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The Age columist says democracy, free press not the answer for climate damage

The Age, sometimes the free press is not enough…

Gay Alcorn suggests when voters get it wrong (and you are but a powerless columnist on a major daily paper) the answer is not “explain your case”,  or “publish and study the views of the people who disagree” but be fiercer, get arrested and resort to civil disobedience and blockades. Meanwhile her “respected” CSIRO scientists let her step into an obvious scientific hole, and Naomi Klein spins a fantasy that Alcorn finds appealing.

Ask all the wrong questions

The journalists of The Age have read their own paper for so long, they don’t even know what questions to ask:

The Age: “Applying heat to Canberra’s climate stance”

“There are a few barely questioned principles that most citizens assume in a representative democracy such as ours. One is that, whichever party you voted for, you accept the result of an election and give thanks for a peaceful transfer of political power.

But what if there was an issue where you couldn’t accept the elected government’s position, believing it so wrong, dangerous, and damaging to the country’s economic and social future that to treat it as just part of the argy-bargy of politics would make you complicit in that wrong?

Climate change is that issue.”

Gay Alcorn asks” What if you couldn’t accept the elected governments position”. She doesn’t ask: What if I’m wrong and windmills won’t stop floods? What if a tax won’t change the weather? Or how about, “If we make cheap energy more expensive – How exactly will that increase national productivity and help the economy?”

She also doesn’t ask, “What if a few dozen scientists have got their key assumptions wrong about the climate, and the models grossly exaggerate the threat?” What if thousands upon thousands of scientists (and a large slab of the population) know that name-calling “deniers” is not a scientific argument, want real evidence and are protesting? What if the newspaper you read hides the other half of the story, and doesn’t tell you that 31,000 scientists disagree with the 62 who reviewed Chapter Nine of the IPCC report? What if The Age never reports that atmospheric physicists, solar astronomers, geologists and engineers are skeptical, and have excellent reasons to be so, not to mention 1100 papers?

The evidence is that we are seeing its impact on our environment and our lives now. In our patch of the world, we’re into the second heatwave of the year in parts of southern Australia, following a year that was the hottest on record, and a decade between 2001-10 that was the warmest on record.

What if none of the CSIRO scientists was willing to be bluntly honest and remind you that none of these heatwaves or warm records was unusual in the long run, and none of them show that the warming is man-made? If the warming was natural, we’d get heatwaves, wouldn’t we? But instead of honest or forthright admission, the CSIRO scientists feed the unscientific pap that any warming is proof that CO2 caused the warming. So much for this respected institution. Few will respect it ten years from now, when it becomes obvious how much it has cost us.

Was that a lie a wink and a nod, or was it just a response to global bullies?

She points at the apparent contradictions of conservatives who say they believe but appear not to act, but misses the obvious reasons why:

The government says it believes in global warming and the human contribution to it, but everything it has done since it was elected negates that. It’s a lie, a wink and a nod, and everybody knows it.

Firstly, newspapers like yours would not allow a rational discussion, calling the unconvinced names like “denier”. So all the politicians who are skeptics know they can’t admit it in public. It’s not subterfuge, as much as being practical in the face of a hostile media. Name-calling works.
Secondly, even skeptics believe there has been global warming and there is some  human contribution to it (albeit small). Given that there are infinite shades of skeptic, there may not be as much contradiction between beliefs and actions as you suppose.
Thirdly, innumerate mainstream journalists pretend the answer to our climate is “Yes” or “No”, instead of a number between 0 and 5 (degrees Celsius rise per doubling of Co2). Combine this with the name-calling (see point 1) and the national conversation about policies is a circle of inanity. No wonder commentators and analysts who read the mainstream press can’t figure it out. (The answer you are looking for is online.)

What’s a good citizen to do?

What is a citizen’s responsibility in these circumstances? Activist Naomi Klein wrote last year about the new ”revolutionary” scientists who have abandoned their cautious language because governments largely ignored it anyhow. Jason Box, an expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet, was arrested at a rally outside the White House and told Klein that ”just voting didn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.’
What is a citizens responsibility? Before leaping to civil disobedience, can I suggest looking at the evidence, and then judging for themselves. What is more responsible — reading both sides of the story or running a share-hoax that hurts honest investors, shareholders and superannuation dependent retirees?
Being mature has never been so easy.
As for Naomi Klein’s idea that governments are ignoring the advice of scientists — ask yourself, if that’s the case, why has The Age been telling us for years that we might be left behind because “Many countries have legislated higher 2020 emission targets than Australia”.  The EU set up a $176 billion a year carbon trading scheme. Governments spent $70 billion in subsidies for renewables. Is that what ignoring the scientists means?
Could it be that governments and some voters thought the advice was good once, but now realize the issue is a dead dog. Skeptics have won it intellectually online — pro-carbon-crisis climate bloggers are dropping out one by one, while skeptics traffic rises. The last ones to know will be mainstream editors who don’t read the real debate in the new media.
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