Floods, unrelenting rain, hurricanes and all-round unpleasantness when you go out has made life in this country rather miserable. Even more miserable, however, is the debate about whether this extreme weather is indeed part of that moving target called climate change.
Now, BBC Radio Five Live called in an expert to try to establish whether it climate change is really upon us and whether our CO2-vomiting activities are to blame. The expert, although well-prepared judging by a bullet-dodging pre-amble, reached an alarming conclusion.
He didn’t know.
To me it’s clear we are hopelessly groping in the dark over this issue. In the 1980s and 90s scientists, noticing an increasing level of blond girls with orange skin, came up with the theory of ‘global warming’ and told us hairspray was the problem. The finger was pointed fairly and squarely at Kim Wilde and Pat Sharp, but after further investigation it was revealed that Kim and Pat weren’t wholly to blame. It was us too.
As our consciences dictated our behaviour the prospect of unsightly melanomas forced us to ditch our CFC-ridden spray-on deodorants in favour of Pritt Stick. All our T-shirts got crusty and none of us could put our arms flush to our bodies. Out went our ageing refrigerators and in came nice aluminium-effect chilled-water-dispensing ones that took up half the kitchen.
Then we were told that CFCs weren’t the problem but carbon dioxide was, so we went back to spray-on deodorant and started buying terribly ugly cars made by the Japanese. We soldiered on half-filling our kettles, growing coriander in window boxes, turning off lights, fitting low-energy bulbs, farting in bags and walking a bit slower.
Scientists went back to their drawing boards, expanding their reading matter to get to the bottom of the problem. After fully digesting The Very Hungry Caterpillar they realised their mistake and asked to us rethink. They told us not only was the term ‘global warming’ passé it was, more importantly, wrong.
We didn’t know what to do so we told Brazilians to stop cutting down trees and the Aussies to quit barbecues, y’know, just in case. Then, halfway through the Noughties, the Intercontinental Panel for Climate Change, having read the complete set of The Gruffalo, set about justifying its existence and insisted that we start calling all this stuff that’ll give us a quick tan ‘climate change’. Jonathon Porritt got even more uppity, Spring Watch became more popular and Kate Humble stopped shaving her armpits.
We had something that united us, like the Planet Earth, dude. Yoda-inspired Barack Obama told us it was ‘Change we need’ yet China and India soldiered on with plans to build ruddy great power stations… like the UK and the US did 50 years ago. Then, in an appalling show of hypocrisy, America and Britain told developing countries – India and China – to stop building power stations like theirs and take a more responsible attitude.
It all made sense… to the west, anyway.
Unsurprisingly India and China told the Brits and the Yanks to bugger off – a smart move – and carried on with their plans to big ugly round things that would barf CO2 in the atmosphere at incredible rates. As a way of justifying this they told us to think about all the decades we spent ruining the planet, and they had a point. It was an awkward moment so we got all guilty, gave them a load of money to gloss over the problem and we carried on with our business of pumping more rubbish into the air.
While all this was going on a timebomb was about to go off. BP had built an oil rig, based on a design by Timmy Mallet, with Meccano, silly string and Play Doh and after a few successful years extracting trillions of pounds worth of gloop for Americans to enjoy at the bargain price of 25p a a litre, the Play Doh pipe blew a gasket and vomited stuff that Cormorants could use as hair gel. Now the Yanks needed someone new to blame and since the ‘B’ in BP stands for British, America told us to take a more responsible attitude. We tugged at our forelock, sacked the man at the top and really started to think seriously about how we should stop putting crap in the sea. We’d sort of forgot about the air… until Brisbane and Brazil became engulfed by muddy waters.
Two years on and the issue raises its ugly head again. Radio producers are charged to get more idiots with supposed credentials to patronise us when it’s clear they know little more than my hairdresser.
To me, it all sounds like padding for 24-hour news programmes. You might as well call the Cheeky Girls for a quote. The galling thing about all this is no explanations, or even promises of action, really give any crumb of comfort to those who have had their lives ruined by flooding. We can’t even gloss over the problem with offers of cash because the bankers spent it all.
In the years to come, when there are more attempts to explain the unexplainable, there’ll doubtless be more clueless experts on more dull radio shows telling us how to live our lives in a responsible way. When they get on to reading Charlie and Chocolate Factory it’s highly likely they’ll move the goalposts again. Maybe we’ll find out that the reason for these extreme weather conditions is because we’ve actually found out the world is indeed flat and the flooding is the result of a new phenomenon called ‘global tilting’. At this point we’ll all be asked to stand at the extreme end of Japan to counteract the problem.
Never know, might work…