Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blair on air travel and climate change

This is a little old now, but still worth commenting on. Tony Blair is not willing to give up his long-haul flights. Here is the reason why:

Britain is 2% of the world's emissions. We shut down all of Britain's emissions tomorrow - the growth in China will make up the difference within two years. So we've got to be realistic about how much obligation we've got to put on ourselves. The danger, for example, if you say to people 'Right, in Britain ... you're not going to have any more cheap air travel,' everybody else is going to be having it. So you've got to do this together in a way that doesn't end up actually putting people off the green agenda by saying you must not have a good time any more and can't consume. All the evidence is that if you use the science and technology constructively, your economy can grow, people can have a good time, but do so more responsibly.

I think that James Skillen’s comments on international justice in 1975 have relevance to this attitude. Skillen wrote:

The ready reply that such a thing will never happen, given modern nationalism and human selfishness in general, can only have the value of warning us that the world's doom is certain. One who believes that the pragmatic response of "It isn't possible" can itself serve as a norm for "realistic" action is only fooling himself. Any pragmatic effort to "work with" national, self-interested politics puts itself in the service of that nationalism and can lead only to the deadend of injustice

The hope that market mechanisms together with science and technology will fix the problems of climate change is a dangerous faith that fosters the avoidance of responsibility, "we don't have to worry or change our way of life, the scientists will fix things", while fatalistically accepting the status quo.

I should point out, or perhaps confess, that I take regular trips by plane to Italy to visit my in-laws. So the point is not to make a moralistic, and possibly hypocritical, judgement on the Blair's lifestyle. We all have reason to reflect and confess out failings with regard to our lack of stewardly living. Instead the point is to question the pragmatic and responsibility evading self justification. My own feeble attempt to reduce the amount of meat I eat is not to off-set the flights to Italy, nor the growing energy consumption of China! God has not tasked me with saving the world, just to love mercy, justice and to walk humbly before God.

No comments: