Would you have cut spending on Spitfires in 1939?

It is good to remember that, however bad things might be getting, we have had it worse than it is today.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the UK’s budget deficit was even bigger than it is today. But thankfully, even in spite that higher national debt, between 1930 and 1939 we still managed to increase defence spending by 125% — including spending on some innovative new technologies called Spitfires.

Tim Yeo, the Conservative chairman of parliament’s cross-party energy and climate change committee, made this point recently when he warned that reducing spending on low-carbon technology now would be like “cutting the budget for Spitfires in 1939.”

That may seem like he’s protecting his own corner, but remember that there were a lot of people in the 1930s who thought appeasement was a good idea — there was nowhere near the massive consensus we now have amongst climate scientists who agree that climate change is man-made and is already happening.

Despite this widespread consensus, as you know, President Obama and Congress failed to pass a clean energy bill in the USA. But back in 2006 some far-sighted people in California managed to pass a law of their own, to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 1990 levels by 2020. That landmark law has already resulted in billions of dollars being invested into developing new technologies to meet those new legal standards.

The trouble is, as a recent article in the New York Times reveals, ‘Big Oil’ is now trying to scupper those plans by introducing an amendment or ‘Proposition’ that would effectively kill the 2006 bill. The oil companies (from outside California) are campaigning for the CO2 law only to be introduced if unemployment levels stay below 5.5% for a whole year — something that has only rarely happened in the past 40 years and is very unlikely in the current economic situation, UNLESS we get lots of investment in new (green) technologies.

As one interested observer put it, “We can wait to solve this problem as long as we want but Nature is balancing its books every day. It was a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles the other day. There are laws of politics and laws of physics. Only the latter can’t be repealed.”

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