- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
If human civilisation is to survive and prosper, it needs to find a way to remove somewhere in the region of two trillion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Humanity’s finest minds are already on the case. There’s a plant already open in Iceland that reckons it might eventually be able to suck out a million tonnes a year, turn it into limestone and bury it underground.
But is it possible the easy solutions are being overlooked? We turn, unfortunately, to Boris Johnson’s gob which, at least as far as Boris Johnson is concerned, can save humanity through the power of words alone, and absolutely no action whatsoever.
The plan, at this point, is simply to talk down Mother Nature. To tame the tornado of fire by looking it in the eye and telling it it simply doesn’t exist. Scenes at the despatch box at the House of Commons were like a very boring Marvel movie pastiche, in their way, or a live action Ted Hughes poem.
Over the years, Johnson’s bulls*** superpower may not have been sufficiently powerful enough to overpower any of the many, many people who have either sacked or divorced him for lying, but the big man still reckons he’s got the measure of nature itself.
There he stood, jabbing his finger into the desk, exalting the humanity-saving achievements of Cop26. Sitting by his side was Alok Sharma, who had chaired the conference, and whose response to the deal that was eventually struck was to openly weep in despair.
But that didn’t matter. It had all been a huge success, didn’t you know? They were tears of joy, not sadness, weren’t they? Weren’t they?! The world had come to Glasgow and now it had departed again, via its fleet of 400 private jets, the fires of hope had been lit anew.
Watch: COP26 - Boris Johnson admits frustration at failure to reach climate change goals at Glasgow summit
Keir Starmer, understandably, did a bit of point-scoring. He had the tedious temerity to point out that, you know, China and India – a third of the world’s population – had refused to agree to phase out coal. For their refusal, Mr Sharma had seen fit to apologise, personally and publicly, to various island nations like Tonga, for whom this refusal is, as far as they are concerned, an effective assurance of annihilation.
This, though, was all just doomsterism and gloomsterism. Johnson replied with the assurance that “65 out of 70 countries committed to phasing out coal!” He even did not seem to see the absurdity.
It’s not merely the 65 out of 70 countries thing either. It’s that Boris Johnson is the prime minister – albeit through no action of his own – of a country that is a genuine world leader on carbon reduction. And here he was, for no reason beyond his own juvenile boosterism, covering the arses of the countries that deliberately sabotaged Cop26, rather than saying anything that might undermine his little moment in the sun.
Is it possible, is it slightly possible, that everybody can see through this now? Is the country no longer content to live in Johnson’s land of make-believe? It’s unfortunate that his big climate conference was entirely overshadowed by two solid weeks of allegations of sleaze and corruption, absolutely none of which would have occurred were it not for his absurd attempts to overturn the sanction handed out to the now ex-MP Owen Paterson.
It means that Tory ministers are routinely having to deny that the UK is a corrupt country. These are not denials that actual non-corrupt countries often find themselves having to make.
On Monday morning, the Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden did the usual tour of the news and radio stations. Another of the allegations facing the government is that, after the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre failed to be appointed chair of Ofcom, the government’s response was to reopen the process and edit the job description to fit Mr Dacre’s abilities. Dowden was asked, by Nick Robinson and others, whether this was not the sort of thing that happens in corrupt countries.
Watch: Boris Johnson's voice sounds croaky during debate in Commons
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
This was Dowden’s explanation: “If this had been a corrupt process, you would be looking at this individual [Paul Dacre], currently in that role.”
That, in other words, the government is not corrupt, because if it were, Paul Dacre would simply have been appointed. That the only form of corruption that can ever possibly exist is entirely brazen corruption. The fact they’ve rejigged the process and run it again, rather than simply overturning it and doing what they like, is proof that they couldn’t possibly be doing the wrong thing.
It is an explanation so laughable that nobody over the age of three could possibly believe it. Not even Dowden himself, who lacks his master’s powers of self-delusion. And there’ll be another one along tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that, necessitated by whatever horror show comes next.
There is, in the end, a limit to how high you can pile up the bulls***, as everybody who has ever known Johnson works out. It is possible that his latest victim, his country, is finally reaching that point.