Well, we finally made it. The human race has pushed through the CO2 400 parts per million ceiling for the first time in five million years (‘Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels’, BBC Online, 11 May). This was the symbolic threshold above which climatologists stated global warming would be inevitable. Predictably, scientists are once again leading the demand for governments to do something.
In the UK, the Tory government has been keen to trumpet its ‘global leadership’ in reducing emissions, a claim somewhat undermined by April’s report from its own Climate Change Committee which pointed out that the UK’s net emissions have gone up, not down, because it has been importing more goods with ‘embodied’ emissions (‘UK CO2 emissions rising, government advisers warn,’ BBC Online, 24 April).
Most of Europe is engaged in similar card-sharpery, hoping to look squeaky clean while getting other countries to do their dirty work. China, though, says it has a new five year plan aimed at reversing the effects of thirty years of smog-filled coal-fired industrialisation, a claim that indicates, if nothing else, that it has now caught up with the West in the game of post-industrial piety. Perhaps the plan is to install Tibetans on all their power-station chimneys and make them inhale the smoke.
A dispassionate observer would surely conclude by now that the argument over climate change has been comprehensively won by the climatologists, even if no genuine action has been taken or is even likely. But not everyone is on board. There is still a crusty rearguard in the fetid armpit of the right wing which persists in denying the bleeding obvious. Around the time of the last general election in 2010, the Guardian assembled an inquisition of famous scientists and put the politicians in the dock over their policies on funding, climate change and energy, pharmaceutical research data, drug policy, public health, science and libel laws, and alternative medicine (‘If science had a vote, which party would it vote for?’ Guardian, 5 May, 2010).
While the major parties mostly reflected the prevailing scientific consensus on most of these areas, an encouraging result given that the politicians were red-hot for votes and therefore a good barometer of public opinion at the time, not all interviewees were on-message. UKIP’s Viscount Monckton gave a wonderful performance, from a comedy point of view, with Bertie Wooster-like responses that were riddled with howlers even after UKIP’s press office had hurriedly reworked his answers in a specially-demanded ‘phone a friend’ concession. According to the Drones Club spokesman, UKIP would appoint a Royal Commission to investigate climate scientists’ ‘imagined’ consequences of global warming and how far they had ‘exaggerated them.’ To demonstrate that this would be a show trial with only one possible outcome, UKIP would not even wait for the Commission’s report before acting. UKIP would in the meantime close down all climate-related funding and research, cancel the UK’s commitment to EU carbon-trading agreements, repeal the Climate Change Act and close the government’s Climate Change Department, commission new fossil and nuclear power stations, end renewable subsidies, threaten to cut Met Office funding if they gave inaccurate forecasts (references to global warming presumably also qualifying as an ‘inaccuracy’) and ban Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Question from all schools.
Perhaps one could expect no better, given that UKIP is really a pressure-group with no policies, recently grown temporarily large like a pus-filled boil. Its views on climate change as a ‘now-disproven hypothesis,’ public health campaigns over food as ‘unjustifiable’ or stem-cell research as involving ‘the killing of very small children’ are pretty much what you’d expect from privileged right-wing yahoos who own enough not to have to know anything.
Bones of Contention
A fuss has apparently broken out over where to rebury the newly disinterred remains of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, who has been failing to push up daisies under a crypt and then a concrete car park in Leicester for 500 years until his recent sensational rediscovery. Plans to stick the semi-fossilised ex-sponger in Leicester Cathedral are being challenged by his avowed relatives who prefer York Minster. But what relatives would these be after 500 years, given that Richard had no children and was not famous for even liking them? A BBC Radio 4 programme on mathematics (More or Less, 10 May) has estimated that if Richard’s near kin produced 2 children each, and this output continued at a steady rate, there would be a million relatives by now. However if they had bred at the average rate for the period, at 2.3 children, this number would jump to 17 million. The programme went on to cite a respected 1970s study which suggested that everyone in the UK not from foreign extraction was probably descended from Edward III, Richard’s own ancestor. So what gives these ‘relatives’ the right to start arguing the toss over where to bury the bones, the programme wanted to know? Well quite. But then, what gives any of these royals or privileged poseurs the right to anything based on inheritance? Any given set of genes has a half-life of one generation, so genetically speaking, their connection to their distant forebears is at homeopathic levels anyway. You, dear reader, are probably just as ‘royal’ as they are. But that’s capitalism for you, fetishising utter silliness in the service of the elitist rich.
What if, this column wondered darkly back in Sept 2011, workers start using 3D printing technology to print their own guns and ammunition? Well, who knew it would happen so fast? After gun manufacturers lined up to reassure everyone that printed plastic guns were impossible, a YouTube video was posted in early May showing a ‘crypto-anarchist’ developer, Cody Wilson, firing the world’s first printed gun. Within days there were 100,000 downloads of his print design and utter panic in the halls of the mighty, who will now be feverishly trying to put a stop to their worst nightmare, an armed workforce in a recession. Pathfinders now awaits, with an uncanny perspicacity borne out by events, the world’s first bank robbery using a 3D gun, followed by the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher, followed by the first uprising. Socialists argue for revolution ‘peacefully if we can, by force if we must,’ so we can hardly contemplate such a development with enthusiasm. On the other hand, it’s gratifying to consider how the fat cats will be shitting themselves over this.