Doreen Tipton: Feeling under the weather?
I watched the weather forecast on telly last night, so I think I’m now uniquely qualified to wade into the whole climate change debate. More on that later, but first a word about TV weather forecasts.
First of all, they aren’t really forecasts any more. At least half of the forecast I watched was devoted to telling me what the weather had already done that day, which I reckon is cheating. I can tell you with total accuracy what the weather near me did today. Anybody with a window could have done a similar job without demanding the forecaster’s salary. And what the weather was doing elsewhere, like in the Shetlands or Wales – well, I don’t really care. Except I can guarantee it was raining in Wales.
But when they move on to the actual prediction bit in the second half of the slot, they start to get a bit vaguer, using phrases like ‘a risk of some showers‘ or ‘you may see some occasional broken sunshine’. As a finale, they then predict with amazing accuracy that the weather tomorrow might be a bit unpredictable.
The British, of course, are traditionally obsessed with talking about the weather, and the TV folk naturally pander to it. At a certain time of night, just after the late news, there now seems to be a need to have about seven weather forecasts.
The national news is followed by the local news, which is followed by the national weather, followed by the local weather for those too thick to work out where they are on the UK map, then followed by the news from your street and the weather in your lounge, then back to the national pollen count, followed by the local pollen count – by which time the wind outside has changed direction and they have to start all over again.
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes. The climate change debate. It’s a bit like Brexit, because it’s an issue that tends to get people a bit hot under the collar. And as we all know, if the temperature under your collar is raised by more than one degree, your blood tends to boil over, and there are catastrophic consequences for the planet, or at least for the one you’re arguing with.
So, where to start? Well, like any good talking point, the debate needs a good snappy title. ‘Climate Change’ now seems to be the preferred phrase, at least by its supporters. It was previously usually known as ‘Global Warming’ until a few inconvenient graphs stubbornly refused to show any evidence of warming at all for the past 20 years and gave the cynics a handy stick to beat the opposition with.
But no-one, of course, can argue that the climate is changing. That’s what climate does, and always has done, since and before the Ice Age.
The science is complicated, and I feel ill-equipped to judge what’s going on, as I failed chemistry at school, having once set fire to the teacher’s moustache with an over-active Bunsen burner.
Opinions vary wildly. Some say we’re doomed if we don’t instantly stop driving cars and breathing. Some say we’re doomed even if we do, because C02 has been rising for 10 millennia (therefore nothing to do with us) and will continue way after we’ve all been frazzled. Some say: “Global warming? It was a lovely summer – bring it on!” Others say: “It was freezing this winter, where’s the problem?” Yet more folk reckon that it’s all down to cows breaking wind, so we need to swap over to Linda McCartney burgers and lentils and we’ll be fine. I question though, whether a life spent eating Linda McCartney burgers and lentils is a life worth saving.
But this problem is bigger than all of us, and there is a rather depressing feeling of King Canute about it all (or to use his original Danish name, the anagrammatically intriguing King Cnut) expecting that mere mortals like us can push back the rising sea levels, and alter the entire planet’s behaviour by buying a lower-powered hairdyer. But does that mean we should do nothing?
Well, I prefer to leave the science to the ones who didn’t set fire to their teacher’s moustaches, and thus momentarily increased global warming. But I do wish that this issue, like so many others, hadn’t become so heavily politicised. I wish that some of the ones trying to trumpet the problem so loudly weren’t making so much money out of it. It always sits uncomfortably when ecological causes spawn vested interest groups who do very, very nicely out of the problem, ta very much. Move over and join the tobacco companies and the gun lobbies.
To quote the catchphrase of a famous classic movie about corruption, always ‘Follow the money’. Today’s ethical investment is tomorrow’s major opportunity for fraudsters. And there’s plenty of them. I won’t trouble you with details here, but look them up. It’s a shame, because saving the planet is fairly important, and we don’t want the cause getting a bad name from fairweather friends.
So what to do? A windfall tax on the ones making the money from wind? Or perhaps state-sponsored propaganda weather forecasts telling everybody that storm Ethel is about to hit, so stay at home, don’t use your cars, switch the lights off, don’t eat cows and stay away from the hairdryer. Storm Fred follows the next day, then Storm Godzilla, and so on. Except that by the time we’ve got to Storm Zebedee there’s nobody left at work. Car plants have shut. Hairdryer manufacturers, electrical shops, cow farmers – all made redundant. And there’s nobody to pay the climate levy and green taxes any more, except the veggie burger and lentils suppliers, who have now relocated their factory to a tax haven somewhere in the middle of a clearing in a Brazilian rain forest. So as you were, please.
All this obsession with saving the planet for the next generation, and I’ve yet to meet a young person who knows how to switch off a light. It’s a gloomy forecast. Oh well. Perhaps it’ll brighten up tomorrow.
Tarra a bit x