Slowly round the bend

On the way back from a spectacular holiday in Switzerland, during which my wife and I enjoyed journeys in 23 trains, I was asked – among other things – to say why I had chosen that particular holiday. First on the list was “environmentally friendly”.

I refrained from ticking that box – not because I would have preferred it to be environmentally unfriendly, but because its alleged environment-friendliness wasn’t the reason I had chosen the holiday. I chose it because I like trains, and I like Switzerland.

I am afraid that in the Great Reckoning of the Green Dictatorship that may be deemed to be insufficient, just as it is not enough to go for a run nowadays: you have to be sponsored. Where we just used to have fun, now we have to demonstrate our worthiness credentials. This is a pity, because having fun is one of the things that makes us truly human. Self-righteousness isn’t. Choosing to do good is a personal matter, and it is to be heartily recommended. Forcing people to do what we personally think is good (and not obviously good, like refraining from dropping litter) leads to the Inquisition and other horrors.

And that’s where we’re heading. Already, to challenge the global warming hegemony is to risk being categorised as unfeeling, selfish, uncaring and a bad citizen. The BBC has just broadcast three programmes – The Climate Wars – with just this assumption behind them: that ignoring climate change is irresponsible, because we can do something about it. This despite Dr Iain Stewart, the presenter, demonstrating conclusively in the last episode that climate change is a natural phenomenon, has happened many times in the past and could strike at any moment irrespective of anything we do.

He seemed oblivious to the fact that if this was so, all our puny efforts to reduce emissions and impoverish our lifestyles would have no effect whatsoever. Our efforts need to be directed to detecting changes and deciding how to adapt to them – not futilely trying to stop them. Readers of this site will know that I am sceptical about attributing warming to carbon dioxide emissions, and why. The BBC’s latest propaganda has not changed that, but I was surprised at their continuing to advocate what has already been discredited – like the hockey-stick temperature graph – their distortion of other evidence, and their failure to mention two critical points (among others): that the world has been cooling in the last decade, and that the effects of carbon dioxide are logarithmic and not exponential – which means they will be much less than you might expect.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is often quoted as the authority on the causes of climate change, and we frequently hear that hundreds or thousands of IPCC scientists support the theory of greenhouse gas forcing, so who are we to argue? Paul Biggs puts this into perspective when he points out that “only 62 scientists reviewed chapter nine, Understanding and Attributing Climate Change. Of the comments received from the 62 reviewers of this critical chapter, almost 60 per cent of them were rejected by IPCC editors, and of the 62 expert reviewers of this chapter, 55 had serious vested interest, leaving only seven expert reviewers who appear impartial”. He adds: “Go and read it for yourself!”

No-one does, of course. I bet Oxfam didn’t, before issuing their report Forecast for Tomorrow, attacking energy giants Shell and E.ON for “threatening the lives of millions of poor around the world” by “pushing global emissions to dangerous levels”. I bet didn’t either. Avaaz is an “independent global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making”, and it frequently tries to persuade its members to influence elected representatives “to stop catastrophic global warming”. Pressure from organisations and charities such as these is one reason the global warming bandwagon is so hard to stop. Why do they do it? Because it seems right, and they don’t have time – presumably – to read the fine print. Irresponsible? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The fallout from all this is seen in many areas, one of the most obvious of which is transport policies. If you believe cars are at least partly to blame for impending global catastrophe, then you are more than likely to implement anti-car policies. You are also likely to be annoyed by people who enjoy driving, especially driving quite fast. Latest figures show once again that exceeding the speed limit was a factor (just one factor, mind you) in only 6 per cent all accidents, and only 13 per cent of fatal ones. Still we devote practically all our road safety efforts to slowing people down and none at all, as far as I can see, to a sensible revision of speed limits with the aim of preventing punishment of competent drivers.

By far the biggest factor in all accidents is carelessness – or to use the police jargon, failure to look or failure to judge another person’s path or speed. This is even more true (a massive 57%) in the case of pedestrians involved in accidents, but where is the campaign to combat carelessness? The immediate response to an accident involving a pedestrian, from both residents and the media, is to demand that the traffic be slowed down. As with global warming, no-one is interested in examining the facts and figures: they do what seems right, and what makes them feel better. And then they’re surprised when it doesn’t work.

Twelve Green Party councillors in Norwich are against the dualling of the remaining single-carriageway section of the A11, a move that would increase safety and decrease pollution. Why? Presumably because it would make life easier for drivers. No doubt they are in favour of “eco-driving”, which persuades the gullible to drive dangerously slowly, frustrate their fellow-road users and feel morally superior at the same time. Eco-driving advocates also advise us not to accelerate or brake unnecessarily hard. Who would have thought of that? Sometimes, of course, it’s necessary, but you have to use judgement for that.

A correspondent tells me that near Hunworth in Norfolk there is a road sign that says Please go slowly round the bend. Too late. We already have.