Cancer patients lose chance of children after hospital destroys frozen sperm
No-one gives a damn in bureaucratic medicine. And the only talent of the “regulator” (the HFEA) seems to be for persecuting successful private clinics such as Dr Taranissi’s. Their hounding of Taranissi cost them and their BBC allies millions when he finally got the matter into court and there was some talk at that time that the HFEA would be disbanded and replaced by a more responsible organization. Sadly, that did not happen. The HFEA was “reformed” instead — with results you see below
Dr Taranissi’s sin was to get far more success with IVF than any NHS hospital did. When you read of the laxity below it is not hard to see why
Cancer patients face being told they have lost the chance to father children after a scandal-hit NHS fertility unit accidentally destroyed their frozen sperm.
The samples came from men who were preparing to undergo surgery or radiotherapy for conditions such as testicular cancer and leukaemia. Such treatment can leave patients infertile, so the men had chosen to freeze their sperm at IVF Wales in Cardiff in the hope it would allow them to have children in the future.
But in an appalling blunder, an unknown number of samples were thrown out in March 2011, and an urgent investigation has been launched to determine which patients have been affected.
It is understood that some individuals have been identified but the full scale of the incident is not yet known and no patients have been contacted.
The errors have prompted the resignation of senior obstetrician and gynaecologist Janet Evans, who has led the unit since 2002, and its head embryologist, Belgian scientist Martine Nijs, who has written to the chief executive of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board outlining her concerns over safety at the centre.
The scandal came to light after a damning report into the incident was published by the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which said there was ‘significant concern’ over the extent of the error at the clinic.
The report revealed the mistakes were made by a specialist in male fertility who had been transferring sperm samples from cancer patients and sperm donors from two older storage containers into a new, single unit.
All of the samples were originally placed in storage before 2007 and some may date back to 1998. Frozen sperm samples can still be used in fertility treatment despite, as in this case, being over ten years’ old.
The unnamed worker found a number of unlabelled and broken vials in the older containers and, unable to identify who they belonged to, discarded them, without the presence of a witness and without immediately informing bosses at the centre. His actions go against the HFEA’s strict Code of Practice, which requires all such procedures to be witnessed to prevent errors.
The report revealed the specialist, who has been suspended as a result of the incident, had previously complained about his heavy workload and did not have the assistance of other members of staff.
In a second incident just weeks later, which is also described in the report, donor sperm was given to women having fertility treatment before the results of tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases were available.
It is routine to screen sperm donors for the viruses when they give their first donation, but it is also compulsory to test them again six months later before their sperm can be used in treatments in order to identify infections which can take some time to develop. Six patients being treated at IVF Wales were given samples before the screening results were known, although they were later found to be negative.
Three other donor samples were released before the mandatory six- month quarantine period was over and before tests for gonorrhoea and chlamydia had been carried out. The report found sperm samples released from quarantine were being stored alongside those still in quarantine.
Both incidents have emerged despite the regulator warning the clinic to tighten up its protocol to minimise the chances of making mistakes after a serious error in 2009. In that case a couple from Bridgend, Deborah Hole and Paul Thomas, were robbed of their chance to have more children after their last usable embryo was implanted into the wrong woman. The woman later aborted the embryo after learning of the mix-up.
Even then, the HFEA found vital safety checks were not being carried out at the clinic and overworked staff were being placed under too much pressure to clear a backlog of cases.
Mr Thomas said: ‘After our case they told us it was never going to happen again. They did not learn their lesson.’
Jonathan Evans, Conservative MP for Cardiff North, said he had ‘major concerns’ about failings at the unit and was urgently seeking a meeting with the chief executive of Cardiff Health Board, which runs IVF Wales.
Mr Evans said: ‘I’m extremely concerned about the impact on families affected by this terrible incident. It is clearly a matter of major concern that a clinic which has previously failed its patients has done so again within a short space of time.’
The clinic, which has been licensed by the HFEA since 1992, had taken steps to reduce the workload for staff following the 2009 incident.
The latest report reveals that during the six months before February 2011, the centre’s success rates dropped ‘considerably’ at the same time as there was an increase in the number of cases.
HFEA inspectors said this ‘placed stress’ on the centre especially because it came alongside staff shortages. The HFEA has asked the clinic to limit the number of IVF cycles it carries out and to stop recruiting sperm donors until it has made appropriate changes. However, it has stopped short of suspending the clinic’s licence.
Another couple, who wish to remain anonymous but who are known to The Mail on Sunday as Chris and Lorraine, have revealed staff at IVF Wales dropped on the floor ten eggs they were relying on for fertility treatment.
Care worker Lorraine, 33, from Barry, South Wales, was told her own eggs were not viable but was delighted when her sister Diane volunteered to be a donor. Chris, 35, also a care worker, said: ‘Later that day we had a phone call to say the eggs had been destroyed because of “mechanical error”. ‘We later found out someone had been transferring them in a single container and they had been knocked to the floor. We’ve never had an apology.’
Guy Forster, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell who has represented couples in cases involving IVF Wales, said he had repeatedly raised concerns about the unit. Mr Forster said: ‘Sadly, these latest findings further suggest that little action is being taken to ensure lessons are being learnt from these devastating and wholly avoidable errors.’
My favorite politician speaks
Nigel Farage is head of UKIP –a party that want to get Britain out of the EU. Like all good libertarians he wants less government and ditching EU rule would be a large step in that direction. He is incensed below by the proposal to increase the powers of the EU to deal with the crisis in Greece and elsewhere. He is the best political speaker that I know. He pulls no punches. It is good to see him back in good form after his serious injuries in an aircraft accident last year.
The present British border skirmish is about far more than immigration
Theresa May’s dispute with her officials is an acid test of the Tories’ strategy – and competence.
In Ambrose Bierce’s indispensable Devil’s Dictionary, “responsibility” is defined as “a detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.”
The Ohio-born Bierce, one of the greatest journalists of all time, knew how politics works. In the row over border controls, Theresa May has declared unambiguously that “responsibility” for the excessive relaxation of security checks lies solely with Brodie Clark, who resigned as head of the UK Border Force on Tuesday. Under a secret pilot scheme authorised over the summer by the Home Secretary, border officials were no longer obliged to check children from the European Economic Area (EEA) travelling with their parents and in school groups against the “Warnings Index” (the Home Office list of individuals with “adverse immigration histories or who are of other interest to the Government”), or, in the case of EEA adults, to examine the second photograph coded into the “biometric” chips in their passports.
Clark, however, went much further down the route described by the UK Border Agency as “lighter-touch screening”: checks on the second photographs of non-EEA nationals were regularly skipped, for instance, as was the verification of fingerprints of non-Europeans from countries that require a visa. At Calais, adults were not checked against the Warnings Index.
So far, more or less everything has gone Mrs May’s way in the ensuing uproar. True, it is embarrassing to her that Mr Clark will almost certainly obtain a hefty pay-off for constructive dismissal. In the Commons, it was her Labour opposite number, Yvette Cooper, who shone (nobody can say “dearie me” with such menace). But at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron saw off Ed Miliband’s attack with ease, scorning Labour’s attempt to force the Home Secretary’s resignation. Indeed, the PM claimed, the piloted strategy of targeted checks had been a success: “The number of people arrested was up by 10 per cent, the number of drug seizures was markedly up, and the number of firearms seizures was up by 100 per cent.” Further strengthening May’s hand, a statement issued by Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, disclosed that “Brodie Clark admitted to me on November 2 that on a number of occasions this year he authorised his staff to go further than ministerial instruction.”
Case closed? Not by a long chalk. On Tuesday, Clark will have his say before the Home Affairs Select Committee, and rumours are swirling round Whitehall this weekend that he has some embarrassing things to reveal. There are whispers about emails from Damian Green, the Immigration Minister – although Green, an honest politician if ever there was one, emphatically denies that any such documents could exist or that he ever green-lit, even with a nod or a wink, an extension of the scheme. There are anecdotal claims that, for six days after the story broke, lorries were being waved through at Calais as border staff were pulled off other duties to strengthen passport control.
It should be emphasised that much of this is gossip. But it is tinder that keeps the flame of political trouble alight while the three separate inquiries complete their work between now and the end of January.
As things stand, there is absolutely no reason for Mrs May to go. It is one thing to insist that ministers should quit if bad things happen on their watch, even if they are not directly responsible: the so-called Crichel Down doctrine, named after a case in 1955, when Sir Thomas Dugdale, the agriculture minister, resigned because his officials had improperly sold an area of land in Dorset. But the moral context is clearly different if officials – in Clark’s case, working for an independent executive agency – straightforwardly and directly contravene a minister’s recent instructions. To argue that the occupant of one of the great offices of state must resign in such circumstances is – in effect – to give every disgruntled civil servant the power to sack ministers by a simple act of vexatious disobedience.
Why, then, are senior Government figures so edgy about this case? For the simple reason that it dramatises all too precisely the big arguments of this Parliament. The policy in question is technical, often fiendishly so, but the issue is not. Philip Gould, the great Labour strategist who died last week, grasped this with particular clarity. Public anxiety about immigration, he understood, is a proxy for a more general fear of relentless upheaval and bewildering change. People pay attention when border control is in the news. Like the management of the economy, it is a fundamental test of Government competence.
On the Conservative side, the narrative in this instance is a perfect fit with its more general political argument. First – the argument runs – May and her colleagues are only clearing up the mess left by Labour: immigration out of control, a backlog of 450,000 unresolved asylum cases, no transitional controls for new EU member states. Second, the targeting of resources leads to better results. “Intelligence-led” border checks, rather than universal, uniform methods, are more effective, as well as a better way of spending public money. Thrift and best practice march hand in hand. Fiscal conservatism forces public services to raise their game. This is the claim to competence that will nestle at the heart of the Conservative sales pitch at the next election.
The Labour counter-narrative is the mirror image. Its weakest claim, road-tested in Wednesday’s debate, is that the defects in public policy in May 2010 reflected not the failings of the last government, but the lingering inheritance of the previous Tory administration: a legacy so supposedly ghastly that Blair and Brown were unable to sort it all out in 13 years. “It really is quite breathtaking,” said Alun Michael, the former Labour Home Office minister, “to hear Conservative Members ignore the history of the shambles that was left behind by the previous Conservative Government in 1997.” And why stop there? What about Macmillan? Or Pitt the Younger?
Much more to the point – and potentially dangerous – is the Labour claim that all this Government cares about is cuts, and that it is prepared to skimp on security. This is why Yvette Cooper mentioned Sheikh Raed Salah so often last week: the fundamentalist Muslim preacher, whose entry to this country had been banned, still managed to stroll in at Heathrow in June.
The plain insinuation is, and will be, that the Tories worry more about balancing the books than your safety. It’s a deplorable thing to say about anyone. It isn’t true. But it is “adhesive”, as pollsters say: a nasty suspicion that sticks in voters’ minds.
As they watch the eurozone collapse, they are in fretful mood. The Home Office’s private polling says that the public supports the measures the Coalition is taking to control the nation’s borders – but doesn’t believe ministers can make them work. That’s a chilling insight into the facts of political life in November 2011. No wonder the Cameroons are apprehensive about this furore: so much more is at stake than one woman’s career.
“Britain’s FBI” is just another useless bureaucracy
The elite unit set up by Labour to fight major criminals has failed to catch crime bosses because it is ‘too difficult’ and may even have been infiltrated by the underworld, says a whistleblower.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is supposed to be Britain’s answer to the FBI. When it was launched, Tony Blair pledged the organisation would ‘make life hell’ for the country’s ‘Mr Bigs’. It recruited from the cream of the police, immigration, customs and MI5 and had more than 4,000 staff in offices all over the world.
But Tim Lee, a former intelligence officer with SOCA, claims the agency has been blighted by corruption and bureaucracy. Mr Lee, 58, who joined SOCA in Nottingham when it was formed in 2006, paints a damning picture of his five years in the organisation. He claims:
* An investigation into a crime boss was mysteriously dropped when a SOCA officer with alleged links to the suspect took over the running of the case.
* Allegations of serious sexual misconduct made by a female SOCA worker against a male colleague were covered up.
* Hostility arose between police, customs and immigration officers when operational units were first formed in 2006.
* SOCA officers were criticised for spending weeks driving around Europe while following a drug smuggling trail.
* In a recruitment exercise, a white actor ‘blacked up’ as the suspect, generating a flood of complaints about offensive stereotyping and poor taste.
* SOCA recruits were abused in a surveillance selection course.
* A major case collapsed because of failures to follow normal legal disclosure rules.
Mr Lee, who is bringing claims for disability discrimination and constructive dismissal against SOCA, worked at a regional office.
He says: ‘When SOCA opened for business the directors made bold statements about how they were going to tackle a “list” of top crime barons.
‘In my time, they went after three who weren’t even on the top tier and gave up on all of them because they fell into the “too difficult” box. All three had been unsuccessfully targeted previously by the National Crime Squad.’
Mr Lee believes there may be more serious reasons why SOCA has failed to penetrate some of the big crime gangs.
In an allegation of corruption he made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission earlier this year, Mr Lee claims that an investigation into a suspected Nottingham crime boss in 2007 was halted because the suspect may have had contacts inside SOCA.
The alleged criminal was named in a tape played at an inquest of a murdered man who alleged that the businessman had used his contacts in the police to run a drug-dealing empire.
Mr Lee alleges that the suspect and a senior SOCA officer investigating the case used the services of the same plasterer to decorate their homes. The officer, who owns properties in Nottingham, has since left SOCA and is now believed to be in Africa.
In his disclosure to the IPCC, Mr Lee alleges that the security of the operation may have been breached. He says: ‘Security was always an issue. Eventually, the operation was passed to a senior intelligence officer (SIO).’
He claims that the officer ‘was understood to have employed tradesmen also used by the subject of the operation’ and that the SIO ‘fought hard to take charge of the investigation’.
He adds: ‘Within a short time of the appointment of this SIO and despite a wealth of intelligence, active connections to very serious criminals and the corruption concerns, the operation was wound up.’
Mr Lee claims in the complaint that the deputy SIO in the case told him the subject of the investigation was ‘just a businessman now’.
He also alleges that because of SOCA failures to follow disclosure rules, one major case has been abandoned. In a case currently before the courts, Mr Lee says a SOCA officer is being treated by the Crown Prosecution Service as a ‘hostile witness’ because she has disclosed documents which suggest other members of the team have failed to surrender material that might aid the defence.
SOCA’s intelligence operations were hindered by red tape, says Mr Lee, who claims that surveillance operations were run ‘by committee’ so that authorisation took too long and opportunities to catch criminals were missed.
‘If you needed to run any surveillance, it went to a committee where they talked and discussed the purpose but nothing was ever decided in time,’ he claims.
But from the first day that SOCA opened its doors in 2006, there were cultural problems between the mix of police officers, immigration officers and customs officials, Mr Lee alleges.
‘The attitude of police officers and other National Crime Squad staff towards immigration staff ranged from welcoming through ambivalence to openly hostile,’ he claims.
There were also disturbing allegations of bullying, sexual misconduct and abuse which were covered up, says Mr Lee. In one case, a female SOCA officer made an allegation of serious sexual misconduct against a male colleague who went to her home as part of a welfare visit.
Mr Lee says that when the female officer complained of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’, she was permanently transferred to another SOCA directorate. He also alleges that the case was not properly investigated. Bullying and abuse claims were not properly investigated, and when officers spoke out they were victimised, he alleges.
Queer Britain again
Outrage as supermarket chain backs gay festival… but drops support for cancer charity event
Tesco has triggered outrage by ending its support for the Cancer Research ‘Race for Life’ while deciding to sponsor Britain’s largest gay festival. Some religious commentators and groups have condemned the decision and are calling for a boycott of the supermarket chain.
Tesco has worked with Cancer Research for more than ten years, raising hundreds of millions of pounds to help combat an illness that will affect one in three of the population.
The chain’s main contribution was support for the annual fundraising Race for Life, the UK’s largest women-only charity event, which has raised more than £400million for the fight against cancer since it began in 1994. But shortly after Tesco announced the partnership would end, the firm said it would be a headline sponsor of Pride London.
This is Britain’s largest gay pride event, and will be adding a second day next year when it hosts the global WorldPride 2012 festival in July. Tesco’s chief executive of retailing services, Andrew Higginson, said: ‘Our “Out at Tesco” team will be working closely with Pride London to ensure next year’s event is even more fun.’
Francis Phillips, a commentator at The Catholic Herald, condemned the shift, saying: ‘Tesco is a supermarket. Its remit has been to sell good-quality food and other items at very reasonable prices, and in this it has been hugely successful. Why has it now aligned itself with an aggressive political organisation such as Pride London? ‘Why has it given up its sponsorship of Cancer Research? Or at least…why hasn’t it taken up with another mainstream charity such as the British Legion or Age UK?
‘There are thousands of ex-servicemen and wounded soldiers needing help in this country, and millions of elderly people in danger of neglect. They are a fundamental part of the fabric of our society – the kind of fabric that Tesco should be reflecting.’
David Skinner of the Anglican Mainstream organisation, which supports traditional marriage and family life, has written to complain to Mr Higginson and Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke.
He wrote: ‘For Tesco to sponsor a tiny homosexual minority – according to the Office for National Statistics, that amounts to little more than 1 per cent of the population – will be showing the utmost contempt for a large proportion of British society that still adheres, more or less, to the morality and values of the Ten Commandments.’
Both Mrs Phillips and Mr Skinner are calling on consumers to boycott Tesco. ‘Let’s send Tesco a message: stick to groceries and stop dabbling in dubious fringe political movements,’ said Mrs Phillips.
Catholic campaign website Protect the Pope said Tesco’s decision was ‘a sign of how out of touch they have become from ordinary families’.
Cancer Research UK, which gave no sign of disappointment about losing Tesco’s support, is looking for a new partner for the Race for Life. Emma Gilbert, who organises the event, said the partnership ‘came to a natural end’ for both parties. But she added: ‘Tesco employees have taken part in events across the UK, raising over £7million for our life-saving research, and we hope they will continue to take part in the events.’
Tesco said it was in talks with the charity to support its work in other ways and would encourage staff to continue taking part in the Race for Life.
A spokesman said the decision to drop its support ‘is not connected to our £30,000 sponsorship for Pride, which is one of hundreds of community and charitable events that we will be supporting next year’.
Pride London chairman Paul Birrell said: ‘Whilst Pride is organised entirely by volunteers, it costs in excess of £800,000 to run each year. ‘We are proud that Pride London remains a free event, but this is only possible because of companies like Tesco and their generous support.’ He added that Tesco’s contribution would be used to run an entertainment area for families and children at next year’s festival.
New British teachers have poor knowledge of the subjects they teach
Children risk being left with a poor understanding of key subjects because of failures in the way teachers are trained, according to a leading headmistress.
Bernice McCabe, head of fee-paying North London Collegiate School, said many new teachers were struggling to communicate fundamental academic disciplines in the classroom.
She said training courses increasingly emphasised trendy teaching skills and different approaches to learning over the application of traditional subject knowledge.
Mrs McCabe, director of the Prince’s Teaching Institute, a charity founded by the Prince of Wales to encourage teachers to rediscover their passion for subjects, said the content of lessons was too often seen “a secondary consideration”.
The comments come just days after the charity launched its own master classes to give newly-qualified teachers expert tuition in English, history, geography, physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics. Some 160 staff from state schools took part in the first sessions last weekend.
It also follows the Government’s proposed shake-up of teacher training in England. From next year, more primary school teachers will be trained as subject experts – to give children as young as five specialist lessons in areas such as maths, science and foreign languages.
In a further move, the standards that all new teachers must meet before being allowed into the classroom have been rewritten – focusing on tackling behaviour and the basics of teaching.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Mrs McCabe said: “There is a striking change of emphasis from those teaching standards introduced in 2007 that are currently enforced and those being proposed. The first requirement of teachers in the future will be that they should ‘inspire’ their pupils. “That word was very much absent from the 2007 core standards which don’t place an emphasis on subject knowledge.
“The emphasis at the moment is very much on ‘processes’ – an awareness of different kinds of skills and learning approaches to suit children – rather than subject content.”
In addition to the Saturday classes, the PTI – established by the Prince a decade ago – is introducing a part-time Master’s degree course through Cambridge University. It will give top teachers an award in “advanced subject teaching”.
Mrs McCabe, who is also a member of an expert panel currently reviewing the National Curriculum in England, said: “Often, when I’m interviewing newly-qualified teachers, they talk about processes in the classroom rather than the subject they are going to teach. “The quality of teaching has to start with good subject knowledge.
“I think the focus on ‘process’ and the skills that pupils need is starting from the wrong place. I don’t think the children can always hold on to what’s being taught with this approach.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education spokesman said: “Bernice McCabe is absolutely right that we need to ensure we have teachers with a deep subject knowledge.
“That’s why we’re already reforming teacher training to make sure that those who become teachers, especially in secondary schools, have a deep and expert understanding of their subject.”
Fat taxes won’t prevent people getting fat, fatheads
Research released last week suggested that people in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland should follow an ‘English’ diet to reduce levels of obesity. Fair enough, but unfortunately they also recommended imposing this diet by taxing fatty foods.
Fatty food has an inelastic demand curve i.e. price has little impact on demand. What will happen is people will redistribute their income away from other areas of consumption – clothing, housing etc and towards the, now more costly, fatty foods that they enjoy or they may simply spend less on food which means they’ll cut out any healthier elements of their diets. But they’ll still eat fatty foods so they’ll be poorer, but still fat. Just like those smokers who still smoke.
The state would also be sending out mutually contradictory signals. On the one hand it would be attempting to increase the private cost of consuming fatty foods by raising their price. On the other hand it is effectively encouraging consumption of fatty foods by socialising the health costs of doing so via the NHS. A healthcare system free at the point of delivery is a very poor mechanism for incentivising healthy diets. An insurance-based system would be far more effective in this regard as it could incentivise healthy eating and weight-loss via reduced insurance costs.
The other problem here is that the researchers have failed to ask themselves why the English diet (I can see plenty of English people shovelling fat into their mouths, but still, on average) is healthier than elsewhere in the UK? Clearly this is not because we have taxes on fatty foods but because we are wealthier.
Within England, diets tend to be better in the wealthy South East than the poorer North East. There is a ‘robust’ correlation between absolute levels of wealth and health outcomes. Making people poorer by taxing them more is not going to make them wealthy and thus is it likely to reduce their overall health outcomes as well as having little or no direct impact. I can’t even see ‘Spiritlevel’ types supporting this kind of action; such taxes would fall more heavily on the poorest thereby increasing inequality.
Of course the root of the problem is that these regions of the UK have Soviet (actually higher than Soviet) levels of state intervention which is impoverishing them. The way to deal with obesity here is not to make them poorer by increasing tax rates and further intervention, but to make them richer by decreasing rates of tax and decreasing intervention i.e. completely the opposite to what the very sinister-sounding ‘Health Promotion Research Group’ propose.
‘Sin’ taxes do not merely fail in their objectives, they have serious unintended downsides as the trade in smuggled alcohol and tobacco demonstrates. I look forward in trepidation to the day that there is a serious outbreak of food poisoning because someone has smuggled a lorry-load of dodgy frozen burgers into the country in order to avoid the ‘fat tax’.
“Dangerous” climate change?
This is a slightly edited version of a comment Richard Betts left on the discussion forum. I thought it was quite challenging to much of what we hear about climate change in the mainstream media and therefore worthy of posting here as a header post. (Richard, for anyone visiting for the first time, is head of climate change impacts at Britain’s Met Office).
Most climate scientists* do not subscribe to the 2 degrees “Dangerous Climate Change” meme (I know I don’t). “Dangerous” is a value judgement, and the relationship between any particular level of global mean temperature rise and impacts on society are fraught with uncertainties, including the nature of regional climate responses and the vulnerability/resilience of society. The most solid evidence for something with serious global implications that might happen at 2 degrees is the possible passing of a key threshold for the Greenland ice sheet, but even then that’s the lower limit and also would probably take centuries to take full effect. Other impacts like drought and crop failures are massively uncertain, and while severe negative impacts may occur in some regions, positive impacts may occur in others. While the major negative impacts can’t be ruled out, their certainty is wildly over-stated.
While really bad things may happen at 2 degrees, they may very well not happen either – especially in the short term (there may be a committment to longer-term consequences such as ongoing sea level rise that future generations have to deal with, but imminent catastrophe affecting the current generation is far less certain than people make out. We just don’t know.
The thing that worries me about the talking-up of doom at 2 degrees is that this could lead to some very bad and expensive decisions in terms of adaptation. It probably is correct that we have about 5 years to achieve a peak and decline of global emissions that give a reasonable probability of staying below 2 degrees, but what happens in 10 years’ time when emissions are still rising and we are probably on course for 2 degrees? If the doom scenario is right then it would make sense to prepare to adapt to the massive impacts expected within a few decades, and hence we’d have to start spending billions on new flood defences, water infrastructure and storm shelters, and it would probably also make sense for conservationists to give up on areas of biodiversity that are apparently “committed to extinction” – however all these things do not make sense if the probability of the major impacts is actually quite small.
So while I do agree that climate change is a serious issue and it makes sense to try to avoid committing the planet to long-term changes, creating a sense of urgency by over-stating imminent catastrophe at 2 degrees could paint us into a corner when 2 degrees does become inevitable.
*I prefer to distinguish between “climate scientists” (who are mainly atmospheric physicists) and “climate change scientists” who seem to be just about anyone in science or social science that has decided to see what climate change means for their own particular field of expertise. While many of these folks do have a good grasp of climate science (atmospheric physics) and the uncertainties in attribution of past events and future projections, many sadly do not. “Climate change science” is unfortunately a rather disconnected set of disciplines with some not understanding the others – see the inconsistencies between WG1 and WG2 in IPCC AR4 for example. We are working hard to overcome these barriers but there is a long way to go.
Britain’s fruit and nuts are ripening 18 days earlier than a decade ago due to warmer weather
Pesky that there has in fact been NO warming in the last decade — so if there IS any real change it is certainly not due to warming
Fruit and nuts from British trees are ripening an average of 18 days earlier than a decade ago. Figures from the Woodland Trust suggest that the changing climate is altering the patterns of a range of trees.
The trend has been seen across a dozen species, with acorns ripening 13 days earlier than they did between 2000 and 2002; beech nuts 19 days earlier; and rowan berries almost a month ahead of schedule.
Experts believe the shift is down to the trees flowering earlier in the face of warmer springs.
Professor Tim Sparks, nature adviser for the Trust, said: ‘There is a suggestion that the average ripening dates have some correlation with mean temperatures recorded for April, so we presume that the link is through earlier flowering leading to earlier ripening.
‘However, to see such a uniform advance across so many species is most unusual and we need many years’ more data from the public to try to better understand the reasons for these changes.’ [Good to see that someone has got a brain]
The Trust said the changes may mean that wildlife will have access to more food earlier – but the reserves could then be depleted earlier in the winter.
It added that 2011 would go down on record as a ‘mast year’, or bumper crop, for beech and oak trees, possibly as a result of the early, hot spring.
The charity is urging people to plant a million trees for its Jubilee Woods project to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee.