This is what happens when you don't invest in nuclear power

Independent: Consumers to pay ‘dirty’ coal power subsidies for years
Britain’s dirtiest coal power stations are to be allowed to bid for hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of subsidies that could allow them to stay open well into the 2020s. Senior ministers are so worried about the possibility that the UK could suffer electricity blackouts over the next few years they have agreed to let Britain’s coal stations bid for “capacity payment” handouts – paid for through people’s energy bills – which could allow them to upgrade their facilities. If successful, the money would help make coal generation economic well into the 2020s – but significantly reduce the UK’s ability to cut its carbon emissions.

Vertical lateral thinking

Augustus the Strong

Augustus the Strong (1670–1733)

You can say what you like about Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, but he was one hell of a tosser. At one tournament he presided over, 647 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers and 21 wildcats were killed for fun.

Animal tossing, most commonly fox tossing, was once a popular sport in certain parts of Europe—primarily amongst the aristocracy, obviously. Two toffs would take either end of a large sling and launch the wild creatures skywards, usually to deadly effect.

Fox tossing tournament

A fox tossing tournament of the early 18th century. (Note the quite high foxes.)

Unusually for a blood sport practised almost exclusively by the aristocracy, fox tossing went the way of blood sports popular amongst mere plebs, such as bear baiting, cock fighting, and goose pulling. Yes, goose pulling.

Well, call me controversial, but I think it might be time for an animal tossing revival. Only this week, we've heard how we need to cull 50% of the deer in the UK to protect the countryside. Personally, I'd re-introduce wolves to keep them in check, but I suspect I'm in the minority on that one. So why don't we launch our spare deer into the air instead? Can you imagine how cool it would be to toss a deer—to see it actually somersaulting through the air? I'd pay good money to see that. Then there's the invasive grey squirrels. Bastards! Up in the air with them too! And cats, obviously. Bloody, bloody cats!

Seriously, though, I'm struggling to see any drawbacks with this one: fewer deer, grey squirrels and cats ruining the countryside; still no wolves to worry about; and even the toffs are happy!

It's a win-win-win!

They're going to save the planet, apparently

BBC: Wind farms affect local weather
Wind farms can affect weather in their immediate locality, raising night-time temperatures on the ground, researchers working in Texas have shown.

They used satellite data to show that land around newly constructed wind farms warmed more than next-door areas.

The result - published in the journal Nature Climate Change - confirms an earlier, smaller study from 2010.

Seeing the light!

Independent: Nuclear power? Yes please…

Britain must embrace nuclear power if it is to meet its commitments on climate change, four of the country's leading environmentalists—who spent much of their lives opposing atomic energy—warn today.

The one-time opponents of nuclear power, who include the former head of Greenpeace, have told The Independent that they have now changed their minds over atomic energy because of the urgent need to curb emissions of carbon dioxide.

They all take the view that the building of nuclear power stations is now imperative and that to delay the process with time-consuming public inquiries and legal challenges would seriously undermine Britain's promise to cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050…

Mr [Stephen] Tindale, who ran Greenpeace for five years until he resigned in 2005, has taken a vehemently anti-nuclear stance through out his career as an environmentalist. "My position was necessarily that nuclear power was wrong, partly for the pollution and nuclear waste reasons but primarily because of the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons," Mr Tindale said…

"My change of mind wasn't sudden, but gradual over the past four years. But the key moment when I thought that we needed to be extremely serious was when it was reported that the permafrost in Siberia was melting massively, giving up methane, which is a very serious problem for the world," he said.

"It was kind of like a religious conversion. Being anti-nuclear was an essential part of being an environmentalist for a long time but now that I'm talking to a number of environmentalists about this, it's actually quite widespread this view that nuclear power is not ideal but it's better than climate change," he added.

Just like Cary Grant

Jen and I booked our next holiday yesterday. We've decided to pay a return visit to Florence. Cool place. But get this…

We're going by train.

Yes, that's right: train. All the way from Hippy Central to Florence, Italy.

Now, before we're accused of being a couple of tree-huggers who naively think we can save the planet all on our own by refusing to fly, I think I should point out that such accusations are utter bollocks. We chose to take the train because:

  1. As far as we could work out, there are no direct flights to Florence from anywhere in the North of England.
  2. Even the direct flights from Gatwick to 'Florence' actually go to Pisa, so we'd still have to get the train (or fly) to Gatwick and then get the train from Pisa to Florence.
  3. We hate the hassle of travelling by plane. I mean really hate it. Whether the train is any less hassle remains to be seen—although somehow I doubt it.
  4. The last time we travelled to Florence, it was from Rome, First Class, on the train, and it was bloody fantastic (apart from the loud-mouthed elderly American lady in the seat opposite). This is the life, we said, supping our expresso coffees and joking that we should travel all the way to Italy by train next time.
  5. … OK, so this is the real reason why we are travelling by train: I have always secretly wanted to travel overnight in a sleeper train, like Cary Grant did as Roger O. Thornhill (mistakenly believed by the baddies pursuing him to be the elusive secret agent, George Kaplan) in one of my favourite films, North By Northwest. This, of course, would mean that Jen would have to play the role of Eva Marie Saint—which is no bad thing.

So much have I got into the North By Northwest spirit that, when I ordered our tickets over the phone yesterday, I was sorely tempted to give my name as Richard O. Carter, hoping that the woman at the other end of the line would ask me what the 'O' stood for: "Nothing," I would reply, enigmatically—just like Cary Grant. But then it occurred to me that it would probably be best if the name on my ticket actually matched the one on my passport. Pesky border control!

So, anyway, that's why Jen and I will be travelling to Italy by train. Because I secretly harbour ambitions to be Cary Grant in North By Northwest. It has nothing at all to do with saving the planet.

Which is a damn good job, as it's a bloody expensive way to go about it.


See also: A-maize-ing