to turn their central heating down, only heat rooms they are occupying and not leave lights on unnecessarily.
Mr K G Bandy
Ingatestone

It was scary to realise the facts of the climate change that I watched on Panorama, but why not the people concerned, encourage more foresting and school children to plant trees all over, to HELP minimise the danger, and purify the air? At least better than waiting till it's too LATE!!
Mohamad Berjawi
Buckingham

"It's the sort of event we'd expect from global warming" stated sincere spokesman on Panorama's Underwater Britain. Well, there's all the evidence I need then. I can go to bed safe in the knowledge I'll be under 3 feet of water tomorrow and it'll all be down to man-made emissions of CO2... The serious point in this debate is that armed with no more proof than "Global Warming is a fact, don't take my word for it just look outside" we give world politicians a vehicle for unlimited taxation "for the good of the environment and our grandchildren"żgee, thanks! One commentator on this site said that the fuel protestors should take note, well yes they should because they are going to the wall for a cause that is at best unproven and at worst a public scandal. I and others like me, prefer science fact not science fiction. It's all too easily and often done, for sceptical voices within the scientific community to be dismissed as being in the pockets of the major industrialists institutions. But this would be to ignore the very great number of respected climatologists, including many of those involved in the IPCC report on which the Kyoto agreement is based, but more persuasively the real body of science behind climate change. When will those people who say "of course global warming is a reality" realise that just because they've heard it on TV it doesn't make it so. Most people who willingly accept the global warming theory have done no research on the subject or the scientific data used to support both sides of the issue, the politicians and environmentalists alike would like that to remain the caseż.come on BBC let's have an objective and balanced debate.
Aaron Ridsdale
Sheffield, S. Yorkshire

Re: "concreting over"- why not legislate to have rainwater downpipes to soak away into the garden, hence provide more of a sponge effect to hold back water - and help shrubs & trees survive the drier summers?
Geoff Rose
Warwick

There is an awful lot of hype about this topic, and this programme added to it.

We must do whatever we can to minimise our impact on the world

Andy Brown, Portsmouth
Global warming seems to be taking place, but whether this is caused by greenhouse gasses, reduction in rainforest or whatever must be very debatable. What we can measure is the melting of the polar ice caps, which will surely have a devastating impact if it continues. By affecting the ocean currents, it could cause an ice age in Northern Europe. Climate is complex, and so is our effect on it, so we must do whatever we can to minimise our impact on the world.
Andy Brown
Portsmouth

The programme would have had more credence had the "experts" talked in terms of what might happen. Instead, informed opinion was presented as fact which is wrong and unprofessional.
Blake W G
Malmesbury

As a professional Forester I was disappointed that the broadcast on climate change had no mention of the value of forests in helping to mitigate the effects of global warming. e.g. Carbon dioxide sequestration, providing renewable energy alternatives (biomass) and helping to reduce the impact of flooding on development by siting new woodlands above settlements on vulnerable floodplains to reduce the intensity of flows.
Jeremy Steed
Minehead

With reference to the programmes comment that new development on flood plains will have to provide flood defences; surely the real requirement should be that where development takes over a flood plain then the developer should be required to provide an alternate area to take any flood water diverted from his developed area.
John Kendall
Highcliffe

Areas of the country where houses will have to be built on green belt or flood plains were once protected by white zone - what happened to them?
E.W.Thuysbaert
Broad Hinton

What a poor programme. Panorama is supposedly trying hard to increase its audience and regain some of its lost clout. It won't achieve that objective with programmes like this. Watching any news programme during the recent flood period was more informative. Please let's have some more in-depth analysis of a multi facetted issue rather than superficial wallpaper. I would be happy to come and produce/present it for you if you can't find anybody there.
Nigel Abbott
Esher

If 1 in 10 live on flood plains, more people will be looking to move to other housing. Will the government do more to encourage building on brown field sites, and discourage building on green-field sites, now that it is recognised that vegetation contributes to the reduction of C02 in the atmosphere?
Sally Phillips
Bassenthwaite

Is there any info available on our countries water absorption rate during heavy rainfall compared to previous periods say 70 to 80 yrs? The country's potential for flooding surely can be simply expressed as total volume rainfall minus the ground's absorption rate? This factor must surely be brought into the argument about global warming?
Richard Mcgowan
Lower Tean

I found the programme interesting and well filmed. Thank you. I have 2 comments: 1) I would have liked more information about the scientific reasons behind global warming - rather than statements that it existed. ('the scientists have warned us of this'). Clearly floods have been occurring for 100's of years, well before global warming, and I would have liked to see some info on this. 2) It would have been a better documentary to have included - even in brief - the effects of the recent flooding in Europe. Clearly the UK is not the only country to have been effected. If these suggestions had been incorporated, then I believe that the programme would have been more rounded, informative and have given a better overview of the background to the current situation.
Anita Maguire
St Albans, Herts

I feel strongly that no-one has mentioned the condition of our water-ways prior to this autumns rainfall. It used to be the responsibility of the government's water-board authorities to keep the rivers clear by regular dredging. Now that the water is privatised I am curious as to whose responsibility it is to keep the silt, reeds and weeds cleared to allow maximum rainfall capacity. Please, surely not the water companies. Profit orientated bodies - as has been devastatingly proved by the rail companies - are not to be trusted to undertake maintenance, which can cut into profit margins and share dividends, unless forced to do so. Also, why is Mr. John Prescott proposing Ashford as a 'growth area' with a building programme of thousands of homes - when it has long been diagnosed as a flood plain?
Arlene Newman
Balmeanach, Isle of Skye

I must say the quality of the debate held on this forum is far more impressive than that of the programme being discussed. So, either the viewing public aren't as stupid as the present trend for dumbing down suggests or the management are. This is, however neither the time or the place for that particular discussion. Regarding the programme 'Underwater Britain', I agree with Tony James of Cornwall up to a point. The effects of agro-business on the countryside of Britain have been fairly catastrophic. Over the past forty years the number of sheep grazing has risen 4 fold, due to EU subsidies. There is evidence to suggest that sheep grazing compacts the earth to the extent that water will not penetrate more than 4 feet, starving acquifiers of their natural source of water. Also the over-enthusiastic use of agro-chemicals has effected the absorption of water in the soil. Simply dredging the rivers is not the answer. Neither is global warming the only culprit. The situation is far more complex.
Martin Lewis
Leeds

The programme was I believe, intended to highlight the plight of those caught up in the recent very wet weather and the problems with the associated flooding and how we should cope in the future. These issues were presented well but failed to provide any conclusions apart from global warming (significantly) and the impact that man is having on our present climate and inadequate flood prevention (to a lesser extent). It would appear that the your only conclusion is that flooding is to get worse rather than better and that there is very little that we can do about the problem except stop burning fossil fuels! This form of programme is blatant scaremongering giving no hope to those affected and justifying any increases in insurance premiums the Insurance Industry wishes to make. Yes global warming is possible, but as yet (obvious from your lack of precise factual information) not proven. There are a number of extremely noisy "Greens" with their vested interest Scientists proving that Man is responsible for climate change. Then there is the other side of the coin with vested interest Scientists working for the fuel industries proving otherwise. Your programme indicated a general consensus of Scientists supporting the view that Mans activities are the cause of climate change. Is this true?

Such unbalanced programmes do little to advance any debate

Michael Clark, Bracknell
As yet there is no hard evidence of what quantity of CO2 is put into the atmosphere from Mans activities let alone what effect such unquantifiable emissions may have. The Earth itself throws billions of tonnes of CO2 and a whole host of other 'green house' gasses into the atmosphere in varying proportions every year (can these be measured accurately and with confidence of outcome?) I am reminded of such gloomy predictions in the 70's when the great and the good were predicting another 'Ice Age' in the near future. Such unbalanced programmes do little to advance any debate, allows fear to cloud judgement, but most of all creates a massive overcompensation for what must really be seen as usual solar activity and (as usual) unpredictable British weather. Please let those interviewed with one view be balanced with some form of ational comment or counter argument from those with differing views.
Michael D. Clark
Bracknell

I recall the voices of doom in the 1970's, who no doubt also appeared on Panorama, saying that we would have run out of oil by the end of the century: We have just heard their successors anticipating future weather when they cannot even predict the weather for next week. What odds, I wonder, on getting normal rainfall next year. Perhaps Panorama will get tonight's experts back in a couple of years time.
Peter Thomas
Banbury

I have been mentally prepared for weather like this from before I was a teenager (in the eighties) - I have watched with increasing despair the lack of concern for the environment by almost everyone I know. If this supposed 'change' in climate means that the message is going to start getting through to people and the Government then at least some good will have come from the devastation.
Andrew McInnes
Dalton, Thirsk (North Yorkshire)


It has taken something as everyday as the rain to make us realise that control is a myth

Annabel Yates, London/Cornwall
A fantastic, thought provoking programme that we should all take notice of in a society where control over almost everything is now taken for granted. It has taken something as everyday as the rain to make us realise that control is a myth. Seeking a scapegoat, the national knee-jerk reaction of blaming someone, is no longer an option. This programme forces us to think and act. It was brilliantly presented by Vivian White whose professionally, reticent manner did not draw attention to himself.
Annabel Yates
London/Cornwall

With the current flood situation, we hear of flood defences being provided, but which has not been effective in the event. Has anyone considered the fact that many of our rivers are now filled with silt from excessive farming. As a river silts up, there is less possibility that rainwater can be carried in the volume necessary. A lot of the current situation could be alleviated by undertaking dredging operations to open up the rivers with flooded plains. We have seen a specific example of this locally, when a property was continually being flooded with every heavy rain. The problem was finally cured when the river adjacent to the property was cleared out, creating less resistance to water flow, and a greater volume handling capacity. There have since been no flooding problems. A large river with a big flood plain silts up easily, so should be cleared regularly to make sure the run-off capacity is adequate. In all the discussions I've listened to, this has never been referred to as an obvious defence to flooding.
Tony James
Helston, Cornwall

I am horrified by the Environment Agency policy of managed retreat. To pretend it has anything to do with Global Warming is rubbish. I was a Geotechnical Engineer doing my training in the early 70's. Then we all knew that the East of England is sinking and the West coming up. It's called the Church Stretton Axis. In the Early 70's we were already applying corrections of about a foot to the older Geological Maps of London. I think you must check whether there are other motives for proposing the abandonment of sea walls such as helping birdlife etc. I have my holidays in Holland each year and that farmer was quite right the Dutch would think such proposals laughable. Yes they've done it round here, in the Blackwater, for the sake of a few feet of mud on the top of a sea wall they have given up to saltings a large area of the Blackwater, Essex. You read their explanatory plaque next to it and you have to think we are about to give up a good proportion of the South East to the desires of the friends of the birds. Why don't they appoint Engineers to these jobs, Mark Dixon didn't sound like an engineer to me and he made me very angry. I don't have any stake as we are well above sea level. Check the motives! - please.
Ian Searle
Bradwell-on-Sea


We as the human race somehow believe that our weather must stay the same year in year out

K Green, Brynna
It amazes me how everyone blames global warming. I have to say that it may have a small impact on climate change and we all must make every effort to reduce the impact on global warming, but we as the human race somehow believe that our weather must stay the same year in year out and if it changes there must be dramatic reasons why it does (global warming). The fact is our planet's climate over millions of years has changed dramatically including ice ages etc., without mans intervention so to blame recent floods on global warming to my mind is totally unjustified. In stating the above however, I would like to say that we all must make every effort to reduce the impact on our environment, but does it have to be at the price of giving up one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century the motor car, planes etc., I am sure that to find cleaner fuels would be the way forward and can be achieved if governments and major companies involved in fuel production worked together to achieve this.
K Green
Brynna

Despite being trailed as an investigation into climate change in the UK, the programme totally failed to address this with any objective evidence. It was largely a magazine programme showing pictures of the recent floods. No real attempt was made to discuss the science behind climate change, nor indeed whether the alleged climate change is anything out of the normal pattern of global weather behaviour. At the very least, in any discussion of climate change, the base needs to be set. Are we measuring the last 10, the last 100 or the last 1000 years? There was no scientific challenge to the claim that abnormal climate change exists. There were moreoover claims that the temperature is rising. In fact Satellite data indicates a slight cooling in the climate in the last 18 years. These satellites use advanced technology and are not subject to the "heat island" effect around major cities that alters ground-based thermometers. Three points that were not made are: 1. 98% of total global greenhouse gas emissions are natural (mostly water vapour); only 2% are from man-made sources. 2. By most accounts, man-made emissions have had no more than a minuscule impact on the climate. Although the climate has warmed slightly in the last 100 years, 70% percent of that warming occurred prior to 1940, before the upsurge in greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes. (Dr. Robert C. Balling, Arizona State University) 3. A Gallup survey indicated that only 17% of the members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Society thought the warming of the 20th century was the result of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. I expect a reputable programme like Panorama to be more balanced in its presentation, and not simply rework a tabloid version of the subject.
Richard Buttrey
Warrington

Like others, I would like to see another edition of Panorama, or Horizon, which would explore the history of British climate over the last two millennia. For instance, is it true that in Roman times, vineyards flourished? Was there global warming then?

It is a good idea to conserve the global carbon stocks and not to squander it on electricity generation

John Baillot, Stoke on Trent
Since the scientific community is divided over the subject, it would seem prudent to err on the safe side by building suitable sea defences. There should be a national strategy which would transcend party politics. Unfortunately, history has shown that long term planning is not one of the strengths of our political system (e.g. BSE, the dome, roads, railways, Channel tunnel, etc.). Again like others, I remain "agnostic" as far as the connection with man-made emissions of CO2. What of volcanism? It would be "intellectual fascism" to insist that climate changes are directly man-made. Climatologists should be permitted to research the causes, unfettered by any such preconceived notion. However, it is a good idea to conserve the global carbon stocks and not to squander it on electricity generation, which would have the side effect of reducing CO2 emissions. The stocks will be required for the foreseeable future for transport, and the steel, cement, and plastics industries. We are told that crude oil will be seriously depleted in perhaps 30 years or less (Money programme). Since China and India will be industrialising heavily this century, there is no other option but to consider nuclear fission power plants for electricity generation. We will have to wait until the middle of the century for a practical nuclear fusion plant to come into being. So, nuclear energy is likely to be the "green" solution, despite the safety and waste issues. It's interesting to note that the government has just given the go-ahead for two North Sea gas fired power stations, and as every schoolboy/girl knows, one molecule of methane produces one molecule of CO2 when burned. Britain cannot save the World. It would be ridiculous to compromise our industry if other countries are not prepared to do likewise. We should do no more, or no less, than the Americans and Europeans. But I suspect that this government and future ones will use global warming and the specious link to man-made CO2 emissions as an excuse for stopping road building and to increase taxes on all kinds of fuel. No wonder Eddie Stobart is taking his lorry fleet to France! The writing's on the wall, people.
John Baillot
Stoke on Trent

After watching Underwater Britain last night I was shocked. Not by the floods, or the devastation caused, but by the fact that people were shocked by the events of the last month. Have we not known for many years that this was going to happen? What is to be done? What is a flood plain for? Why has any building occurred on them? Why is it still happening, quicker in the last ten years than ever even once we knew what was in store? Flood defences may be a short term solution but as more rain falls more will be breached. Those living on a flood plain should take the opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and move. I know that this will not be easy but surely in the long run, even if compensation is to be given, both those who move and the country will be better off. I am not going to appoint blame, but remember you were warned.
Alison McIntosh
Aberdeen

In your programme about 'Global Warming' and the effects that 'Emissions' from various sources are to blame, one point was not brought up at all and I would have thought that following the comment that the build up of Carbon Dioxide was the main culprit - no mention was made about the reduction of the rain forests - which have effectively broken down the carbon dioxide into harmless gases in the past. Was this not mentioned because of the political implications or was it just ignored?
Derek Boyce
Liverpool

Once again the myth (?) of a conclusive 'Global Warming' has been held as a scientific fact. There are several important factors we should remember when we talk about weather. 1. Reliable recording of the weather has only been carried out for the last 60 or so years. Records may go back 250 years, but they are only for very localised areas and not particularly reliable, so we base our knowledge of phenomena with geologic time scale cycles on a human life time of reliable data. Tree rings and ice cores can show global patterns, and trends, but not local conditions. 2. The climate we are experiencing is only a few degrees warmer than the temperature at the time of the last ice age, 25 years ago the panic was were we entering a new ice age, not is the planet warming up. Even in recorded history there is evidence that the temperature in the UK may have been warmer then it is at present. 3. Lastly I would like to see the statistics that show the difference between geological processes and their effect on climate, volcanic eruptions being the main example, and human processes. I would like some honesty in the whole thing, I feel that scientists perpetrate the myth of global warming to justify increased funding for research, fine, but admit that a lot more research must be done, the climate as a chaotic system is extremely complicated and difficult to model, and almost impossible to predict. Government is using this as an excuse to increase an already ridiculous level of taxation.
John
Brentwood

This was an incredibly poor programme, which will only add to the problems faced by those people suffering from flood damage by increasing their insurance premiums and blighting their properties. The statements by Crispin Tickell on the Frost Programme and those of Prescott and Meacher on the news are hardly going to help either. Quentin Cooper covered the issues in Thursday's 'Material World' on Radio 4. He was in discussion with Professor Alan Thorpe of the Hadley Centre and Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre for climate change at the Univ. of East Anglia. These two centres are both convinced that global warming is happening. However this is what they said about the recent floods and unsettled weather: The unsettled weather of the last twenty years is most likely caused by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) i.e. changes to the pattern of currents in the North Atlantic - A natural phenomenon. The Hadley Centre's climate model does predict a small increase in rainfall in the winter months and it was predicted that this might increase. However Professor Thorpe emphasised that there was a much greater degree of uncertainty in these predictions than with temperature increase and there was no evidence in the rainfall data. Thus he was saying that there is currently no evidence linking global warming with the recent floods.
Rod Mould
Addlestone

It was interesting that the Essex farmer's question about what the Dutch intended to do in the future about sea defences wasn't followed up. Was this 'off message' for the Panorama journalists and the main thrust of the programme.
Steve Puddy
Taunton

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