Molly and I took our two children to Portugal for a one week break on Wednesday 20th Jul 2005. We flew put by Ryanair from Stanstead to Opporto. We stayed at the Holiday Inn there, a dreadful place; there was no tea or coffee making facilities (very unusual as this had been standard in the UK since at least 1980 )and breakfast was charged extra (contrary to what we had been told on booking). It was the first time that any of us had been in that country (naturally the children had not been anywhere abroad without us at that age, but neither Molly nor I had been to Portugal either).
We spent a pleasant morning sampling the Port that they hold in warehouses by the Luis I Bridge across the river Douro. The youngsters were only teenagers, but we must have thought it suitable to let them each taste a glass of wine; Port is very sweet and they enjoyed it. In the past they brought the wine down the river from vineyards up country by sailing boat, and examples of these craft were still moored by the quayside.
Another expedition was to the football stadium in Porto, it was almost new built. No matches were held in July of course, but the trip was essential as far as Peter was concerned. Not so much for me, but at least I was able to see round the empty stadium! In contrast to the splendor of the new football stadium I was rather shocked to see the living conditions of the poorest Portuguese people. Several of the buildings in the deprived parts of the city of Opporto had no running water (this was under twenty years ago) and the women had to fetch it from the many public drinking fountains in the streets.
I did not appreciate the attitude of some of the Portuguese. I know we must have seemed rich tourists to the natives, who are only now just catching up with the rest of Europe after centuries of poverty, but the attempt to do us down when we caught the bus to Lisbon left as nasty taste. The journey south took as through miles of burnt countryside, which had just suffered from a forest fire. Such fires happen frequently in hot dry Portugal, and they have strict laws about lighting of flames in an attempt to prevent them.
Lisbon is a very different place from Opporto. It has the feel of a capital. We stayed at a hotel outside the city in a town called Oerias. The area the hotel was in was being developed at the time, and it was quite a way from the railway station. Moreover it was in a desolate landscape, with rabbits as the only residents. The town proper is along the seaside, where the estuary of the river Tagus debouches into open water of the Atlantic. We reached it by railway, the Linha de Cascais. This is a pleasant journey along the coast. from Lisbon. We spent a day exploring the towns and villages along the routes of the railway. Despite some drawbacks it was all in all a lovely holiday as far as I was concerned, but my son had just fallen in love for the first time. His enamored was back in England, and he really didn’t want be all those miles away from her.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
I haven’t heard a great about climate change recently, though there have been record breaking amounts of sunshine in the past year. This may be because the Coronavirus epidemic has taken over our minds, or it may be that the recent spell of arctic weather has restored our sense of proportion. The activists can no longer point to the many tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted on a daily basis by the airline industry, now that we scarcely have an airline industry. I bet they never imagined in their wildest dreams that airliners would almost all be grounded in a matter of days; nor did I – nobody did. Even if this change were permanent (it won’t be, although I can’t see air travel returning to its pre-crisis levels in a hurry) it would take many decades, even centuries, to reverse the effects of all that carbon dioxide.
The fact is that the climate has always changed. It is important to recognize this. Over millions of years we have seen ice ages and periods of tropical heat. Whatever it is doing now, the earth will eventually cool down; then apparently it will heat up again before finally dying with the disappearance of the sun; but do not worry about this – mankind will have perished long before any of that happens. In the current period, the change to a warmer climate may have increased in the last hundred years due to the increased release of CO2, but it was changing anyway. It was getting warmer before the Industrial Revolution got going with its effect on the environment and the mining of coal. The winters in the 18th century were considerably colder than they are; this you can tell by reading diaries written hundreds of years ago. Christmas has become far less likely to be snowy. But this change to a warmer climate began long before the current increase in greenhouse gas emissions. They have increased global warming, but they did not start it.
In the wider context , the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is around 4%, and by far the most of it is down to natural causes. Nor has the climate changed out of all recognition; I well remember the winter of 1963, when the freezing weather lasted for months. There have been other (though shorter) cold spells in the last fifty years; so cold weather has not totally disappeared.`
Carbon dioxide does have the effect of increasing temperature, but the ‘climate emergency’ has been driven more by computer models than by the actual increase in global temperatures, which have been much less than predicted. If you doubt me look up a comparison of mean temperatures in the last half century with the computer generated projections; they are way of target. The Maldive Islands should have disappeared beneath the waves in the 1990s, but as far as I know they are still here. Over the last 2000 the temperature is less easy to know, as measurements were not taken then, but we may make estimates. Throughout the middle ages it got progressively warmer, but the modern era heralded the ‘Mini Ice Age’. If we project the rise in temperature from the medieval warm period to today (ignoring the ‘little ice age’) the temperature is higher than you would expect, but not by much. This long term rise in temperature may be concerning, but it is not all down to the increase in CO2 emissions, which are a recent phenomenon.
Do not imagine that I am in favour of the burning of fossil fuels; I regard this depletion of the natural resources of the planet as deeply disturbing. My point in the preceding paragraph is to give some context to the matter of climate change. I long for the day when technology has advanced to the provision of almost all our energy from renewable resources like hydrogen and tidal power. Whether heat pumps truly represent renewable power is debatable, but for all practicable purposes they do. The burning of wood is not producing extra carbon dioxide; if a log is left to rot is releases the same amount of CO2 as if it is burnt, only over a longer period. Therefore I intend to hang on to my log burner.
I intended to have an electric car this year, but I discovered that the space taken up by the batteries left insufficient space for my wheelchair. Apart from this drawback electrically operated cars are something of a problem however. Not only are they quite carbon intensive during manufacture, I understand that we would struggle to provide enough lithium and cobalt to provide enough batteries to convert all the vehicles on earth to battery power. I think this is an unnecessarily dire prediction; with the current state of technology this may well be true, but this ignores future improvements that will undoubted come.
In the longer term the possibilities to moderate the changes in climate have exciting features. Nevertheless, we have to recognise that warmer climate is not all bad. More people die every winter from excessive cold than die during summer from heat stroke.