Fiddling while we burn

Our earth is burning up.

 ‘‘We know that global climate doesn’t respond monotonically – it does go up and down with natural variation. That’s why some years are hotter than others because of a range of factors. But we’re getting many more hot records than we’re getting cold records. That’s not an issue that is explained away by natural variation.’’

Dr David Jones, Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring and prediction as quoted in today’s Age.

We know the world is warming. We know it’s driven by human activity – primarily carbon dioxide emissions. We know the ice sheets are melting. We know the consequences are going to be catastrophic. We have a degree of scientific consensus unparalleled in human history. Gravity was more contentious that climate science is today.

“globally it has now been 27 years since the world experienced a month that was colder than average.”

And yet we have not significantly changed our behaviour. We still drive to the local shops, and use massive air conditioners to cool office buildings that are appallingly badly designed – without even windows to open. We still build coal power stations, clear fell forests and complain that we can’t possibly use recycled paper because it’s rather pricey.

The dangers we are facing are monumental. A decade ago David Suzuki made roughly this analogy (paraphrased):

“It feels as if we’re all in a giant car, hurtling towards a brick wall at 100 miles an hour, and we’re arguing about where we should sit. There are people screaming ‘stop! look out! turn the wheel!’ but they’re all locked in the trunk.”

The brick wall is really close now, and we’re still arguing about where we should sit. In part, this is the tragedy of the commons. No-one wants to be the one who pulls back from using our shared resources first, because of the economic cost. If we reduce our carbon emissions and tackle climate change vigorously, what’s to stop, say, China from overtaking us economically? That would be crazy, right?

Never mind that Australia had a chance to lead in climate friendly technologies. That we could have positioned ourselves to be the economic and technological gurus of renewable industry. That ship has sailed and is now sinking in climate-change induced super storms. It’s really not the economic arguments that depress me beyond bearing. It’s the climate change deniers who persist in believing that climate change is a vast and expensive hoax, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Melbourne is having a cold day today, so global warming is a myth.

Melbourne had rain over the last two years, so global warming is a myth.

Follow the money, they say. Climate scientists just want funding, they say, so they are trying to scare us into funding them. Well, ok, if you want to follow the money, at least be internally consistent, people. Where is the money in climate propaganda? Is it really coming from climate scientists? Nope. It’s coming from big business. From Coal and Oil companies. From mining magnates. From people whose fortunes are at risk if we suddenly decide to do something about the fate of our planet. What?? Industries mislead us on matters vital to our health? Unprecedented. Unless you consider Lead. Tobacco. Asbestos.

‘‘We are well past the time of niceties, of avoiding the dire nature of what is unfolding, and politely trying not to scare the public. The unparalleled setting of new heat extremes is forcing the continual upwards trending of warming predictions for the future, and the timescale is contracting.’’

Liz Hanna, convener of the human health division at the Australian National University’s Climate Change Adaptation Network.

I wish that I could finish this article with a positive message. With an answer. A solution to the political and social apathy that is allowing the whole world to plunge over a climate cliff that will make the American fiscal cliff look like a child’s sandpit. But I’ve got nothing. What have you got?

PS if you wish to comment here about climate change not being real, or not being human induced, don’t bother. I won’t publish it on my blog.

3 thoughts on “Fiddling while we burn

  1. Lisa

    When I was the same age as my children (growing up in a fairly scientifically aware family) we were just beginning to talk and understand about global warming, the ozone layer, greenhouse gasses…etc.

    My children (growing up in a fairly scientifically aware family) already understand all of that stuff; they understand as a planet we are heading in a really bad direction. My oldest son told me the other day (quoting a Python manual) ‘the problem with adults is they have no imagination’. I don’t entirely agree with the criticism, but I like the idea that if I can’t think positively, maybe they can. I guess my feelings about the environment are pretty pessimistic, but my boys are endlessly imaginative and positive about their ability to innovate and generate change. I think that is where my positive message lies.

    1. Joe

      Does he mean: “Adults can’t imagine how we’ll solve this problem”?
      Or: “Adults can’t imagine how bad this can really get, and why”?

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