Fact: Richard Littlejohn is the ultimate lazy hack

Another day, another woefully ignorant Littlejohn snippet on climate change:

The latest piece of ‘climate change’ lunacy comes from an ‘expert’ who claims peat bogs pose a clear and present danger to the polar bears.

Apparently, stopping people using peat would be the equivalent of taking 330,000 cars off the road.

Leave aside the fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource. How many people do you know who burn peat?

Who would have thought you could cram so much wrong into so little space.

Firstly, the inverted commas around ‘climate change’ and ‘expert’ are stunningly hypocritical and ignorant. ‘Climate change’ as a generic tag is actually an invention of industry funded global-warming denialists who wanted a less loaded term to replace ‘global warming’. ‘Global warming’ clearly describes the fact that the earth is heating up, climate change implies that some kind of change is happening, but we’re not sure which. As cigarette manufacturers stated for years when they fought scientific evidence that smoking was extremely damaging to health: ‘doubt is our product’. Climate change is a phrase that encapsulates doubt, but it is not a scientific term because it does not describe what the evidence demonstrates – ‘global warming’ describes this. So for Littlejohn to not even like ‘climate change’ – a manufactured, inaccurate description – enough to not place it in inverted commas just demonstrates once again that he knows nothing about his subject.

Along the same lines is the use of ‘expert’. There is a reason why newspapers can get away with writing the word ‘expert’ in inverted commas: they so often refer to people with no expertise as ‘experts’ that the very notion of expertise has been devalued. For high profile examples of this refer to the press going to a guy working from a shed in his garden for the latest on MRSA (his samples were always positive because his shed was contaminated, and he really didn’t know what he was doing – the press described him as the foremost expert in this field) or the whole MMR scare where they backed one ‘expert’ in the face of many and got their hands badly burned. Basically, the press can’t keep quoting ‘studies’ that are little more than PR surveys, and experts who are basically anybody with any kind of profile that will provide a suitable quote for the biased drivel being produced (see Migrationwatch as the perfect example of this). And finally, you can’t write three paragraphs of astounding ignorance and have the cheek to mock ‘experts’ on the subject as not knowing what they are talking about – it completely destroys you every single time.

Secondly, it is not lunacy to suggest that peat bogs play a significant part in the storage of carbon and subsequently the release of it when burnt. As the International Mire Conservation Group make clear:

Peatlands constitute the top long-term carbon stock in the terrestrial biosphere.

While covering only 3% of the World’s land area, peatlands contain 550 Gt of carbon in their peat. This is equivalent to 30% of all global soil carbon, 75% of all atmospheric C, equal to all terrestrial biomass, and twice the carbon stock in the forest biomass of the world (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

So, even though not much peat is used, it releases a disproportionate amount of carbon. No ‘lunacy’, no ‘apparently’, just a simple fact.

Thirdly, Richard Littlejohn states that it is a ‘fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource’. It isn’t. Here is a nice explanation from the IMCG of why it isn’t:

Peat occupies an intermediate position between biomass and lignite/coal. It has been forming for 360 million years and it is still being formed today. Part of the present-day peat is at this moment changing into lignite and will change into coal in future. Similar to lignite and coal, peat is renewable.

Coal and lignite are, however, called “non-renewable” because their slow rate of renewal makes their renewability irrelevant for humankind. The volume of old coal currently being burnt is many orders of magnitude larger than the volume of new coal currently being formed. The same accounts for peat. In the EU, in almost all countries of the EU, and in the whole world, the stocks of peat are decreasing much more rapidly than new peat is being formed. Globally peat losses exceed the new formation of peat with a factor 20, leading to a net emission of 2 Gigatonnes of CO2 annually (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

Classifying peat as a “long-term renewable energy resource” is misleading because – in order to achieve environmental sustainability and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – carbon-based fuel resources must replenish as quickly as they are consumed.

Peat used for fuel, in contrast, is thousands of years older than our modern society. This and the failing renewal of peat cause peat fuel to contribute to the greenhouse effect in the same way as burning other fossil resources. Therefore peat – similar to lignite and coal – should be treated as a non-renewable resource.

Now, there is a reason why Richard might have thought that peat was a renewable source of energy: the EU. The above quotations from the IMCG were taken from a letter sent to the European Parliament in 2007 following this event:

On December 14th, 2006, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on a Strategy for Biomass and Biofuels (2006/2082(INI)). During the discussions, the following amendment was submitted unexpectedly and ‘last minute’ by ALDE MEPs from the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, and endorsed by the Parliament:

“The European Parliament… [78] Calls on the Commission to include peat, with regard to the life-cycle aspect, as a longterm renewable energy source for biomass and bioenergy production”.

So, those meddling bureaucrats in the EU that Richard hates so much have wrongly endorsed peat as renewable energy source – the amendment was submitted by EU countries that just happen to be have sizeable peat deposits and industries that would greatly benefit from peat being classed as a renewable energy source. Richard – the ever-vigilant enemy of power – has fallen completely for a change of classification brought about solely for business interests.

I know nothing about peat beyond the joke ‘what do you call an Irishman who has been buried for 100 years? Pete’, yet in 20 minutes I can uncover the truth behind why some people might consider it as a renewable energy source when in real terms it simply isn’t. Richard Littlejohn on the other hand portrays himself as a permanent skeptic yet cannot be bothered to even spend a few minutes checking his facts. If he had, he would have actually found out something interesting about how certain industries are trying to climb aboard the renewable energy bandwagon (are there any subsidies or tax breaks involved?) even though they don’t meet the criteria. Even as a complete skeptic he could have written about this – he could have approached it from the angle of how every business is trying to get on the climate change band wagon to fleece the taxpayer, hell, he might even have been partly right.

Instead he just insults his readers – and his employers who pay him nearly £1m a year to write barely two columns a week – with this lazy, ignorant and baseless drivel.

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