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Godwin, vapourware and a royal toilet seat

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An early outing for Godwin

Godwin’s law put in an early appearance at COP26, when the Archbishop of Canterbury accused politicians who ignored climate change of being worse than those who “ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany:

“It [climate change] will allow a genocide on an infinitely greater scale.

“I’m not sure there’s grades of genocide, but there’s width of genocide, and this will be genocide indirectly, by negligence, recklessness, that will in the end come back to us or to our children and grandchildren.”

According to internet etiquette, when someone makes a comparison with Hitler or the Nazis in the course of a debate, they are deemed to have lost the argument and the discussion to be at an end.  Perhaps realising this, and the fact that calling one’s opponents Nazis seldom results in their changing their minds (see, for example, the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election) the Archbishop was quick to apologise:

“… saying it was ‘never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis’.  He added that he was ‘trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us’.”

Perhaps his comments would have been better received if he had targeted his frustration at the kind of people who fly around the world in private jets lecturing the little people about carbon footprints while doing nothing to curb their own.

A professional vapourware salesman calls out a mere amateur

When it comes to selling vapourware to an increasingly gullible population, Elon Musk stands at the top of the premier division.  David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, is a mere amateur in the art of purveying complete bullshit by comparison.

And so, it was probably a mistake on Beasley’s part to challenge Musk publicly.  As an Irish Times editorial explains:

“In a CNN interview last week, he [Beasley] called on Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and ‘other billionaires’ to step up on ‘a one-time Basis’ and give ‘$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them’.  ‘It’s not complicated,’ he said.

“Taking to his favourite medium, Twitter, Musk shot back: ‘If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how 6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.  But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent,’ he added.”

Predictably, this forced Beasley to climb down; $6 billion wouldn’t, after all, cure world hunger.  But it would go some way to alleviating the problem.

One cannot help wondering though, whether it was the call for the UN World Food Programme to produce a properly costed plan, upon which the public could hold them to account, which forced Beasley to climb down.  After all, as management guru Anthony Stafford Beer once put it, “the purpose of a system is what it does…”  and organisations like the UN and a host of non-profits have received trillions of dollars over decades to signally fail to end world hunger.  So maybe some serious public accountability is long overdue.

The same, of course, should go for those making policy at COP26.  Don’t tell us about headline targets; give us a full, public and properly costed plan for how you intend getting there, so that we can hold you accountable.  Because going green is beginning to have some eye-watering costs… and we can no longer afford the ineffective corporate welfare that governments usually preside over.

A different prince for a different age

The late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.  And unlike today’s royals, the medals that he wore at official ceremonies were more than honorary trinkets.  And on at least one occasion, the future Duke was responsible for saving the lives of his fellow mariners.

His son – the current heir to the throne – had a somewhat less glorious naval career.  His one command, of the minesweeper Bronington, ended badly when, during an exercise, he managed to snag the cross channel telephone cable with his anchor.  As a result he was relieved of his command and left the ship with a toilet seat around his neck.

With a military record like this, he would, perhaps, be best advised not to suggest going on a war footing to address climate change.

As you made it to the end…

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