On the Today programme this morning, Lord Puttnam attempted to draw a parallel between the abolition of the slave trade and the government's plans for tackling climate change.
However, the comparison is spurious in the extreme. The slave trade was a very lucrative business and Britain became the premier trader from the seventeenth century onwards. It is believed that 40% of the 6,000,000+ Africans enslaved in the eighteenth century were transported in British vessels. After Britain abolished slavery, British patrols effectively ended trade in slaves along the Gold Coast, up to Senegambia, and when the port of Lagos was taken by the British in 1840, the slave trade from the Bight of Benin also collapsed.
In contrast, Britain's annual carbon footprint amounts to just 2% of the global output and is dwarfed by the weekly new-build of power stations in China. Were we to cut our emissions even by 100%, it would make no noticeable impact and we would be in no position to police the rest of the world in the way that the Navy could the Atlantic two centuries ago. The proposed target of 60% by 2050 will simply damage our economy without any benefit to the world around us. Besides which, let us not forget that even if America had signed up to Kyoto, it would have made negligible difference to global temperatures even those who believe that average global temperatures are increasing (and given the manipulation of the actual data, even this is a highly questionable premise) and that human carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for this increase accept that the impact of Kyoto would have been at most 0.4 of a degree, more likely less than 0.2.
No, our politicians need to be a lot more certain of their ability to provide a secure and affordable alternative source of energy before they heed calls from the joint committee on climate change to make the government's "groundbreaking" draft Climate Change Bill tougher and legally enforceable.
Picture credit: Leading Design