Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Energy Demand and Freezing Weather ...

The 'Big Freeze' in the US could have been made a great deal worse by massive power outages. The surprise is what 'saved' the system. It certainly wasn't all those windmills and solar cells, nor was it the coal and gas generating stations, and even the diesel emergency generating stations had problems. The probably unpalatable fact for the 'Green' lobbyists is that it was the nuclear stations that kept going while natural gas lines suffered massive drops in pressure (the gas 'liquified' in the low temperatures and Charles Law took over and did the rest), the diesel generators suffered fuel problems (diesel fuel tends to 'jellify' at very low temperatures) and the coal trains couldn't get enough to the power stations in the snow - and the snow hindered its movement from the storage bunkers to the furnaces where there was enough.

The much maligned and hated nuclear power stations alone had no problem. Need more power in the grid? Run up some more of the turbines and bring them on line. The only thing that could have bothered them was the collapse of the overhead power grid. From Smart Planet, I got the following data in an article entitled The Score After the Deep Freeze: Nuclear Power 1: Polar Vortex 0. When Solar and Wind were shutting down because the extreme weather rendered them unusable, nuclear took the strain. Output figures for New England for the period show:

  • Nuclear 29%
  • Gas 27%
  • Oil 15%
  • Coal 14%
It is reported that coal stacks froze solid, and both oil and gas had problems, and diesel generators don't function well in extreme low temperatures (ask the U-boat commanders ordered to operate above the Arctic Circle in the 1940s ...). The remaining 15% of the energy used came from a mix of other sources, though wind provided the bulk of it - when the wind conditions allowed it. Now, remember this is for ONE part of the US, and the freezing weather actually affected the whole of the North and West and extended almost as far South as Florida. Admittedly the New England area is possibly one of the more densely populated areas and therefore has a very high demand for power, but it highlights one of the biggest problems we face in the pursuit of 'clean' energy.

It is true that there are a number of problems associated with nuclear power, but the fear that has been whipped up against it is largely based on general ignorance. The ignorance of the majority of people is ruthlessly exploited by the anti-nuclear lobby who are probably almost as ignorant as those they claim to 'inform' on it. One of the biggest problems is the lack of understanding regarding radioactivity, radiation and the dangers. As a good friend and former colleague who specialised in radiation once remarked, it's a radioactive universe. Yes, the current Uranium based reactor systems do produce some nasty by-products with long 'half-lives' of decay, but the question most folk don't understand is the difference between exposure to Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation sources. The first two are fairly easy to shield, the third is not and is the really nasty one. Ironically, almost every anti-nuclear campaigner I've ever encountered doesn't know this and doesn't realise that the gold rings, ear rings and pendants they wear also emits radiation. So do the rocks used to build houses in places like Scotland or Cornwall.

Had an x-ray recently? You've probably had about half the allowable radiation dose permitted in a nuclear facility. I discovered some years ago talking to a man (then in his late 80s) who had been part of the Manhattan Project team, that their 'safe exposure limits' had been set by halving the exposure limits allowed for x-rays ... No one seems to have ever questioned them since.

Radiation in one form or another is present everywhere, most sources things we take for granted and don't even consider to be 'radioactive'. Until fairly recently if you'd held a Geiger counter near the face of a 'luminous' watch it would have gone crazy. In fact it isn't that long ago a watchmakers premises in London were found to be sufficiently radioactive as to need a massive (and expensive) decontamination process.

The real problem with Nuclear generation is the waste, and here again, there is as much misinformation as there is waste. The truth is that very little of the waste is actually 'high level' waste such as Plutonium, Polonium, Caesium and so on. Most of it is irradiated clothing, tools and other materials which do not have a long 'half-life'. It is this stuff that Greenpeace and CND activists love to find 'improperly stored', and whip up hysteria with often staged and retouched photographs. Of course the stuff is dangerous, but to claim it will 'poison' the ground water, or irradiate anyone walking past is is nonsense. The high level waste is a different matter, but again, there is actually very little of it. The fuel rods themselves are generally recovered and can be reprocessed so that around 80% of the original material is recovered. The nasty stuff can be removed and is first cooled, compressed into cakes, then sealed into solid glass slugs before being encased in concrete and a steel jacket. This is the stuff the anti-nuclear lobby would have the gullible believe is being mishandled and improperly stored - and ignorance is their tool.

The fact is that nuclear is the best alternative to wind, solar, coal and oil electricity generating plants. For one thing there is no CO2 output. Nor do we have to stay with the current Uranium fuelled reactors. The truth is that Uranium was chosen for the simple reason that it does 'breed' Plutonium and that was required to make the atomic bombs. The alternative is to use Thorium which has almost no seriously bad decay products. No Plutonium, no Polonium and no Caesium. In other words, you don't have the incredibly long 'half-lives' of the radioactive wastes we are currently dealing with. There is still waste, and there is still a 'risk' but then the waste from a coal burning power station is seriously nasty - and radioactive.

To those who would rather see a further spread of windmills I would point to the fact that during the recent storms in the UK the National Grid was receiving very little from all the hundreds of turbines around Britain. Most of them were shut down because the winds were too strong - so the power was being produced by all the 'dirty' technologies they are campaigning to have shut down permanently. If you would rather see hydro-electricity increased, there are problems there as well. Building a dam large enough to generate the sort of capacity required causes massive ecological disruption to wild-life and the river systems - take a look at the Aral Sea since the Soviets dammed all the rivers that once fed it. Take a look at the Snowy River in Australia below the dam built on that, or the Murray-Darling Basin once the waters feeding that were diverted to provide water to other uses.Take a look at what is happening now on the Yellow River in China and then take a look at how the Severn eco-system will be affected by a barrage spanning the estuary. Why not dam the Thames at Dartford? Sure, the river upstream will be stable (it currently has an 18 - 21 foot tide) and the outflow/inflow can be used to generate power, navigation will be affected of course, but think of the benefit ... 

Nuclear power generation doesn't impact rivers, landscapes or ecological systems in anything like the same way. Incidents such as Windscale, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima are rare - far rarer than incidents involving other power generating plants, and each one of those involved circumstances that were unique. There are no nuclear plants in Europe or the UK that incorporate the features of Fukushima, much less are built in earthquake and tsunami zones. Nor is it so easy to deliberately crash an aircraft into the reactor building. In fact I would bet that most people couldn't actually identify the reactor building at most such sites. Changing the type of fuel to Thorium would, in fact, change the ball game as well. OK, it isn't as easy as simply pulling one type of fuel rod and replacing it with another, but this is where the current "No Nuclear" attitude is actually holding us back. 

So far all the efforts to cut power use, to reduce reliance on 'fossil fuel' (and there is a huge debate on whether 'oil' is in fact a 'fossil' product) have failed. And they will continue to fail. Our society needs electricity - lots of it - to survive. Those who think we can revert to subsistence farming, are living in Lalaland, and those who think we can maintain our current standard of living and levels of civilisation while reducing our use of electricity and transport are fooling themselves. "Renewable" energy will never replace normal generating plants since they are not reliable, and the fact that ever single one of us is actually subsidising the owners of these things is a disgrace. Data from the National Grid shows that though wind has the capacity to supply 17% of demand, it rarely produces more than 5% of what is required. 

Nuclear is clearly far more reliable, and if the hysterical, misinformed, campaigning mob is faced with reality - as in the removal of all their electric gadgetry whenever their wind turbines drop out of the gird - we might see some real progress. Progress which doesn't mean defacing the countryside and destroying the ecology with their windmills, dams and acres of solar panels. It is time for a major rethink, and for some serious education of the ignorant.  

Monday, 27 January 2014

A small hiatus ...

We have been experiencing a small hiatus in posting lately. It is not a lack of material to post, nor is it a lack of desire to do so. It is a new addition to our family/pack/flock, whatever ...

His name is Kashmir Blue von Rheinhessen, a blue merle Sheltie pup we have taken into the family as a companion and playmate for Harry vom Goldbachmoor. Harry is delighted, but also determined to maintain his status as No. 1 dog in the pack. That said, to watch him playing gently with the pup and sharing affection, treats, toys and even inviting Blue to play, is pure enjoyment. Blue is now ten weeks old and still learning to sleep through the night, to ask to go out, and generally is pretty high maintenance at the moment.

He tackles everything with enthusiasm - even when it comes to (finally) sleeping.

Normal service will, we hope, resume soon!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Weather Lore

Listening to a learned climate scientist making predictions based on the latest models and data yesterday I did get a few laughs. The present warmer than usual winter in Western Europe is being seized upon by the Climate Change/Green lobby to ramp up their "see, we told you so" scaremongering. No mention is made, of course, of the unusually cold weather blanketing the US and Eastern Canada, or of the unseasonably extensive pack ice in Antarctica, or the massive recovery of the Arctic ice. Oh no, the entire focus is on the "Climate Change" in one small part of the overall continent. It was funny, largely because all these serious speakers have university degrees and live in cities, making, of course, the occasional foray into the countryside to choose some more sites for windmills and solar panel farms, and perhaps to wring their hands over the latest lack of snow.

Living in a small village, surrounded by farmers and forest, one cannot help but be aware of the old folk lore regarding a lot of nature and natural phenomenon. It's a pity so many highly educated Greens and Climate Scientists don't take a closer look at what the people on the land, in the forest and in the fields can tell them about cycles. A couple of weeks ago one of our local farmers told me that if the Epiphany dawned warm and clear with no snow - the winter was over and the Spring would arrive early. There are a number of similar measures and sayings in different places, and they are, generally, based on many centuries of observation, and are generally pretty much on the money.

Epiphany was chilly, but it was clear, and there was no snow on the ground. Now I am seeing birds furiously building nests, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife all getting themselves geared up for the next stage in the cycle of their lives and the old farmer is complaint that the crops he had planned will not thrive yet - because the ground is still to wet.

It strikes me that for this sort of 'lore' to arise, there must have been centuries of observation of similar events and cycles. OK, so the folk who developed this didn't have temperature records, they didn't have satellite images and data, and the probably wouldn't know the North Atlantic Oscillation from a fun fair. That doesn't mean it can simply be disregarded - especially when it is, a lot of the time, more accurate than all the data crunching that goes into 'models'. I suspect that most of these models are simply a fancier way of the old Shaman throwing the bones and declaring that, because one landed in a pool of water, another on a stone and yet another on a patch of bare ground, that this meant we were going to get a flood, followed by a drying up of the rivers and a drought.

The rural weather lore is not just sucked out of the air, it has developed and been handed down through generations. It would not be repeated if the cycles weren't being observed by those repeating them. Some of the residents in this village are well into their 80s and one is over 90. Talking to them about the cycles of the land and the weather is fascinating and, I must say, a heck of a lot more informative than listening to someone repeating the story that Germany will not see any snow - even on its highest mountains, in another 30 years. Or that even Switzerland will not see snow in a hundred. I mentioned this to one old fellow here and he laughed. "Ja," he said, "They said that when I was little. Then we got the winter of 1947."

It seems to be the same thing all over the world. Once one becomes an "expert", the simple act of doing a reality check occasionally seems to get forgotten. Now, thanks to the fact that a warm winter (my neighbour reminds me in broad Hessisch that they had a similar one some years ago) I shall dig out my waders and take my friend Harry the Sheltie for a walk in the mud.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Immigration: Positive or Negative?

No matter where you are in Europe, 'immigration' is somewhere on the political and media agenda. Both tend to play on the negative aspects, such as the ghetto building and benefit claiming, fraud and crime, but is the reality? The most recent example of the media-political bias on this subject surfaced with the recent integration of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU. The Daily Fail trumpeted imminent the arrival of 25 million benefit scroungers 'just waiting to invade' Britain. We had similar headlines in some sections of the German Press, and naturally we now have Ministers all proclaiming their 'determination' to restrict access to 'benefits' for immigrants. What all the newspapers and other media have failed (and so have the politicians) to mention is that the "25 million" number represents just about the entire populations of Romania and Bulgaria, the vast majority of whom have absolutely NO intention of moving countries.

In fact, the Home Office has now revealed in answer to a Freedom of Information request that the number of Romanians who have taken up residence in the UK since the beginning of the month is less than 24, and all of them have jobs. And before anyone squeals 'stealing our jobs' they have been recruited to jobs that couldn't be filled 'locally' for reasons best known to the employers and the local jobless. There are a number of independent reports pointing to the fact that the vast majority of immigrants from the EU arrive in the UK (and elsewhere) to take up employment local people either didn't want, or didn't have the skills for. Yes, 'benefit tourism' (in Germany it is called Sozialtourismus) does exist, and there will always be those who take advantage of a system, but they are a small minority.

Those who know me, also know that I immigrated to the UK in 1988. Yes, I am an immigrant. I didn't come cap in hand looking for a slice of the benefit system, I came to take up an offer of employment, and the first ten years in the UK were anything but fun, and anything but easy. I earned too much to qualify for assistance in anything, and too little to have any spare cash for luxuries for me, my family or anyone else. I supported my retired mother whose pension fund was non-existent until her death in 1999, I paid maintenance to my ex-wife until I retired in 2006, and I paid into both a pension fund and the UK tax system for all of that time. In fact I still do, though I am now retired on the very small pension I did manage to build. I am not untypical. The vast majority of those like myself, who migrated seeking a better life for their families, or a different political culture, better opportunities or simply a better life often find they have to make huge sacrifices in order to realise their goals. It isn't easy even if you are moving to the 'land of your fathers' and speak the same language, think you share the same culture and so on. As you quickly discover, you will always be an 'outsider', a stranger betrayed by the little nuances, the little differences in understanding or approach to dealing with life.

The current hysteria in the UK over 'immigration' betrays a deep seated insularity in a section of the British mindset, and what is most interesting is that it is often those who burble on about the benefits of 'multi-culturalism' who foster these fears. As an immigrant I made the conscious decision to leave behind anything and everything I was used to. I did everything I possibly could to integrate myself and my family into the society we moved to. We joined the local church, the children went to the local school (with hindsight, the choice of their first school was a disaster), we deliberately did not start every conversation with 'when we were in ...' and made light of answering questions prefaced 'when you were in ...'

I know very few people who have immigrated who haven't made the same effort and for very similar reasons. We wanted to be a productive part of our new country, and we didn't want to bring all the baggage of the old one with us. Sure, there are some little family things that you keep, but on the whole, you put the old aside and try to fit into the new. Everyone I have met with a similar background, whether from my former home, or from anywhere else in the EU or the world, came to a pre-arranged job, is in employment, pays tax and contributes to society, the economy and the life of their community. So why are ALL immigrants now regarded as freeloading spongers by the media, politicians and Whitehall?

I do believe that a large part of this is down to resentment in some sections of the population. They see some immigrants choosing to set up closed communities in enclaves in our cities, bringing with them a different culture and perpetuating it instead of adopting the hosts. They hear rumours, or there are well reported cases of fraud involving someone labelled an immigrant by the media, and fall for the assumption that this is 'representative' of all immigrants. It is not helped by attempts by the Multi-Culturalist brigade to stifle any debate on the grounds of 'racism' or any other '-ism'. Somewhere in all of this some other aspects get lost as well. Often immigrants take on jobs in parts of their host countries that the 'native' workers refuse to move to in order to take the employment. Or taking the job would cost them their benefit provisions. There are many reasons underlying the problem of pools of unemployment and immigrants 'taking jobs' the locals won't.

The annoying thing is that the media, politicians and civil servants completely ignore the fact that the majority of immigrants - even those whose family roots, heritage and culture is not rooted in Europe or the UK - are hardworking, extremely productive (if you've no alternative but to work hard, that's what you do) and nett contributors to the economy, society, the NHS and the benefit system. Most are also nett contributors (as I was) to pension funds. We've made our homes here, and we (most of us) come from societies which demanded that one stood on ones own two feet and didn't expect to be bailed out by the taxpayer, or provided for by the state.

As a senior adviser to the Treasury has told the Treasury Select Committee, immigrants are, overall, good for the economy. Perhaps it is time someone in the Media and in Whitehall acknowledged that and made more of it, instead of labelling us all as scroungers. Yes, I am retired. Yes, I am in receipt of a small pension, but I am still paying tax, and I am still doing odd paid work - and paying tax on the remuneration - to keep my end up. Nor am I alone in that. Overall, I am firmly of the opinion that I have made a positive contribution and I am very sure the same can be said of the majority of those, like myself, who have worked, are working, and will work extremely hard to the overall benefit of UK and European society. It would be nice to see that acknowledged occasionally!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Badly Drafted Law ...

In recent years we have seen a plethora of laws hit our statute books which, despite the 'assurances' of the Minister responsible and the efforts of all the members of the various committees, working parties and lobby groups, have impacted in 'unintended' ways upon our society. It is refreshing therefore to see that the latest such law has been heavily amended by the Lords. They have struck out the vague and nebulous concept of attempting to legislate against someone 'annoying' another. The vacuous spokesperson from the Home Office, responsible for this latest bit of idiocy, tried to give the 'assurance' that the law would not be used to stifle debate, or to interfere with the right of free speech, religion or 'insulting behaviour'.

Funny, that, because it is the courts which decide what is an is not annoying - not some chinless, faceless and unanswerable wonder from the civil service no doubt up to the elbows in the drafting ink. The Blog Archbishop Cranmer has an excellent article covering the whole mess, entitled "Outlawing 'annoyance' is Cameron's crassest Law". I commend it to readers. He has the details and says it far more eloquently than I can.

As he points out, the way the law was originally drafted had come in for criticism from lawyers and judges from across the political spectrum. It was a licence to anyone and everyone with a stake in political correctness to stifle criticism and debate. When such advice comes from so large a group of legal experts, the government and their civil servants should pay heed - but they didn't. It now remains to be seen whether they accept the Lord's amendment - passed by 306 to 178 with independent Peers, Labour Peers and rebels from the coalition all voting for the change.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A Century of Change ...

This year we will mark the start of an event that changed the world in ways we are still coming to terms with. The question being raised by many taking a fresh look at the events of 1914, is could it have been avoided? If it had not happened, what sort of world would we now inhabit?

Growing up in an English speaking environment, the son of an ex-serviceman, and grandson of other ex-servicemen, I grew up with the 'British' version that it was all caused by the Kaiser. That it was his ambitions, his desire to rule the world, and his desire for conquest that caused it all. As ever, the truth is a lot more complex, and a whole lot more convoluted than that. Sure this is what the British and Empire press pushed in a frenzy of patriotic fervour, but we must also remember that certain strong elements of that same Press had been whipping up anti-German sentiments since around 1890 when the Kaisers first began building an oceanic navy to defend their interests in Africa and the Far East. It spurred a naval building arms race that more or less made a war against Germany inevitable.

Recently published letters and memoirs of the British Prime Minister reveal that the Cabinet was split, and that the small government majority in Parliament meant that he couldn't afford to lose a single seat. So the 'War Party' within the Cabinet were able to hold him to ransom. What is seldom taught in the lesson I have encountered on this period, is the fact that the Kaiser, perhaps seeing the danger more clearly than those who thought a war would be quick, dashing and commercially advantageous, desperately telegraphed all the potential protagonists urging restraint. He undertook to refrain from military support of Austria if everyone else stayed out of the squabble - which Austria unwisely tried to settle by attacking Serbia. Unfortunately, the Tsar ignored the offer and mobilised his army.

I have often wondered why the Germans, with a war on the Eastern border, attacked France in the West, invading through Belgium and Luxembourg (the latter was actually an independent Grand Duchy of the Kaiser's Empire) which gave the British 'War Party' the excuse they needed. I have now learned that the attack was triggered by the French mobilising and threatening an invasion of Germany's southern states. As the Germans knew the French cherished ambitions of 'avenging' the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, they couldn't afford to leave that unchallenged. Interestingly, and despite latter Britsih and French historians putting it about that the Germans had been amassing weaponry and preparing for the war for ages, Germany was actually very unprepared. There was sufficient ammunition available for only a six week conflict, and it took an almost superhuman effort on the part of their industries to meet the demand once that was expended. Even their navy had so little ammunition available at the outset that a single engagement could have depleted their stopcks disastrously.

As ever, when you take a look at the history from both sides there is a lot of information revealed that makes obvious that there were a number of 'eminence grise' in the background on all sides. Britain did not need to get involved, but there were powerful voices within government, and in commerce and industry that wanted a war. Why? Some for altruistic reasons, believing it would strengthen the Empire to stamp firmly on the 'upstarts' in Europe who dared to challenge the British hegemony, others who were losing trade to German industries and hoped a war would give them an advantage, and there was the anger at the fact that, in Africa, Germany had prevented the creation of a continuous British presence "from the Cape to Cairo" with their colonies in South West Africa and Tanganika.

There were those in France who wanted to bring down the power of Germany, and restore French dominance on the Continent, and others, who, like their British counterparts, wanted German industry  and trade restricted. And then there was Russia. The last despot in Europe, the last real Emperor responsible to no one. Unfortunately, also a man given to whims of the moment who failed to see the danger of the beast he unleashed.

We have always been taught, by the history written by the 'winners' that the whole conflict was caused by 'German ambitions' and 'German aggression', but, as I said in opening, this isn't the whole truth. The 'War Parties' on all sides expected a quick and mobile war, the slogan 'all over by Christmas' was popular, but sadly ill-informed and based more on propaganmda than reality. And like most propaganda, it led to tragedy on a massive scale. In June we will mark the assassination that triggered the whole sorry mess - and launched a century of war that has all but destroyed the world and the society the men who marched across Europe in 1914 thought they were fighting to preserve.

The only victors, as ever, seem to have been those 'dark figures' in the background who saw profit in a conflict, and who are still present, at least in spirit, in our world today. It is something we should reflect on deeply.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

It just gets funnier ...

I have to confess that I find the predicament of the 'climate scientist' and his team and supporters (See the Antarctic Ice Shelf Before Its Gone Forever tourists) amusing. Having had to be airlifted from a Russian ice-breaker by a helicopter launched from a Chinese ice-breaker, and flown to an Australian ice-breaker (remember the initial reports said they were just passengers on a 'cruise ship'), they are now facing a return to the pack ice because the Chinese ship is now trapped and the 'rescue ship' has turned back to attempt to free the Snow Dragon.

It is funny to see the BBC and Guardian both playing down the fact they'd sent journalists and a team to record the 'vanishing ice'. They were to play up the Global Warming scam, and 'show' how the AGW scares are 'true'. The whole thing now frustrated by the fact that, in defiance of the computer 'models' the Antarctic ice sheet is growing and is now at its greatest extent for more than a century. But the BBC and the Guardian are not the only ones now desperately playing down the real purpose of this 'expedition'. Just about the entire AGW community is trying to ignore it. After all, this is the Antarctic summer, the ice is supposed to be thin, retreating and vanishing - isn't it? A century ago, an Australian explorer was able to sail right to the coast, something impossible since, and this 'expedition' was supposed to repeat the exercise. The leader's 'models' had predicted no ice. Pity Mother Nature didn't agree.

What is even more noticeable is the total silence from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and all the other AGW scammers, regarding their contribution to the breaking up of these ice sheets by their own activities. Ice breakers are designed to smash their way through the ice. It follows - at least to my way of thinking - that if you keep ploughing channels through the pack ice, you are contributing somewhat more than your fair share of ecological destruction and damage. Or perhaps that doesn't count if you're doing it to 'prove' that everyone else is destroying the planet?

Oh, the irony. The troops of 'Save the Planet' being the very people doing the most damage to the fragile ecological systems they claim to be preserving and protecting. The hypocrisy would be funny if it wasn't so blatantly fraudulent. The people behind this now have so much money invested in keeping their 'true believers' on board and on message they can't afford to admit any error. Like the 'leader' of this latest fiasco, their investment in 'alternative' solutions has to be supported - or any hope of profit will vanish. As it is most of these 'alternatives' only show a return as long as taxpayers can be compelled to continue to support them with subsidies.

And who is paying for this massive rescue operation in Antarctica? That's the biggest joke of all - you are. The taxpayers, in this instance in Australia, are paying for it, but everywhere the 'Greens' have railroaded their religion into the corridors of power and the populist media, we are all paying for it and every other stunt these clowns pull.

That is not so funny.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Climate Changing in the wrong direction?

OK, I'll confess. I've been finding the plight of the Climate Alarmist 'scientist' and his team - plus their tourist supporters - trapped in the ice in Antarctica by 'unprecedented pack ice' when they expected to be able to sail blithely up to the coast itself, hilarious. Especially since it has been widely reported that the satellite measurements, on the ground observations and even overflights have all reported that there is more ice around Antarctica at present than there has been for quite some time. Now I see The Spectator has picked it up. Their article, The Climate Change Trip Stuck in the Ice, makes some serious points about this.

Even funnier is the fact that both the BBC and the Guardian had their climate change reporters on board - no doubt their pre-written reports to the effect that the ice was 'vanishing faster than expected' already filed. Now they'll have to either write the truth, or find some other scam to cover. The fact is that this is not the first such trip undertaken by the True Believers of Climate Change that has been frustrated by nature not following the script. Anyone remember the attempt to row to the North Pole last year? Oh, sorry, failed, because there was too much ice. Or the attempt to walk there the year before? Oh yes, that also failed because ocean currents and wind kept moving the ice around. Then there was the attempt to row a boat through the North West Passage. Oops, not possible. Ice closed the 'passage' for the whole period.

I suspect the writer of The Spectator article has it right when saying that even the 'new' name of Climate Change is so nebulous as to be meaningless. The 'climate' of this planet (and probably every other planet as well) has been 'changing' since it first formed. The idea that humans can do much more than have a small local impact is simply ludicrous, and the idea that we can actually change its direction in any major or meaningful way is so far-fetched it belongs in the sort of science fiction current in the 1940s and 1950s. It would be funny, if it wasn't doing immense damage to the national economies of those nations stupid enough to fall for it.

The current crop of 'interviews' with enthusiastic passengers being rescued by a large Chinese helicopter from the trapped ice breaker are interesting only because they fail completely to mention that the purpose of the trip was to 'prove' the ice pack was vanishing. Guess they forgot to tell Mother Nature that.