December 26th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: A reflection on Christmas

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The new Opposition team

ENVIRONMENT: Copenhagen summit ignores 'Climategate' scandal

FINANCIAL CRISIS: Can the world expect a sustainable recovery?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: The challenge of China

HUMAN RIGHTS: Commonwealth's double standards over Sri Lanka, Fiji

CULTURE: The sexualisation of girlhood

IDEOLOGIES: Radical environmentalism: the new socialism

CIVILISATION: What now after the cultural revolution?

MEDIA: Why America's newspapers are dying

IDEAS: Why haven't more people heard of G.K. Chesterton?

OPINION: Paid maternity leave and the war against women

A new name for News Weekly? (letter)

Why the democracies should support Taiwan (letter)

BOOK REVIEW: BLOODY VICTORY: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the making of the Twentieth Century, by William Philpott

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Copenhagen summit ignores 'Climategate' scandal

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 26, 2009
Under dark cloudy skies and with temperatures in the capital of Denmark hovering around 5°C, tens of thousands of government representatives, dignitaries and environmental activists gathered in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP15), earlier described as the "last chance" for the UN to secure a binding international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

As a bizarre sideline to the conference, the Danish Government banned the presence of Christmas trees outside the conference venue, not because of concerns about cutting down the trees or to save power on festive lighting - after all, the attendees jetted into Copenhagen from around the world - but because the trees are a Christian symbol.

Christmas symbols banned

Showing that political correctness is alive and well in Copenhagen, under the headline "Christmas trees banned for climate summit", the official Danish Government website stated: "Participants in the COP15 climate summit should not be subject to Christmas symbols such as fir trees, says the foreign ministry. Although the COP15 climate conference is set to take place during the Christmas season, the Foreign Ministry believes the holiday and all its symbols should be kept well clear of the summit."

Fir trees - the most common species used as Christmas trees in Denmark - were intended to be placed as decorations for the entrance of Bella Center, where the conference is taking place. "But Christmas is a religious holiday that has no place at a United Nations function," according to the Foreign Ministry's Mr Svend Olling, who is the head of practical planning for the climate summit.

Among other "stunts", as they were described on the official government web site, the international Save the Children organisation threw 10 life-size dolls of children into Peblinke Lake, in central Copenhagen, to highlight the peril of rising water levels due to climate change.

"There are already many children dying because of climate change," Mimi Jakobsen, Save the Children's general secretary, told a newspaper. "And if we don't act quickly, the number of deaths related to it will continue to grow."

Even the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a sea-level rise of 59 cm (17 inches) by 2100, while Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the International Commission on Sea Level Change, has said that all the talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, "the sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century, it will "not be more than 10 cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10 cm." (The Telegraph, London, March, 28, 2009).

In addition, the politicians and environmentalists have been joined by authorities such as Prince Charles, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Helena Christensen (an ex-supermodel), who will no doubt authenticate the climate change message.

As the Copenhagen summit gets underway, Britain and the US have made unexpected interventions designed to bring about a global agreement. The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, has announced that greenhouse gases (including CO2) "threaten human health", enabling the EPA to impose limits on CO2 emissions without Congressional approval. Whether the Congress will accept this will become clear in 2010.

In a separate initiative, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on the European Union to commit to deeper cuts in CO2 emissions in Copenhagen.

Until now, the EU has said it will not impose deep cuts on CO2 emissions by 2020 unless an enforceable international agreement, which involves developing countries such as China and India, is signed in Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia has appointed a former top civil servant and vice-chancellor of the University of Scotland, Sir Muir Russell, to conduct an independent inquiry into the leaked e-mails from the university's Climate Research Unit (CRU), which appear to show that CRU staff manipulated the data to support claims of human-induced climate change.

Meanwhile, the head of CRU, Professor Phil Jones, has stepped down for the duration of the inquiry.

Hopes that the investigation would lead to an independent examination of the arguments for global warming have been rejected by the British Government's Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband.

Mr Miliband welcomed the inquiry into the CRU e-mails, but said it would not affect his government's position.

"We need maximum transparency including about all the data, but it's also very, very important to say one chain of e-mails, potentially misrepresented, does not undo the global science.

"I think we want to send a very clear message to people about that. The science is very clear about climate change and people should be in no doubt about that." He added, "There will be people that want to use this to try and undermine the science and we're not going to let them."

The IPCC chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, also said that the CRU e-mails don't change anything.

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