Monday, October 30, 2006
Headless chickens are everywhere after Sir Nicholas Stern's report on the effects of climate change. How do we react to news that, apart from hundreds of millions of refugees, deaths etc, this thing is going to cost us £3.68 trillion? (The money is the headline because Stern is an economist and lots of dead poor people don't register unless Geldof, Bono and Madonna are involved.) Gordon Brown reacts by appointing Al Gore as an adviser while drooling slightly at the prospect of more taxes; Tony Blair, radical as ever, reacts by writing for The Sun. Blair and Brown both make a point of saying that this is an international issue. Inevitably, therefore, the response becomes: why should we do anything when the US, India and China are the real culprits? Oddly enough the greatest of all greens, James Lovelock, agrees with the sentiment behind this question. I once asked him what Britain should do and he said, 'Burn the carbon.' As far as Jim's concerned, it won't make any difference either way since it is highly unlikely that a bunch of tribal carnivores will suppress their tribal carnivorous natures in order to do something as sensible as preventing The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). 'We can't save the planet,' says Jim, 'we never could.' This is the truly profound issue here. We know that climate change is happening and we have known for 30 years what we must do to prevent it. But we have done nothing, less than nothing in fact since emissions are rising exponentially. Will we ever do anything? Can our reason overcome our tribal natures? This far from the Enlightenment and after the unprecedented savagery of the twentieth century, the answer would appear to be no.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:26 am