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STORY TIME

TECHNICAL & PRACTICE

You have to have a little chuckle, don't you, when the environmentalists go off message. Such is the blind acceptance of the mainstream that when there's a blip in the storyboard, many of them don't know how to respond.

A few panic, many condemn the integrity of the researchers of the new evidence, and most pathologically refuse to engage with the potential for their worldview to change.

An American might call it denial. But, it seems, minor tremors have the potential to shake the flimsy nature of the environmental orthodoxy.

So first, there was the 'new' report, 'discovered' by Newsnight's Susan Watts, that pollution aids global dimming, and that, in turn, particulates moderate global warming.

Watts is known in some circles as 'Watts the story' after missing the importance of Dr Kelly's interview in the case of allegedly sexed-up government documents. This time, the Newsnight science editor is on the ball, picking up a story that has received little publicity since Atsumu Ohmura began researching it in the '80s.

Hard on the heels of this difficult-to-deal-with environmental story, Nature reported the findings of the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, that showed that plants give off methane - a global warming gas.

The media - never one to miss an opportunity for hypocrisy - hyped up the 'logical' assumption of the research (without much scientific evidence) that cutting down trees might, in fact, be good for the planet. The report estimates that plants could account for between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of global methane emissions. But, as Dr Halldor Thorgeirsson, deputy executive secretary to the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told the BBC News website, while the study was 'interesting', the overall impact of this newly discovered source of methane was still speculative.

True, but maybe it would be nice if pro-climate-change speculation was given equal scepticism.

So, within a couple of weeks we have had revelations that pollution is, in fact, beneficial; and that planting trees is irresponsible.

Environmentalists were well and truly on the back foot.

And then, James Lovelock, father of environmentalism, extended his long-standing environmentalist heresy that nuclear power is the only solution for modern energy provision, to hint that it doesn't matter anyway.

Lovelock's thesis, presented in his new book The Revenge of Gaia, is that the earth is displeased with humanity for its profligacy and is taking revenge to restore nature's balance. It doesn't seem to matter that it closely resembles the script from King Kong, with ordinary people cast in the role of the uneducated natives of Skull Island. 'Too many men fly in metal bird. Make heap big rain. Many die!' Sounding like the character Frazer from Dads' Army, he proclaims that we're all doomed and that all that's left is to prepare ourselves for the fall.

What's an energy consultant to do? The new Building Regulations' 40 per cent improvements in energy saving look fairly paltry set against Lovelock's doom-mongering.

If we are to believe all we read in the papers, architects should build out of timber to reduce trees' methane output, and install real coal fires to encourage a layer of beneficial atmospheric particulates.

Fortunately, climate science isn't as simple as that, but architects would do well to start questioning - without cynicism - the blind assumptions behind the next Part L: Conservation of Fuel and Power consultation, which is due to begin again in just two years' time.

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