Letters to the Editor, July 21, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 4:08pm

Observatory’s objectivity questionable

The Observatory’s second edition of “HK in a Warming World” has just been published.

It is undoubtedly a very well-prepared booklet, easy to read, with colourful graphics. But it is sadly so predictable and an ­extremely one-sided presentation of “projections”. Every ­contention about more extreme ­weather, rise in sea levels, ­decrease in ice and snow, heatwaves, droughts and rainfall, emphasises the worst-case ­scenario.

Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), from which this booklet selectively quotes, mentions that a warmer climate will have some benefits for humanity and the planet, and at the same time admits that the projections are based on computer models that have proved, and continue to prove, less than reliable.

The introduction to the ­pamphlet is emblazoned with a quote from the IPCC AR5 report, “It is extremely likely that ­human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.

This is strongly contested by many scientists. Few would ­dispute the urban heat island ­effect which the booklet touches upon. Many of the temperature and air quality gauges that the computer models rely upon are located within the urban sprawl and one must question their relevance to the overall picture.

A recent report said that since January 2014 some 770 peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published in reputable journals strongly suggesting that natural factors, such as sun, clouds, ocean oscillations, aerosol and tectonic, have exerted such “ a significant influence on weather and climate that it is very difficult to detect an anthropogenic signal and distinguish it as an ‘extremely likely’ cause ­relative to natural variation”.

When Observatory staff ­lecture young people on this issue, is there any objectivity at all?

G. Bailey, Ta Kwu Ling

Trim syllabus to allow better understanding

I refer to the letter from Chan Sum-kiu (“Easier exam, but ­system is still flawed”, July 13).

I agree there is a need to ­reform the education system.

The syllabus should be trimmed to make it easier for students to acquire knowledge. At the moment they are often just memorising material in mathematics and science ­subjects, but have no time to really reflect on this material.

There is so much to cover in the syllabus that some students find that their passion for ­learning is extinguished. Therefore changes to the syllabus must be made as soon as ­possible.

However, I do not think the Diploma of Secondary Education exam should be made ­easier. If that happens, more candidates will score high marks even if they are not really gifted academically.

However, the government does need to try to find ways to reduce the pressure felt by ­students. Every year youngsters are involved in a fierce competition to get a university place.

Many think that they face a grim future if they cannot get to university. Any reforms must address these concerns.

Nancy Lam, To Kwa Wan

Lifeguards deserve a better deal

I refer to the report (“Hong Kong lifeguards turn up the heat in pay dispute with 500 set to strike”, July 11).

The lifeguards launched their industrial action, because they want better pay and conditions from the Leisure and ­Cultural Services Department.

There are still more than 200 vacancies as the low pay and lengthy training time discourages young people from becoming lifeguards. I think they should get higher pay and the department must also find other ways to attract new recruits.

The department has said it wants the dispute resolved in a rational manner, but I do not agree with officials that the lifeguards have been acting irresponsibly.

The department needs to ­offer a better package to the lifeguards and to potential new ­recruits.

Youngsters keen on joining should be offered the chance to get involved in sports related to their jobs, such as extreme aquatics.

A lot of young people now like getting involved in what are known as extreme sports. The department needs to think carefully about the kind of package it can come up with to fill the ­vacancies and get the number of lifeguards needed.

Fok Pui-yi, Tseung Kwan O

Residents left high and dry – a second time

I am a resident of the Belchers estate in Shek Tong Tsui.

Last Saturday I was trapped in my flat close to 60 floors above ground level with no lift and no running water.

It was the second time in six weeks this had happened. The cause is an apparently faulty water tank which ­released water into the lift shafts. I say apparently because the management company, Shun Tak, gave no official explanation about the first incident.

The first occurrence, on June 2, could have been excused as a freak accident. To have the same thing happen six weeks later raises questions about competence.

I am grateful that we had enough bottled water on hand and did not happen to have a flight to catch or, god forbid, a medical emergency.

I wonder if all my neighbours were so fortunate.

George Warfield, Pok Fu Lam

Flexible hours vital to keep firms viable

Earlier this year employee representatives quit the Standard Working Hours Committee, ­because of a failure to legislate on fixed working hours.

I do not think this was the right decision. Without their participation a comprehensive consultation process is not ­possible.

A thorough consultation which involves all stakeholders, including workers’ representatives, is essential.

Many of these workers are having to put in long hours for no extra pay and they have to hope that this committee can eventually make a difference. And their views have to be sought.

This is a very controversial issue in Hong Kong and I am not fully in support of standardising working hours through legislation. Hong Kong has been able to compete as an international financial centre because of the freedom given to businesses to operate. They enjoy a degree of flexibility, including the hours people work.

If we standardise working hours through legislation, some firms in the city might eventually lose that competitive edge.

Natalie Chiu, Lai Chi Kok

Brexit fallout cannot be ignored

I refer to Christopher Heneghan’s response (“Having a ­tantrum over Brexit result”, July 8) to Jason Brockwell’s letter (“Whatever the Brexit mitigation, a bad decision is still bad”, July 3).

Your correspondent chose to ignore Brockwell’s point, which was written in response to Jake van der Kamp’s column (“Brexit will recede into the past ... just like 1066 and all that”, June 25) in which van der Kamp sought to argue that the consequences of the Brexit decision would be ameliorated by the markets.

Brockwell’s point was very simple. Decisions have consequences.

Many decisions ­cannot be ameliorated by ­markets and ­indeed often ­markets are ­completely irrelevant.

As to Heneghan’s suggestion that the outcome of the Brexit decision is unknown, one thing that is already clearly known, and indeed directly a ­result of van der Kamp’s ­precious ­markets, is that the ­value of ­sterling has plunged.

This has the consequence of making everybody who has the misfortune to hold sterling considerably poorer in comparison to those holding virtually every other international ­currency.

This is undeniably a decision with very bad economic consequences.

N. Millar, Mong Kok