Michael McCarthy: Miliband invokes Apollo spirit for the world's greatest challenge

Share
Related Topics

They have done it one after another, the two Miliband brothers, first David, now Ed: running British policy for coping with the world's most intractable problem, climate change. And in the face of growing gloom among many scientists – and not a few politicians and environmentalists – about the possibility of cutting the world's carbon emissions fast enough to halt a runaway rise in temperatures, they exhibit exactly the same unusual characteristic: rational optimism.

Sitting in his relatively new Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in Whitehall, the shirtsleeved younger Miliband talks enthusiastically about the carbon budget – the world's first – that will be announced by the Chancellor with the traditional Budget next week. It is an innovation that was brought about by his brother David, who as Environment Secretary two years ago seized the political opportunity to push a Climate Change Bill through Parliament.

It will fall to Ed to implement his sibling's innovation and he sees it, rightly, as another positive step forward in the long struggle to make Britain and the rest of the world change the way life is lived, to keep the planet habitable. It is a struggle that will reach an interim climax at the Copenhagen climate treaty talks in December.

Nowhere in an hour's talk about global warming policy is there a scintilla of doubt that this is a problem which can be solved. Nowhere is there any hint of the pessimism beginning to possess some of the world's leading climate scientists, who believe carbon emissions are rising so rapidly that they cannot be scaled back in time to stop global temperatures going off the scale. It's not an act. It's a genuinely held belief. But it seems so deep-rooted, in the face of growing concern from many at the heart of the problem, that the question puts itself forward: why?

Ed Miliband says he's an optimist by nature and by upbringing. "I suppose I have faith in human ingenuity. People often talk about the Apollo project, when JFK said 'we're going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade', and they just about managed it. I mean, I think there's the political will, if you talk to the Prime Minister here, if you talk to President Obama: this is an urgent priority. It's difficult."

But it's a solvable problem? "Absolutely it's a solvable problem."

Does he accept that, historically, it appears to be a uniquely difficult problem? "Yes, definitely. But human ingenuity and human beings have overcome these problems before."

The mention of JFK is telling. The political parallels between the Milibands and the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, are uncanny. Not just the youth and the good looks, the family closeness, but the shared and unshakeable left-liberal belief in progress, the belief that rational action, that people and politics combined, can do wonders. You might call it the Apollo spirit.

It put a man on the moon. Let's hope it can save the Earth.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Electrical Technician

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Urgent requirement for Electrical Techni...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Richard Dawkins  

Richard Dawkins is wrong to suggest that there can be varying degrees of severity involved in rape

Sian Norris
 

Fist bumps will never replace the handshake - we're just not cool enough

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on