George Monbiot falls for a spoof - and is wrong to boot

The advantage of a newspaper over whoever just publishing stuff on the internet is those teams of editors who have a look at stuff before the print button is pushed. Well, sometimes:

The most expensive yacht in the world, costing £3bn, is a preposterous slab of floating bling called History Supreme. It carries 100 tonnes of gold and platinum wrapped around almost every surface, even the anchor.

That’s actually a spoof press release from 2011 rather than an extant boat. Still, at least The Guardian manages to spell its own masthead correctly these days. Most days.

Sadly the credulity doesn’t stop there.

Immense wealth translates automatically into immense environmental impacts, regardless of the intentions of those who possess it. The very wealthy, almost as a matter of definition, are committing ecocide.

The contention is that a billionaire emits more than a non-billionaire. Which would seem to be true. But that’s not the end of it. Imagine that the $5 billion that wasn’t spent on the yacht were instead spread among 5,000 people - that concentration of great wealth were more evenly distributed. We think that 5,000 millionaires are going to emit less than the one billionaire? Or down some orders of magnitude again. $1,000 in wealth for 5 million people will produce fewer emissions than the toys of a billionaire?

There is also this:

Another issue is that wealth limits the perspectives of even the best-intentioned people. This week, Bill Gates argued in an interview with the Financial Times that divesting (ditching stocks) from fossil fuels is a waste of time. It would be better, he claimed, to pour money into disruptive new technologies with lower emissions. Of course we need new technologies. But he has missed the crucial point: in seeking to prevent climate breakdown, what counts is not what you do but what you stop doing. It doesn’t matter how many solar panels you install if you don’t simultaneously shut down coal and gas burners. Unless existing fossil fuel plants are retired before the end of their lives, and all exploration and development of new fossil fuel reserves is cancelled, there is little chance of preventing more than 1.5C of global heating.

For the sake of argument accept that emissions must be stopped and now. What’s the best manner of achieving this? Having the new technology that people preferentially switch to clearly.

Say, just as an example, that the Bill Gates backed mini-nuclear reactors all cost $1 and actually work. We’ve now near unlimited and near free energy. All those fossil fuel plants will close by lunchtime. It is precisely by the new technology outcompeting the old that we gain the switch away from whatever it was that we used to use and do.

Sadly, Monbiot doesn’t grasp these most basic facts. But then we’ve already that evidence of his credulity leading him into error, don’t we?