As a symbol of environmentally damaging wastefulness, a patio heater is pretty hard to beat. The manufacturers of 4x4 vehicles can at least claim that their product gets people to where they need to go, and thus has some social justification. The same could be said of the budget airlines.
But what justification is there for a patio heater? Too cold outside? Wear more clothes. If it is still unbearable, stay indoors. Pumping heat into the frigid atmosphere to generate a marginal rise in the temperature surely rivals grape-peeling and grass-painting on the scale of senseless profligacy.
Britain's greenhouse gas emissions have already risen by 380,000 tonnes a year thanks to such devices. The English smoking ban has given a boost to the popularity of outdoor heaters in pubs, as smokers are forced outside. But this was a trend that began some time before the ban was introduced.
Something is amiss here. Public concern about the effects of climate change is reported to be growing. And yet sales of patio heaters are set to double in the next year. We wonder how many people who endorsed the sentiments expressed at the recent Live Earth concerts also secretly own a patio heater? How many gardens are there in which a newly-installed wind turbine rubs up against one of these abominable contraptions?
It seems we are going to have to get used to a new concept in the coming years: environmental hypocrisy. This is one occasion when the cry "not in my back yard" would be welcome.