What would motivate a person to concoct a fairy tale to rationalize a new impetus to control the behavior of fellow individuals and the economic system which feeds them? Who would present sketchy details to substantiate a framework for altering the course of human activity and, rather cleverly, assign the blame and necessity for this radical change to the humans themselves?

What kind of people would elevate the object in question to cultic-diety status and become deeply emotionally involved in silencing dissent and relegating detractors to simply evil, greedy unbelievers?

Check out a proposed solution to this, the latest in a string of enviro-disasters supposedly brought on by people like you and me:


There are 1.3 billion cows on this planet, and every year each cow produces about 90kg of methane, and as greenhouse gases go, methane is about 24 times worse than CO2 in sealing the heat in the air. According to a recent report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture produces 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent — and that, my friends, is more than is produced by the entire human transport industry.

Think of it: for every cow you killed, you would be ridding the world of 90kg of methane a year — easily enough, surely, to justify an Easyjet flight.

Now it may be that you are repelled by the idea of killing a cow, and you may think that the poor farmers will only be driven to breed a new one to replace it. But there are still plenty of other things you could do that would make more sense than planting trees with these carbon offset companies. You could make sure that your house was properly insulated.

You could turn down the central heating and wear more sweaters; and if you really wanted to tackle global CO2 emissions, you would campaign for nuclear energy, since power production is responsible for 24 per cent of global emissions.

Or better still you could help do something to stop Third World countries from burning the forests, which produces 18 per cent of CO2.

But, of course, people aren’t interested in these kinds of facts. They want the religion. They want the sweet moralistic feeling of telling someone to stop doing something. They want to be able to rage about Chelsea Tractors and Tony Blair’s flights, and they want to give vent to their feelings of disgust at the whole triumph of Western consumerist capitalism; and what worries me is that, in the end, the moralising mumbo-jumbo becomes more important than the scientific reality.

We face huge decisions, such as whether or not to allow scientists to use human genetic material in animal cells; and I want those decisions taken on the basis of whether or not the advance can help cure disease, not on the basis of “Frankenbunny” headlines.

We should cease our pagan yammering for sacrifice, and look at what the science really demands. It is a sign of our terrifying ignorance that so many would still prefer to plant a heat-producing tree than see the wisdom of the ancients, and kill a flatulent cow.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley

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