Tim Rickman can't see the emperor's new clothes.


Reality check

"We are all stinking hypocrites" said George Monbiot in a May 2007 article in New Left Review. You can judge for yourself why the words might have appeared there, rather than in his usual column in The Guardian. Editors know that people who consider themselves green normally pay their chosen newspaper for sycophancy, not criticism, and advertisers feel likewise.

Anyway, Monbiot had a point. Meet animal rights devotees, and you will eventually realise that they are vegan or at least vegetarian. Meet environmentalists and you will observe that their lifestyles are typically fuelled by ten or twenty times the quantity of fossil carbon that the biosphere can absorb. You may also observe their proudly paraded cotton shopping bag with suitable logo. Despite being educated well enough to add up (they generally consider themselves professional people) such people might tell you that they don't like to be overly quantitative about things. It is, it seems, the thought that counts. The important thing is not to do what is needed but instead to instruct others of the need. This clearly works, because I observe that those who hear the message do indeed learn the same behaviour, instructing yet others but still not doing it themselves.

It is common to demand that politicians do something about climate change. However, there are problems with asking politicians to make sure greenhouse gas emissions reduce. These problems stem from the fact that it is us that emits the greenhouse gas, and if some politician tells us to stop then we will no longer vote for him. Politicians know this because they observe that if we were willing to reduce our emissions to the level necessary then we would have done it ourselves already without waiting to be told. After all, reducing emissions after being told to do so is the same as reducing emissions without being told to, except that it happens rather later and involves having to be bossed about. So, complaining to politicians about climate change will not work unless we have already started doing on our own whatever it is we want to be told to do.

No one ever is to blame

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