It seems odd to hold a climate change conference at a time of year when everyone has just looked out their window and notched the thermostat up by two degrees. Change seems such a mild word for what’s going on. When we say that someone has “changed”, we usually mean that they’re drinking a bit more or less. We don’t mean that they’re lying stone dead under five miles of ocean on a rock that now hangs silently in the freezing vault of space.
An initiative was announced for a network of 120 countries to form a solar power grid, but I don’t think Scotland qualified. I’m not sure how much solar energy we produce, all I know is it’s way less than it takes to light a sky. Clean energy is always described as expensive and inefficient, but I suppose that if the price of the alternatives is extinction, we might just be measuring expense and efficiency wrongly.
The pope has said that Earth is nearing environmental “suicide”. Many leaders will question his right to speak on climate change – but to be fair, he’s the only one driving about in an electric van. Developing nations say that rich western countries aren’t doing enough to help them deal with the effects of climate change, but that’s not the case. We’re going to help them deal with drought by submerging them under the ocean.
As the temperature increases some people say it will be like boiling a frog, but surely in that analogy the frog doesn’t know that the temperature is rising. Humanity is fully aware but possibly just too depressed to do anything. It’s more like boiling a recently divorced 45-year-old man. There could be a plus side to the ice caps melting. Think of the interesting things you find when you just defrost your freezer; we could discover the first ever entirely breadcrumbed mammoth.
Pointing out that the Earth is our one home doesn’t seem to help. After all, a lot of us have got a room in our house that we gradually fill up with crap and can’t bear to go into. I suppose that’s just the developing world. There’s going to be a big rise in demand for electricity in the emergent nations. I guess spending 14 hours a day assembling our consumer goods was bound to put ideas in their heads. Many of you will be reading this on a tablet made by a Chinese teenager using rare metals that an African child has scraped off the side of a hill with a spoon, then sent halfway round the world to you so you can smugly talk about how little paper you now use.
Recently, Richard Branson signed an “Earth Statement” the same week he launched a new Boeing. I would say, “How can he keep a straight face?” but his face has never been straight: he looks like someone cast a baboon in a movie about Rolf Harris. Maybe it’s time we started looking at being pro-business and pro-environment as opposites. They might pay someone to smile at the front desk, but corporations don’t care if we live or die. Perhaps it’s time to look at insentient blueprints for making money and wonder if they really have people’s best interests at heart. Can the market, a mechanism dedicated to increasing consumption, tackle a problem that is essentially down to excessive consumption? Why not – after all, we’ve all been down an actual market and heard those cries of: “Strawberries. Don’t buy these strawberries! You don’t really need them, you’ll throw most away when they go mouldy after you forget to eat them, don’t buy these strawberries!”
Things will be terrible for the people who come after us. And they weren’t that great for the people who came before us either, as it was two degrees colder and there was no telly. Perhaps we’re all annoyed at climate change deniers because we know that the Earth is past the point of no return – we’re frustrated that they’re still at the denial stage of grief while we have moved on to bargaining. Things are so desperate that even our fictional dystopias may turn out to be fantasies. We imagine the Earth will sink gradually into chaos, but non-linear theories of global warming mean it might just be one afternoon of people screaming, then suddenly you disappear under a boiling, 100-mile-high wave of sewage flecked with famous landmarks from across the world; your mind finally silenced by the sudden arrival in the space previously occupied by your forehead of a shit-coloured Taj Mahal. In your final moments, you will probably feel cheated out of the many years you had hoped to spend watching a naked king in a leather crown as he staged mass hangings of poets in the echoing vaults of abandoned shopping malls.
I dropped in to see my friend the other day, and her four-year-old daughter opened with: “The world is dying!” in a very sad voice. I said something soothing. I wish I could remember what it was now. Soon she’ll learn that, outside of the occasional Illuminati photo opportunity such as Paris, it’s not really the sort of thing we find polite to talk about.