THE SPANISH ECONOMY: Wonderful at the macro level, crap at the micro level. I read an advert yesterday for an admin job at €400 a month. Or €20 a day/€1.50 an hour. But the company does pay bus fares to its out-of-town location. Against that, they'll only employ you as an autonomo, for which privilege you'll have to pay c.€300 a month in social security taxes. Assuming you tell the tax office. This tells you all you need to know as to why people are seriously sceptical about President Rajoy's insistence that Spain is now the envy of Europe. Only in the same way, I suspect, as the UK's NHS is the envy of the world.
SPANISH NEWSPAPERS: These face serious competition at the national, regional and local levels. So, sensational headlines are essential. Fortunately for them - if you see what I mean - men keep killing their partners. Though not, I think, at a incidence worse than elsewhere in Europe. Nonetheless, as I've said before, this is the Spanish equivalent of the UK obsession with pedophilia. As things stand at the end of November, deaths are down on last year and well down, I think, on a few years ago. Something that seems to get overlooked in the reports.
THE POPE: It was interesting to hear him speaking out against corruption during his brief visit to Africa. Let's hope he's made the same speech within the Vatican. And that more heed will be given to it there than among Africa's leaders. One thing you can say about the residents of that city state is that they share the Pope's antipathy to poverty.
GLOBAL WARMING: It's a safe guess that the consensus at the Paris jamboree is that (undeniable) global warming is (deniably)man-made. Assuming targets are set and abided by, it's interesting to speculate on what might happen if the world continues to heat up despite the vast expenditure to contain it. I guess it's always going to be possible to argue that there's a lag of x years. Though, in a Times article printed at the end of this post, it's noted that Today’s gentle warming [is] progressing much more slowly than expected.
FINALLY . . . OUR SUNDAY FLEA MARKET: Our council is not famed for acting quickly. It took them years to address the problem of the vomiting, urinating kids of the weekly binge-drinking in the old quarter. So, I'm surprised they moved quickly to transfer this from Veggie Square to the street down by the (covered) market. Even better, they've banned both the selling of old clothes and shoes and the trading from a sheet on the ground. What next? A verdict of Not Guilty in the pending case of town-hall corruption? Query: Will we get a law suit from either the Rumanians or the local gypsies alleging racial discrimination? Probably not. This ain't the UK.
The doom-mongers should look at the science
Those at the Paris climate-change summit fear nasty weather later this century, but the evidence is against them
Today in Paris, 147 heads of government will give speeches on what they agree is the world’s most pressing problem: climate change. Today is expected to be comparatively mild in Paris but cold and snowy in Scotland. Nothing especially unusual for November 30 over the past few centuries.
So, the problem they are discussing — not warming, but dangerous warming — has not yet manifested itself. It lies in the future. The climate has changed, for sure, as it always does, but not yet in a way that is harmful or unprecedented. As far as we can tell from satellites, global average temperatures are less than half a degree warmer than they were in 1979, when satellite data became available, though surface thermometers suggest a bit more warming.
This year looks likely to be a lot warmer than last, though still not as warm in both standard satellite data sets as 1998, the last time that a strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean boosted the global air temperature a lot (surface thermometers say it will be warmer than 1998, once adjusted in various ways). The average trend over the past 35 years is 0.1 degrees of warming per decade according to the satellite data, less than 0.2 per decade according to the surface thermometers. Neither trend is fast enough to produce significantly dangerous climate change even by the latter part of this century.
The warming has been much slower than was predicted when the scare began. Nor is it evenly spread. The Antarctic continent has warmed hardly at all, and the entire southern hemisphere has warmed about half as fast as the northern. The Arctic has warmed more than the tropics, night has warmed more than day and winter has warmed more than summer. Cities have warmed faster than the countryside, but that’s because of local warming factors, not global ones: buildings, vehicles, industry, pavements and people trap warmth.
How unusual is today’s temperature? As I did this weekend, you have no doubt had conversations along the following lines recently: “Hasn’t it been mild? End of November and we’ve hardly had a frost yet!” All true. But then be honest: can you not recall such conversations throughout your life? I can. And here’s what the Met Office had to say about November 1938, long before I was born: “The weather of the month was distinguished by exceptional mildness: at numerous places it was the mildest November on record.” In 1953 November was even milder and there was no air frost recorded in Oxford in the last four months of the year at all.
I am not saying it has not generally become warmer, but that the variation dwarfs the trend. Let’s go back a little further, to the Middle Ages. It used to be argued by some that the “medieval warm period” of about a thousand years ago, when mountain glaciers retreated, vines grew further north and Iceland was widely cultivated, was confined to Europe. We now know from multiple sources of evidence that it was global. Tree lines were higher than today in many mountain ranges, for example. Both North Pacific and Antarctic Ocean water temperatures were 0.65C warmer than today.
Go back yet further, still within the current interglacial period, to the so-called Holocene Optimum of 6,000-9,000 years ago. Ocean temperatures were up to two degrees warmer than today, the Arctic Ocean was nearly or completely ice-free at the end of summer in many years, and the boreal forest in Siberia extended 150 miles further north than today. July temperatures were up to six degrees warmer than today in the Siberian Arctic.
Was this Holocene Optimum a horrible time of droughts, storms, disease and famine? Not especially. It was the period in which agriculture spread rapidly across the globe from five or seven centres of invention. Abundant rainfall in Africa led to lakes in the Sahara with crocodiles and hippos in them, surrounded by green vegetation in the monsoon season.
Today’s gentle warming, progressing much more slowly than expected, is also accompanied by generally improving conditions. Globally, droughts are declining very slightly. Storms are not increasing in frequency or intensity: this year has been one of the quietest hurricane seasons. Floods are worse in some places but usually because of land-use changes, not more rainfall. Death rates from floods, storms and droughts have plummeted and are now far lower than they were a century ago. Today, arid areas such as western Australia or the Sahel region of Africa are getting generally greener, thanks to the effect of more carbon dioxide in the air, which makes plants grow faster and resist drought better.
Besides, we have to make allowance for a human tendency to read far too much into short-term weather changes — and to assume that all change is bad. Consider this newspaper cutting: “The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot. [There are] hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone.” It’s not from recent decades at all, but from 1922. Or this one: “The ice of the Arctic Ocean is melting so rapidly that more than one third of it has disappeared in fifty years”. From 1940.
In fact, the Arctic, and the world as a whole then cooled between 1950 and 1970, which then led to these headlines, all from 1970: “Scientists See Ice Age in the Future” (The Washington Post), “Is Mankind Manufacturing a New Ice Age for Itself?” (Los Angeles Times), “Scientist predicts a new ice age by 21st century” (The Boston Globe), “US and Soviet Press Studies of a Colder Arctic” (The New York Times) and (my favourite) “Dirt Will Bring New Ice Age” (The Sydney Morning Herald).
The 40,000 people meeting in Paris over the next 12 days are committed to the view that the weather is certain to do something nasty towards the end of this century unless we cut emissions. In this, they are out of line with scientists. A survey of the members of the American Meteorological Society in 2012 found that only 52 per cent agree that climate change is mostly man-made, and as to its being very harmful if unchecked, only 34 per cent of AMS members agree. The rest said they think it will be either not harmful or not very harmful.
Are we certain we are not overreacting?