Sunday, December 13, 2009

Freezing Through A Global Warming

“What’s the difference between a Hungarian goose and a Russian one?” I asked the lady in the duvet department.

The fact that I was buying a duvet at all was an admission of defeat. After five years in Los Angeles, Jo and I have been experiencing extreme climate change since our move to the northeast. Having shipped all our summery clothes and bedding with us, being a stubbornly proud northerner striding out in all weathers without a jacket, I had refused to accept that we might need more than our 2 tog Beverly Hills model.

As a result Jo has shivered through the last two winters clad in thick socks, thermals and pyjamas. Quite how her tender Californian skin has survived was beyond me until, last week, I caught her secretly sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to press the “Always On” button on the central heating. That explains the oil bills: we could have bought a 300-metre high wind farm for half the cost. So it was off to John Lewis to pick up a 13.5 tog special.

Duck down, feather, microfibre, Polyester: when faced with too much consumer choice, I automatically assume that expensive is best. This put the goose way out in front, but what of its nationality? I couldn’t remember ever seeing a picture of either a Hungarian or a Russian goose. Were they the ones that made such a mess of the paths around Bolam Lake? No, they were Canadian: why were there no Canada geese duvets on sale?

“The colder the country, the warmer the duvet”, the shop assistant explained, in that slow, patient way that parents speak to children who ask awkward questions.

“But isn’t Russia much colder than Hungary?” I ventured. “Oh, no”, she insisted, “parts of Hungary are colder than Russia”. This was getting really complicated. I’ve been to Hungary and it wasn’t particularly cold. Grey, dull, terrible food, but not particularly cold. Whereas Russia: “Isn’t Siberia in Russia?” I asked. “Well, we do have a range of Winter Snow Goose duvets from the Altai region near Mongolia, but they’re £1,000 for a Super-King”.

“If only global warming could happen a bit more quickly,” I murmured, rather too loudly, and heard a loud tut-tut behind me. Definitely not a comment for a nice liberal shop like John Lewis in the week of the Copenhagen climate conference. I quickly grabbed the hottest Hungarian I could find and headed for the checkout.

In fact, if global warming is going to happen, sometimes I do wish it could get a move on. Now it looks as though we might have to wait a bit longer, if the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia are anything to go by. Could it be that the scientists who supply the world with its official climate figures have been cooking the books?

Whatever the truth, I’m glad that the Climategate scandal has at least generated a little scientific debate on the subject of human-induced global warming. I can’t stand one-sided arguments. Sometimes I infuriate people at dinner parties by taking a viewpoint utterly opposed to common sense, just to see how far I can push it. People who utter such tosh as “science has proved that global warming is man-made” have always got up my nose. Now it’s nice to have a little spanner to throw into the argument.

But of course this doesn’t actually change a thing. You don’t need scientific proof to know that our society wastes too much of everything. And it shouldn’t need a conference in Copenhagen to persuade our world leaders to tackle overconsumption – of fossils fuels and everything else. Meanwhile, if the world is actually cooling not warming, it’s time to switch off the Aga and start breeding winter snow geese.

No comments: