Wednesday 25 May, 2022

Quote of the Day

”I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who got there first.”

  • Peter Ustinov

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Eric Clapton with JJ Cale | Anyway The Wind Blows (Live From San Diego)


Long Read of the Day

The ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown

If you want to know why I am pessimistic about the world’s chances of avoiding climate catastrophe, then this extraordinary piece of reporting might explain why. The basic story is that the lure of colossal profits in the years to come appears to be irresistible to the oil companies, despite the IPCC’s view that further delay in cutting fossil fuel use will mean missing our last chance “to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

Details of the projects being planned are not easily accessible but an investigation published in the Guardian shows:

  • The fossil fuel industry’s short-term expansion plans involve the start of oil and gas projects that will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to a decade of CO2 emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter.
  • These plans include 195 carbon bombs, gigantic oil and gas projects that would each result in at least a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes, in total equivalent to about 18 years of current global CO2 emissions. About 60% of these have already started pumping.
  • The dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m a day for the rest of the decade exploiting new fields of oil and gas that cannot be burned if global heating is to be limited to well under 2C.
  • The Middle East and Russia often attract the most attention in relation to future oil and gas production but the US, Canada and Australia are among the countries with the biggest expansion plans and the highest number of carbon bombs. The US, Canada and Australia also give some of the world’s biggest subsidies for fossil fuels per capita.

It’s a long and depressing read. But a good piece of journalism.

An obsession with American politics pollutes British politics

Lovely Bagehot column in The Economist (which, sadly, might be behind the paywall) on the crackpot obsession that the UK’s governing and media elites (and to some extent its universities) have with the US.

Arguments over public policy are complicated by comparisons with America. Debates about the future of the National Health Service are polluted by the extreme and weird example across the ocean. The plethora of publicly funded health-care options in Europe is largely ignored. Liz Truss, now the foreign secretary, once campaigned against occupational licensing. It is a worthy aim, but the problem barely exists in Britain. In America a hairdresser faces at least 1,000 hours of training before being granted a licence; in Britain a fresh Kurdish arrival can set up shop and shear people for £8 ($10), communicating only with hand gestures. Worrying about occupational licensing in Britain is akin to an American senator having strident views on fox-hunting with hounds.

The same happens across the political spectrum. British campaigners alighted on a minimum-wage demand of £15 for little reason other than that American ones had demanded a $15 wage. “Abolish ice” (the American border force) became a slogan among left-wing Democrats calling for a less cruel immigration system; “Abolish the Home Office” was swiftly adopted in Britain. “Defund the Police” made little sense even in America, where law enforcement can call on enough munitions for a Latin American coup, let alone in Britain, where the police are largely unarmed. Fewer resources are the last thing the service needs.

It’s a great column, with a nice pay-off:

Comparisons between countries are healthy, but America is not the only benchmark. British politicians and policymakers can learn from nearer neighbours, too. France, a post-imperial power with the same level of population and wealth, offers an obvious analogue. Yet although the typical inhabitant of sw1 could regale someone with the life story of a 1950s planner from New York, he probably thinks Georges Pompidou was a painter. Bookshelf bingo needs new rules.

One of the consequences of this transatlantic obsession is this country’s apparent inability to learn anything from (continental) Europe, even though they do many things much better than we do here. Schools, for example. And technical education. And housebuilding. And pre-school care.

Truly, imperial afterglow is a very debilitating condition.

My commonplace booklet

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