If the children of tomorrow ever do get round to looking back on Cop26, what they will find is a very large amount of video footage of very highly self-regarding people, gravely wondering what the children of tomorrow will think of them.
And, you know, not to be unduly negative, but there is, as things stand, a fair chance that the children of tomorrow, up there on the high plateau playing folk songs on flutes whittled from radioactive tree bark, will look back on Cop26 and ask, “Were you taking the actual piss or what?”
It’s not merely that the children of tomorrow might wonder, for example, why Boris Johnson was so obsessed with them, when his children of today he prefers to disown, ideally in court. Mainly, it’s the tragic fact that he really did stand there, telling the rest of the world that it was “one minute to midnight” and that they must “act now”.
If it is indeed one minute to midnight, and it most certainly is, we must surely brace for the possibility that midnight might arrive. And if, or rather when, it does, it might just be that midnight’s children of tomorrow might point out that, seriously, given it was one minute to midnight, could you not have drummed someone up who hadn’t, right up until 10 minutes to midnight, been denying the existence of the clock itself?
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Maybe the children of tomorrow will look back, not just at Boris Johnson’s glib, quarter-witted speech and his execrable, tedious gags about James Bond, which are not worth the keystrokes to repeat. If this is the CCTV footage he has chosen to leave them, then they’ll clearly see what it is, which is a would-be statesman who has profoundly soiled himself, staggering about at 23.59pm with his trousers round his ankles, trying to find a cab that will take him.
Maybe said children will look back a tiny bit before one minute to midnight, and they’ll see long decades worth of columns denying the existence of climate change, which when asked about, he routinely lies about. About how “the science has changed”, and maybe the children of tomorrow will slam their fists into the blackened earth and shout, “For f***’s sake! Was this really the best you could do? Could you not even have tried?”
Because it really hasn’t always been one minute to midnight. What time was it, in, say 2006, when the former vice president Al Gore released the film, The Inconvenient Truth, for which he won both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar? Boris Johnson carried on writing hilarious columns about wind turbines for seven more years after that point, which might not seem that important but it does contribute to the somewhat overwhelming sense that the people who were too venal, too stupid and too mesmerically selfish to make any attempt whatsoever to save the world, back when it would have been a lot easier to do so, really might not be the best people to sweep in at 11.59pm and sort it all out.
They lined up, one after the other, to take to the stage in Glasgow. Biden, Trudeau, Macron, yadah yadah yadah, there they all were, the same line up as in Rome for the G20 over the weekend, before hopping in their fleet of private jets to Glasgow.
They all know the time to act “is now”. That there can be no more delay. But they also know that the prospect of restricting average global temperature increase to 1.5C, as they promised to do in Paris six years ago, has already, in effect, disappeared.
They all clapped and cheered and looked on in dutiful reverence as they listened to a short and rather incredible speech from Sir David Attenborough. They know what he said is true. That there is “only one number that matters”. And that number is the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, which is currently at 414 parts per million, which was stable at around 250 for almost the entire history of human civilisation, but has doubled since the industrial revolution. And they know that number, which has to come down if civilisation is to carry on, has not come down but has gone up, by a lot, even in the six years since Paris, when they sternly agreed it had to come down, slapped each other on the back and went home.
President Biden sternly spoke of how the developed nations, who bear more responsibility for destroying the planet, have the gravest obligation to act to protect the poorest who are most at risk. And look, I know this stuff is kind of boring to point out, but it remains true that President Biden travels the world in his own private Boeing 747, which he steps off into his 10-tonne car and fleet of helicopters that have flown on ahead to meet him.
And if all that looks ridiculous, right here, right now, when there’s still a full minute left to go then you probably don’t really have to even wait until tomorrow to work out what the children are going to make of it.
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