Tonight’s Newsnight had some coverage of the climate camp. Paul Mason managed to produce another of his infuriating bits of reporting, but at least this time I wasn’t annoyed at him so much as I was at the people he was interviewing at Heathrow.
Mildly annoying were some of the protesters, talking in woolly terms about “the system” as if the present economic model were wholly beyond redemption. But what had me throwing things at the TV was the people on their way into the airport, being asked whether they might consider not flying. I’m sure that on balance, some of them can indeed justify making the flights they are making, but the affront and instant dismissal of the very suggestion that they might have to fly less was ridiculous.
It’s not so long since people thought of flying as at best a once a year thing. Personally, much as I’d encourage the use of other transport where possible, I think people can justifiably feel entitled to an annual round trip somewhere, subject to the relevant costs. But I really don’t see that anyone should feel they are in some way entitled to be jetting off as regularly as the worst offenders. At some point, some brave government is going to have to say to these people: “Actually, just not flying is a reasonable alternative. Deal with it.”
I know that’s probably illiberal of me, or some other such heinous crime, but frankly, if climate change is the massive problem it looks like being, then people are going to have to be made to change, and I rather suspect that some measures which will prove necessary are going to be illiberal ones. Pigovian taxes are all very well, but I don’t think it’s going to go down very well with the electorate if we advocate turning carbon emission into a new status symbol any more than we have to.
Oh, and can I just also say how marvellous George Monbiot was this evening in his debate segment, despite Kirsty Wark browbeating him with an Evening Standard story.