Climate change and the war on error

There was a screening last night in the Parliament House cinema of Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” The film officially opens in cinemas around Australia from 14th September.

The screening was put on by Greg Hunt, who is the government’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment. Crikey has a piece on the flim screening and the climate change issue at this link. Obviously the federal government is open to a lot of criticism (quite rightly in my view) for their record on climate change, so Greg Hunt should be congratulated for promoting the film. In a brief contribution before the film started, he said he had arranged the screening to encourage debate on an important issue where the scientific advice from all Australian institutions consistently states that climate change is real. He also said he hoped it would prompt us to think more about what we need to do about it.

One thing I think is that, as with many of the big issues, the more we can take the partisan point scoring out of it, the better the chance of real change for the better. However, that can only work where there is some commitment to intellectual honesty, which is easier said than done.

The film is mostly a very straight documentary, but it is certainly very well put together and very watchable. One can’t help but wonder how different the world might be if the 2000 election in the USA had panned out differently (and ironically if Ralph Nader had decided not to run). However, pondering that doesn’t help in deciding what needs to be done now.

A quote from Al Gore in the film which struck me the strongest was (along the lines of) ‘once we know the facts, it is clear climate change is not a political issue, it is a moral issue’. We are talking about a potentially dramatically different future that our children – and indeed many adults alive today – will face. There is no doubt that the impact on human lives from climate change will be much wider, greater and potentially far more deadly than any threat that terrorism poses (assuming we don’t so mismanage those threats that we walk/talk ourselves into a nuclear war), yet it continues to be so difficult to get major and necessary changes happening.

That makes it all the more reprehensible that our national newspaper, The Australian, continues to run to such an intellectually (and morally) bankrupt line on the issue of climate change. There is plenty of room for different views on how best to address the situation we face, but the issue is far too serious to tolerate the prosecution of such a blatantly distorted agenda. This post on John Quiggin’s site, (along with the comments), contains further on some of the latest twists in The Australian’s editorial line, which has changed over time while always maintaining a position which argues against needing to take serious action to reduce emissions (unless it involves exporting uranium). Given the number of climate change sceptics is shrinking even faster than the planet’s glaciers, perhaps one could dare to hope that this latest bout of misreporting might be the last hurrah before reality finally sets.

It’s now over 18 months since the Kyoto Protocol came into force, despite the Australian government’s refusal to ratify it. Just imagine the progress Australia could have made in that time if our national newspaper had enabled an honest debate to be displayed in its pages, instead of a calculated agenda of running interference.

Despite similar antagonism from the Bush government in the USA, Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has had the courage and vision to sign California up to significant targets to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020. California on its own is the world’s eighth largest economy, so it is a significant step, even though it certainly won’t be enough on it’s own.

PS Al Gore is appearing on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope next week (Monday 11th Sept). Could be worth a look.

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  1. JT:

    Your comment:

    “However it is this long term vision and concern for our descendants that is missing in both the true believer and the denialists perspectives.”

    I would appreciate it if you would speak for yourself, instead of classifying and pigeon-holing other people’s opinions.

    You don’t hold a monopoly on vision and concern.

  2. Coral,

    I don’t believe I have ever spoken for anyone or thing except my own bizzarre and ideosyncratic way of looking at the world.

    it seems what you would really appreciate is if I did not express my personal opinion.

    Your appeal to higher intelligence and higher morality in other threads to similarly dismiss my opinion is just whinging because you don’t explain why.

    Do you have 2 ideas to rub together to explain how I am wrong?

    But since you have chosen to get personal, lets try and get back on topic.

    Your own voluntary restrictions on water use may well please you personally and you can even claim that “I’m not responsible” for the problem. But the truth is that without major changes to industry, agriculture and town planning on the largest scale then your personalised responses will no more make life better for future generations than those who ignore water restrictions.

    I am sure there is an apple pie, good-guys morality behind the “stop climate change” myth. but if this morality does not seek radical (literal meaning) changes then it is just self serving hot air.

  3. JT:

    You can say anything you want, but it doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree or disagree with you.

    I haven’t claimed to be either responsible or not responsible for the climate change problem. You are still putting words into other people’s mouths.

    It isn’t my fault that you don’t seem to be able to understand the simple scientific fact on conception expressed on another thread.

    Please read what is contributed and take it in (no matter who is saying it), without extrapolating from here to Mars on what other people have said, or telling them what their views are.

  4. Thanks for recognising the incorrect labelling used by some who should know better.

    As for… “I don’t believe I have ever spoken for anyone or thing except my own bizzarre and ideosyncratic way of looking at the world.”

    John, here I was certain that you were speaking for the Aboriginal people of Australia, at any opportunity. Not too worry… I always knew it was your “own bizzarre and ideosyncratic way of looking at the world.” :-)

    Funnily enough here we do agree quite a bit on this, (don’t worry – it’s a good thing – honest)… but as is inevitable with “bizzare” ways of thinking I tend to stray…

    I believe the Nuclear industry will continue to evolve and improve. Eventually probably through fusion reactor technology the waste problem will be eliminated. Still it will be expensive early on and no form of energy production is 100% safe.

    I quite like the use of Geothermal “Hot Rock” technology like the type used in a prototype station in SA. This to me is more promising than Solar and Wind.

  5. Geoff,
    I take particular care to talk “about” Aborigines, not “for” Aborigines and often clarify that I am talking on behalf of my white self. However I have learnt much from Aboriginal culture and live in an Aboriginal family which has undoubtedly contributed to my bizzarre ideosyncracies.

    I am fascinated in hot rock technology too, can’t see anything wrong with it and heaps in favour of it, but I am prety ignorant about it. The principle seems pretty simple though.

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