The following exchange appeared recently on a local rural community Facebook page regarding local weather patterns and the current drought in the region:
“…one flood in 50's washed bridges away. We were isolated for months. We have had very wet times droughts before and will have them again. The climate is a dynamic thing always changing. Greenies have just realised it is dry. 25 years before european [sic] settlement worst drought Australia has ever had. No co2 then.”
“I look forward to things getting back to wet times again (if it happens) will sort a lot of ppl [sic] out.”
It’s hard to know where to begin explaining the concept of climate change in the face of such wilful ignorance, and even harder to believe that such attitudes still exist against the mountain of scientific evidence supporting what is no longer just a ‘theory’, but a proven and accelerating climatic phenomenon.
In her 2014 book, Global Warming and Climate Change: What Australia knew and buried...then framed a new reality for the public, Dr Maria Taylor explains that our understanding of climate change in the 1980s and 90s was better than it is now. There was widespread acceptance of the scientific facts on climate trends, a better understanding of the difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ and social and political willingness to address the issue.
Over the past two decades, vested interests have hijacked the policy and political agendas and manipulated public attitudes via compliant media, allowing discussions such as the ridiculous one quoted above to be taken seriously in the public domain. The issue has been framed as a 'debate' as though there is doubt that needs to be questioned. It's worth remembering that the tobacco lobby did precisely the same thing when medical evidence pointed to the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
The premise of climate change deniers appears to be that somehow ‘greenies’ manufactured this whole climate change thing for some hidden reason and the fact that there have been extreme weather events in the past disproves the whole shebang. That these attitudes are promulgated within rural communities that rely on the environment and climate for their life and livelihoods is even more astounding. These are precisely the communities that should be (and many are) aware of the trends in climate and should be pushing the policy agenda towards specifics such as emissions reduction, renewable energy and revegetation. Pointing to isolated weather events (a flood in the ‘50s) or suggesting that the end of the current drought will put an end to all this climate change folly (will sort of a lot of people out) is, at best, simplistic shortsightedness, and at worst, dangerous ignorance.
The current drought will end. Drought is a cyclical event in this country and very dry times are typically broken by very wet periods. This is not climate change: this is climatic variability and is a feature of this country.
Climate change is global and complex. It is evidenced by warmer sea temperatures which, in turn, affect the movement of air masses across the landmasses; melting glaciers and polar ice caps; rising temperatures; more frequent extreme weather events such as tropical storms.[Graph from NASA GISS]
The willingness of people to dismiss climate change as a greenie plot is a symptom of the human reluctance to deal with change of any kind. Change is big and scary and there is no bigger or scarier change than one that affects the entire planet. Addressing such change means making big decisions at individual, community and political levels. Yet rather than accepting the need for such decisions for the sake of future generations and the Earth itself, we are seeing a rear-guard action fighting against such decisions on the flimsiest of arguments.
There is no climate change debate any more. The time for debate is over and has been for some time. There are now only facts and evidence; and that evidence is no longer just theoretical, it is empirical. Anthropogenic climate change did not appear overnight. It was first acknowledged and studied at scientific level in the 1950s. Over six decades the statistics have been mounting. It’s time for the phony ‘debate’ to be silenced and the perpetuators of the phony debate to be shown for what they are: either greedy industrialists who profit from polluting the environment, or simple-minded lemmings.