+Here in jolly old Scarborough it seems the 10 million visitors we welcome each year have all come on the same day. The Met office suggested our temperature reached 25 degrees centigrade and there’s not been a cloud in the sky. A bit like one’s memory of childhood in the 1950s when every summer’s day was bright and sunny. But as a panellist in the Big Ideas By The Sea Festival this weekend I was indoors presenting in a session called ‘Environmental Provocations’ and decided to be as honest as I could be about the utter failure of our leaders (of all varieties) to do what is necessary and sufficient to get to grips with climate change. The situation is dire as anyone this week in California and Germany might tell you. At least one can take a single but unhappy positive out of that: the impacts of climate change are a direct threat to us too, not just to poor people in the south about whom we don’t care about very much really. Oh!! Isn’t that a bit harsh?
My view is that immediate behavioural change (and of course technological solutions if they ever emerge in sufficient quantities and time) is absolutely required, but since no politician will argue for serious behavioural change we have to rely on vacuous promises that some amazing techno solution is just around the corner, like carbon capture and storage (CCS). We were told 20 years ago that CCS was coming in 20 years’ time. Now it’s another 20 years. People don’t seem to understand that the amount of CO2 already pumped into the atmosphere with the attendant feedback mechanisms is already enough to take the temperature increase well over the Paris Agreement’s mythical 1.5 degrees target. Scientists are rushing to their models trying to figure out how we underestimated the speed of change. And now the billionaires are queuing up to leave the planet.
+Perhaps appropriately I have just completed my most ambitious artwork yet: ‘Chal’s Apocalypse.’ This takes as its inspiration the Getty Apocalypse which the Folio Society kindly reproduced in facsimile form in a limited edition. That was a starting point anyway, and 82 pictures later I am relieved not to have to go any further. But as I write I am listening to Thomas Tallis’s choral music which resonates from the age of monastic singing. It sounds really cool. Cool in the sense that being indoors sheltered by thick stone walls might be one of the best locations to be in yet another unprecedented heatwave . . . . along with some nice monastic red wine.
+Another session of the Big Ideas By The Sea Festival was a talk by Dr David Abrutat (a GCHQ official historian) about the history of the GCHQ site in Scarborough, which we were told is the world’s oldest signals intelligence base, having been set up before the First World War. It was apparently instrumental in the sinking of the Bismarck in WW2. We do have the remains of a much older signal station in Scarborough which the Romans built on the headland, but that didn’t gather intelligence so doesn’t count. I was the only person to ask a question at the end of the talk. I suspect that most of the audience were current or ex-‘spooks’ from the base and wouldn’t want to break the omerta of the Official Secrets Act. I knew Dr Abrutat wouldn’t answer my question but I asked it anyway: did the base follow Iraqi signals intelligence before the 2003 Iraq war? If they did, it will have probably provided the definitive answer to the question whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. If our ’SIGINT’ could accurately spot the whereabouts of a U-boat one hundred years ago, it could hardly have been a problem to locate what the UN’s Dr Blix failed to find in 2003.