Wednesday, 16 December 2009

roundheads and cavaliers

George Monbiot's short video interviews for the Guardian nicely illustrate the way different temperaments approach green issues. This was clear when Monbiot interviewed Yvo de Boer (the negotiator and the polemicist). It's also clear from today's encounter in Copenhagen with Boris Johnson: Monbiot was the roundhead, Johnson the cavalier.

Monbiot's point was that gas-guzzling cars not only produce large amounts of CO2, they also undermine other people's efforts to cut carbon emissions. He quoted George Orwell about rationing during the war. The exact quote - later posted online - goes:

The lady in the Rolls Royce car is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Goering's bombing planes.

Johnson shifted the ground. This wasn't a discussion about CO2, this was good old class rhetoric. Monbiot wanted to ban the fun things in life. In no time two conversations were going on.

BORIS: I think an electric Porsche presents you, George, with a very substantial ideological difficulty.

GEORGE: If it's low carbon -

BORIS: It's not low carbon. It's zero carbon.

GEORGE: Well, it depends where the electricity comes from.

BORIS: If it's renewably-sourced, it's potentially zero carbon. What is your attitude to a zero-carbon Porsche?

GEORGE: Fine. I'd drive one myself if I could afford it.

BORIS: Would you? '"I want a Porsche!" says George Monbiot.' I think we've got our headline.

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