Tony Blair’s entirely characteristic blooper about not giving up long-haul flights for his family hols should have surprised no one, but there was one detail of his belated response that should have caused almost as much furore as his original crass statement.
This was his claim that he would offset the associated carbon emissions (would that he could offset a few more of his emissions) by donating money to environmental projects, cutting back elsewhere, and so on. This misses the point of the current environmental crisis completely.
Like so many public figures pronouncing on the environment, he seems to think that managing the environment is like being on a diet – it was rather naughty to eat that chocolate, but don’t worry, I’ll cut back on the roast potatoes on Sunday. But it’s the wrong metaphor. Until we show any signs of dealing with our current level of environmental damage, we should treat flying (and a good deal else) more like poisoning. Until we have got our current environment damage under control, the real problem is to reduce our impact, not to ‘offset’ it elsewhere. One day we may have that luxury, but we are currently so far from real environmental management that the whole notion of offsetting actions is self-deluding.