Let’s Give the Planet the Benefit Of the Doubt

After looking as though no deal might be struck at all, a last minute agreement has been reached at the Copenhagen summit on global change. Although the deal is disappointing, as Obama says, it is only the beginning, not the end, and in my opinion far better than no deal at all. At least now we have something to build on—as Australia’s leading campaigner on climate change Tim Flannery has said, I think we have to accept the political realities, and accept this deal as a positive outcome overall.

And boy, have their been a lot of political hurdles to overcome! Of course we’ve had the predictable acts of self interest from many of the countries involved. Most depressing of all, however—just when I thought we’d finally reached agreement on the reality of climate change (if not its cause or what to do about it)—has been the massive resurgence of climate change denial. Even here in Australia, we have had a change of leadership of the political opposition over this issue (the so-called ‘Liberal’ party, who are in fact anything but liberal, especially now). They have now staked out an election platform opposing an Emissions Trading Scheme as “nothing but a great big, fat tax”, even though (under their previous far more liberal leader) they had already agreed to support the scheme, and when they were previously in government, they ended up settling on a similar scheme themselves. This is blatant political opportunism, although this is nothing new for the Australian Liberal party, who don’t seem to have any principles at all, except for their desire to win elections at any cost.

The fact that climate change denial has become a political opportunity in the first place is the most depressing thing of all though. It seems that since the global economic crisis, people have become so obsessed with the almighty dollar that they want to ignore climate change, even to the point of wanting to convince themselves that it isn’t actually happening at all. People have become willing to accept the most improbable of conspiracy theories—a green conspiracy to deindustrialise the world, a United Nations conspiracy to impose world government etc.—while the reasons for climate change denial are very simple, clear and obvious: the desire of powerful, polluting big business to maintain as much short term profit as possible, and the desire of individuals to avoid paying extra taxes. It has gotten to the point now that whenever you do a search for political news videos on YouTube, you are greeted instead with endless conspiracy theory videos—it seems that the combination of human greed and insecurity makes us willing to accept the highly improbable over the blindingly obvious.

I will be the first to admit that human induced climate change is far from certain—there are just far too many uncertainties and variables involved, particularly as we are dealing with two of the most unpredictable things of all: the weather and the future. Climate change deniers love to pick up on every little uncertainty in the scientific data, and given the nature of this issue, there’ll be plenty of it. Yet at the same time, the climate change deniers are certain that climate change isn’t happening—this exposes their insincerity, as they can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, the contention that the world has been warming since the start of the industrial revolution is backed by a wealth of data, and quite frankly, it just doesn’t seem reasonable to me that all the crap we pump into the environment wouldn’t have any effect on it at all. Indeed, we know for a fact that it leads to pollution, which surely is in itself a good reason to reduce our emissions anyway. Even more importantly, we’re going to run out of fossil fuels eventually in any case, and as we do, their cost will become ever greater, and they will cause ever more wars. The cost of switching to renewable energy resources is relatively small, and will lead to huge cost savings in the long term. If human induced climate change is real however, the cost of inaction could be catastrophic—and likely will be anyway even if it isn’t real, as we fight over the last of the world’s fossil fuel resources, and the pollution of our environment increases. For goodness sake, let’s give the planet the benefit of the doubt here—this really should be a no brainer.

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I have been thinking much the same thing; first, whether global warming is a permanent trend or merely cyclical, would it not be wise to do something about it; and second, the West needs to free itself from oil in any case, because its exploitation is polluting, expensive, and dangerous. Wind, solar, and other technologies are cheaper and far safer. I f Big Oil had half a brain, they would have researched all this years ago.
On a secondary point, the automobile industry has been acquiring and suppressing technologies for years that would have made cars much more efficient and longer-lasting. Built-in obsolescence must be made obsolete!

  
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Yes you are PROBABLY RIGHT Sachiko, to say that something is better than nothing–although it could be worse than nothing if it lulls people into thinking that it is enough.

I am a Canadian, and as such am frustrated by my government’s attitude that it will only do what the Americans do–in order to avoid the economic cost disadvantage that Canadian industries would suffer if we did better. The only green technology that CAnadian governments have invested hevily in is carbon sequestration–because that is an investment in the oil industry.

These are the actions of government that doesn’t really believe in climate change. If it did, it would recognize that they are economic benefits and opportunities galore in being ahead of the curve, instead of just staying doggedly just behind it.

  
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Originally Posted By Mark Crawford
Yes you are PROBABLY RIGHT Sachiko, to say that something is better than nothing–although it could be worse than nothing if it lulls people into thinking that it is enough.

I doubt very much that that will be the case – I think it is very clear to everyone involved that this deal is a very long way from completely satisfactory, and must be built upon in further climate talks.

  
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David of Brisbane

David of Brisbane’s avatar

It doesn’t really matter what the Liberal Party’s position is as they won’t be in goverment for a long time. I think Labor should pull the double dissolution trigger. I am sure they could gain control of the senate.

This would allow them to pass this important legislation. I am really surprised they never attempted to negotiate the ETS with the Greens and couple of independant Senators instead of going straight to the Libs.

I would have thought this would have been a preferred option. Also, I was wondering what people’s position on going Nuclear for Australia would be?

  
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Welcome to my blog David! Nice to see a local here. :-)

I’m guessing Labour thought that with Malcolm Turnbull in charge, getting a deal with the Libs would be relatively easy. I agree that Labour should go for a double dissolution, but Australians hate early elections, so it is probably wise for them to wait for the Libs to reject it again, as they surely will.

Personally I am not completely against nuclear energy, but given that we don’t have it already, I don’t think it makes much sense for us to invest in it now, when we’ll have much better alternatives.

  
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David of Brisbane

David of Brisbane’s avatar

I really agree with what you’ve said within and your title for this blog “Let’s give the Planet the benefit of the doubt”. In the past it has been nothing for a mining company to pollute rivers killing off down stream ecosystems.

Not being a scientist I have still tried to research both sides of the argument of is climate change man made or natural. Both arguments are compelling but in reality the argument seems irrelevant. Even if it is natural. If it’s possible to control the temperature then it seems pretty obvious we should be changing what we can to look after our planet.

By the way, I voted Lib prior to 2007. Financially not the best decision to move away but hopefully environmentally it will be the right choice.

  
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Climate change denial! That actually sounds suicidal to me, because climate and its various perturbations are so very enduringly dynamic on planet Earth, yet also totally vital for the very ways that life lays itself out upon the globe. This is a sober, sincere, and very big Science that humankind has in front of itself, into which it must venture further for weal or woe, one way or another. Climate has always been changing on Earth, and will continue to do so, and will respond in some way to every single thing the mass of humanity and its trappings causes to come to pass, energy-, structure-, and chemistry-wise. The denial of this Science in our various governments and agencies over recent decades is part of the more general pattern of dumb-down of public education practiced by recent administrations. Instead of appropriations and incentives for which the suggested impending crises cry out, we have seen so many programs cut, so much fussing around about budget restrictions, and so many potential teachers and investigators discouraged to the point of taking “survival” jobs, that we have become “conditioned” into a grass-roots acceptance. We say to our minds’ ears, as the late Al Capp might say with his cartoons, “Natchur-lee” and shrug shoulders over this dumb mass camp-following that sucks up to a privileged, stupid, and cruel financial elite. Of course, specific spokespersons in the businesses and governments would perform palliative PR routines from time to time. They woud try to blot out perceptions of the denial — there would be a regular little parade of Horatio Alger-type stories placed in the media depicting things like “boy geniuses” rising above the sloth of daily existence to receive some big grant or Ford Foundation award for a “Green” science project. (That is something that would admit only a chosen few, allegedly only the best of the best, to elitist circles and opportunities at special strategic times. One of these little gateways could be called “Global Warming”.) We may have been doing better back in the 1800s when wise old folk heroes would scratch their heads, burn some very real midnight oil, and write one more annual edition of the Farmers’ Almanac. At least there was some hope communicated, that in giving weather and climate some respectful thought, there could be an improved chance for a successful harvest in months ahead.

  
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