Magazine article The Spectator

You Have Been Warmed

Magazine article The Spectator

You Have Been Warmed

Article excerpt

The handsome church of St James's in Piccadilly is a lively, friendly sort of place. There are frequent classical concerts inside, and most days a market outside. A green caravan turns up regularly to offer 'crisis listening', and once a month enthusiasts for something called Taize meet for meditation and prayer. In the 320 years since Wren's design took shape, a great deal of sound sense and arrant nonsense must have been voiced beneath the gilded ceiling. But I doubt if many events there can have produced such an imbalance in favour of the latter as the debate I attended at the end of last month on the subject of global warming.

I think we can all agree that the future of the planet is an important issue. Indeed, if that future is as short as most of those attending the debate clearly expect it to be, then within a few generations we will be able to stop worrying about such ephemeral matters as war, poverty, hunger and disease, since they - along with everything else - will have ceased to exist.

With the exception - as far as I could tell - of myself, the audience of 50 or so were of one mind. The common approach could be summed up thus:

a) Global warming will, if not reversed, mean the destruction of what we frivolously refer to as the civilised world.

b) It's all our fault.

c) Something must be done.

The agenda was set by a man called Aubrey Meyer, a powerfully built South African with a ponytail, dressed in white T-shirt and baggy trousers, who is in charge of something called the Global Commons Institute. With the aid of some snappy computer graphics, Mr Meyer expounded in his deep melodious voice his doctrine of Contraction and Convergence, which he invented. In essence, this envisages an international agreement on a global limit to the emissions of greenhouse gases, under which the richer nations would accelerate their reductions until they and the developing countries came together and every one of God's children would have the same, safe share.

Time limitations inhibited Mr Meyer from being specific about how this coming together might be achieved. 'Intelligence' was the way, he said gnomically, admitting in the same breath that this sometimes appeared to be in short supply. By that he clearly meant politicians, who - with one shining exception - lacked the vision and the courage to do what had to be done. By good luck the shining exception happened to be sitting immediately to Mr Meyer's left, nodding agreement with his every word. This was the planet's saviour, Mr Michael Meacher.

It may be recalled that not so long ago Mr Meacher was the rather ineffectual environment minister in Mr Blair's government. When not submerged up to his neck in the treacle of verbiage spilling from the Kyoto protocol, Mr Meacher was to be seen looking damp and bedraggled in parts of England affected by floods, where he could be heard articulating his recent discovery that global warming was real, and had to be addressed.

At length, Mr Meacher tired of not being listened to by his ministerial colleagues; or perhaps Mr Blair got tired of him. Anyway, he left government and - liberated at last from any need to remain in touch with the sordid world of the electorate - was born again as a prophet of doom. Judging by his demeanour in St James's church, it is a role he clearly relishes. …

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