Essay | Carbon guilt

23 Apr

I was just reading Jeremy Clarkson’s column from yesterday’s Sunday Times, and he briefly touched on something that has been bothering me for some time: –

In the same vein, we trust the BBC to provide a fair and balanced news service but every night, almost without fail, it gives us yet another shot of a soggy polar bear and yet another dire warning of what will happen if we don’t stop being middle class.

Look. I accept that Climate Change is real.

The rising global temperature represents a genuine threat to humanity. The poorest people in the poorest countries are the most endangered. And the future stability of the global economy is in peril.

Right; now that’s out of the way, let’s be serious about what changes we can make.

I know a few greenies. One of which is an old friend who is genuine in her concern for the planet, yet she drives a petrol car every day. She recycles, she campaigns, and yet everyday she collects her kids and goes to work using the miracle of the combustion engine.

She is not a hypocrite. Much of what she does probably has reduced her ‘carbon footprint,’ but the realities of life mean, that no-matter how right-on you are, we in the West are addicted to energy. Fact.

I recycle. Recycling makes sense. Economic resources are scarce and while I admit I do contribute to the glut of UK energy use, I don’t like to think I’m particularly wasteful. I take care not to leave the TV on stand-by, I no longer keep my Hi-Fi permanently on (a ‘warm’ amplifier sounds infinitely better, you know?), and we try and keep the central heating to a minimum. All these measures also reduce energy costs. Bonus.

I think the vast majority of the UK population are aware and accept the reality of global warming. But the rump of the population is also aware that there is very little that Britain alone can do. China, as we are constantly made aware, is opening a new coal-fired power station every week. India’s economy is also in hyper-drive; not-to-mention the growing industrial might of Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Another statistic that is oft rolled out by our political betters, is that if the global population enjoyed the same standard of living as we Europeans, we’d need three planet’s worth of resources. These statistics suggest we are heading for a conflict between the developed northwestern hemisphere, and an emerging Far Eastern economic block.

(The last time the world enjoyed a similar laissez faire global economy was at the end of the 19th century. Then, as now, powerful economic empires scrambled for access to the world’s scarce economic resources. Markets were open and relatively free, and the competing empires were manifested in huge militaries. In 1914, these empires clashed, and the world’s markets took almost a century to recover. You have to wonder if a similar clash, probably between two nuclear-armed hyper-powers, will lead to cataclysmic loss of human life on par with the worst natural disasters. Humanity does have previous form when it comes to culling its own.)

So what does the BBC’s constant global warming propaganda actually achieve?

China is facing its own environmental catastrophes almost daily. Major cities are health hazards with air-quality that is almost lethal on hot-days. Similarly the Gulf region of the US is facing up to decades of flooding and storm damage. Their hand will be forced – but when? What is the point of persistently preaching to the converted?

Here in the UK, the climate change lobby has already won the argument. Political Parties are talking-the-talk – even if they’re yet to really walk-the-walk. Our school system doesn’t teach kids basic grammar or spelling, but it does a grand job of turning every last one of them into a sanctimonious right-on carbon fascist (I assume their Tamagotchis were made locally?).

I drive a 2.0ltr car. Next time I buy a car I’ll take greater care to purchase something more fuel-efficient. But not because I’m concerned about my carbon footprint, it’s more a case of home economics. The global shortfall of oil means running a car will get increasingly expensive. I would love to slash my transport costs, and that makes real sense to me.

The thing is, I’m sure the editors at the BBC, and many of our politicians are not on the same planet as the rest of us. For the last month or so I have been travelling up and down the M1 for work and the number of people travelling up and down that stretch of motorway every day is awesome. How much of that could be avoided by better use of technology?

Politicians love to make us feel guilty and tax us senseless, but do they really have any progressive answers?

The car-company Rover was allowed to expire recently and what was left was sold to the Chinese. No intrinsic problem there. But why didn’t the government step in and take control of the company, harnessing the existing infrastructure to build a new generation of eco-friendly cars?

Britain used to take advantage of market opportunities. But now we lack invention and entrepreneurial guile. The government (possibly in partnership with one of the large Japanese carmakers) could have contributed to the solution and created no end of valuable patents that could have contributed back into the economy.

If we are to make a difference to global warming, reducing emissions is only half of the problem. We need to discover (or pioneer) the new technologies that will offer people the opportunity to live a more carbon efficient life without genuine sacrifice. In democracies, people don’t vote for sacrifice (at least they don’t when they have such uninspiring politicians leading them).

We need a new brand of progressive politics that embraces the knowledge economy and challenges our addiction to carbon-based energy. It’s a shame no political party has the balls to be radical. Instead, what we have is a political and media establishment that revels in condescending rhetoric and punitive taxation.

Empower us to change. Don’t punish us for living our lives.

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16 Responses to “Essay | Carbon guilt”

  1. ashoksoni@hotmail.com April 23, 2007 at 7:27 pm #

    But now we lack invention and entrepreneurial guile.the editor of the FT seems to differ…http://www.weliveinfinancialtimes.com/assets/pdf/introducing_ft.pdf“British entrepreneurs and innovators are thriving everywhere”.

  2. ashoksoni@hotmail.com April 23, 2007 at 7:27 pm #

    But now we lack invention and entrepreneurial guile.the editor of the FT seems to differ…http://www.weliveinfinancialtimes.com/assets/pdf/introducing_ft.pdf“British entrepreneurs and innovators are thriving everywhere”.

  3. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 24, 2007 at 8:17 am #

    No doubt private businesses do have the invention and spirit to create and develop, but this is a political essay, not a commercial one. I am dealing with the government’s role in high-tech R&D and investment.The recent budget was a handout to the finance sector. There was little good news for manufacturing – high tech or not, a sector that will be rocked by a reduction in capital allowances.

  4. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 24, 2007 at 8:17 am #

    No doubt private businesses do have the invention and spirit to create and develop, but this is a political essay, not a commercial one. I am dealing with the government’s role in high-tech R&D and investment.The recent budget was a handout to the finance sector. There was little good news for manufacturing – high tech or not, a sector that will be rocked by a reduction in capital allowances.

  5. mrzhisou@gmail.com April 24, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    I generally agree with you, but it’s the weakness of democracy in that people tend to vote for selfish short-term reasons and political parties with grandiose (and expensive) plans to save the planet will just lose.It takes a global effort, and with the US so far in the pocket of the corporate world, it’s hard to see them seriously unpicking their oil addiction.Maybe a beefed up UN could lead with international national parks in the equatorial forests to save what’s left and replant what’s gone. Not as easy as it sounds, I know, but essential, so a way to make it work needs to be found.The west isn’t really the problem, we can do a lot more with wind farms, solar panels and hybrid cars, but really it’s the developing nations pollution and the deforestation that are the most important factors.

  6. mrzhisou@gmail.com April 24, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    I generally agree with you, but it’s the weakness of democracy in that people tend to vote for selfish short-term reasons and political parties with grandiose (and expensive) plans to save the planet will just lose.It takes a global effort, and with the US so far in the pocket of the corporate world, it’s hard to see them seriously unpicking their oil addiction.Maybe a beefed up UN could lead with international national parks in the equatorial forests to save what’s left and replant what’s gone. Not as easy as it sounds, I know, but essential, so a way to make it work needs to be found.The west isn’t really the problem, we can do a lot more with wind farms, solar panels and hybrid cars, but really it’s the developing nations pollution and the deforestation that are the most important factors.

  7. pepeperez67@hotmail.com April 24, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Mr. Zhisou. I imagine the ME deserts full with solar energy panels and a network to distribute to surrounding countries. As I do imagine the deserts everywhere else doing the same.And aeolian energy, and the sea. Hydrogen for cars.It isn’t so difficult if there’s real political interest

  8. pepeperez67@hotmail.com April 24, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Mr. Zhisou. I imagine the ME deserts full with solar energy panels and a network to distribute to surrounding countries. As I do imagine the deserts everywhere else doing the same.And aeolian energy, and the sea. Hydrogen for cars.It isn’t so difficult if there’s real political interest

  9. mrzhisou@gmail.com April 25, 2007 at 10:49 am #

    Absolutely right Jose, Africa could become the world’s energy farm in the Sahara and the lungs around the equatorial forests. Help solve poverty too – well, maybe not, we’d have to solve corruption, disease and birth control first.

  10. mrzhisou@gmail.com April 25, 2007 at 10:49 am #

    Absolutely right Jose, Africa could become the world’s energy farm in the Sahara and the lungs around the equatorial forests. Help solve poverty too – well, maybe not, we’d have to solve corruption, disease and birth control first.

  11. snowflakec5@yahoo.co.uk April 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm #

    I agree with you – there seems to be a concerted effort at the BBC to scare people and make them think that combatting global warming is all about sack-cloth and ashes.Look at “ethical man” on Newsnight – turned out that most of his CO2 savings came in the first day or two, when he installed low electricity light bulbs and turned things off. As to the rest, he might have saved himself the hassle and not bothered.The danger with the scare tactics is that people throw up their hands and give up altogether.The whole global warming thing can be sorted quite easily by getting power-stations and office buildings more efficient. I think they’ve already legislated to make new homes more energy efficient. Plus international agreements to get other countries to do the same.

  12. snowflakec5@yahoo.co.uk April 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm #

    I agree with you – there seems to be a concerted effort at the BBC to scare people and make them think that combatting global warming is all about sack-cloth and ashes.Look at “ethical man” on Newsnight – turned out that most of his CO2 savings came in the first day or two, when he installed low electricity light bulbs and turned things off. As to the rest, he might have saved himself the hassle and not bothered.The danger with the scare tactics is that people throw up their hands and give up altogether.The whole global warming thing can be sorted quite easily by getting power-stations and office buildings more efficient. I think they’ve already legislated to make new homes more energy efficient. Plus international agreements to get other countries to do the same.

  13. dk@devilskitchen.net April 27, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    It takes a global effort, and with the US so far in the pocket of the corporate world, it’s hard to see them seriously unpicking their oil addiction.Aaahahahaha! Nice to see the standard bit of anti-US bigotry going on.For your information, one government that is putting billions into R & D, including the recent fusion breakthrough which was entirely state-funded, is the US government.I think they’ve already legislated to make new homes more energy efficient.Oh, well that’s OK then, eh?DK

  14. dk@devilskitchen.net April 27, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    It takes a global effort, and with the US so far in the pocket of the corporate world, it’s hard to see them seriously unpicking their oil addiction.Aaahahahaha! Nice to see the standard bit of anti-US bigotry going on.For your information, one government that is putting billions into R & D, including the recent fusion breakthrough which was entirely state-funded, is the US government.I think they’ve already legislated to make new homes more energy efficient.Oh, well that’s OK then, eh?DK

  15. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 27, 2007 at 5:00 pm #

    Actually DK has a point. But the big social changes are being made at State level.

  16. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 27, 2007 at 5:00 pm #

    Actually DK has a point. But the big social changes are being made at State level.

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