22 June 2017

Down veils

There's constant chatter and considerable despair about climate change, at least in my readings. Not sure it is so common amongst readers of the Right or the coalies. I don't understand Palaszczuk or Turnbull and Abbott and their mobs. It's all so perverse given the science and so dumb given the economics. I don't understand the cockiness of those who will argue against the science, or who will argue for coal or will twist facts for their political purposes. It seems to me there's an unavoidable limit here, at the existential, at the possible demise of civilisation, at a rate that seems to be quickening. I've written letters to a string of pollies saying just that: "How will you live with yourself". A recent graph just highlighted this, where young women/mothers/scientists placed bars for themselves, their children and their grandchildren on a chart of expected global temperatures (Caring about climate change: it's time to build a bridge between data and emotion / Ketan Joshi. IN The Guardian, 7 June 2017). View that (below) and try not to weep. Then a run of letters to the editor of the Canberra Times. Amusingly, I wrote a letter on the psychology of denial which happened to be published under one that questioned CO2's role and also whether temperature is changing unduly. My letter: "I'm intrigued by the psychology of denial. Is it a deep internal conflict that expresses itself in phrases like "I don't question the science, but..."? Or in claims of "technology neutrality" associated with demands for coal, or attacks on the "ideology" of others while ignoring or twisting the science. Or worse, maybe they are just lying through their teeth, or have sold their souls. Remember, we're talking end of civilisation here. Not trivial. I wouldn't want that on my conscience. " (CT letters 16 June 2017; the Editor removed my last sentence). Then a letter in response attacked me for 'using emotion-charged terms like "denial" and accuses people of "lying through their teeth" and "[selling] their souls" for daring to express a dissenting point of view"' and claiming scepticism for those questioning this "new hypothesis" (that CO2 might be related to warming) that "might be ... untestable" and "this is the difference between science and faith" (CT letters 17 June 2017). Mmm. My response was not published by CT but here it is " Oh, ..., the response came quicker than I thought! I used climate "denial" with reason. In the same way that Chesterton and recently Finkel said "do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out". I'm no scientist so I accept the overwhelming advice of the experts - I'm conservative in that way. And I've long thought there's a Nobel prize for anyone who disproves climate change to the satisfaction of science, but no-one's claiming it!". And otherwise recently, there's ongoing Adani, GBR bleaching, hottest years and the rest.

Thanks to Ketan Joshi and Lesley Hughes - see link above

That's just a preamble to how I found the book launch by Anna Krein at the ANU interviewed by Will Steffen. Well, I heard little new for those who read reasonably widely. Nothing much positive, either. Some themes or topics included: Adani; GBR; Q&A (esp Brian Fox and Malcolm Roberts); communicating to cross divisions; conviction and science; the foolishness of investment in coal; the requirement for rapid change and how some others are doing it; science and entrenched power; politics. obviously, and negligence by pollies; Finkel and the Climate Council; Shell's scenario planning; correlations of inequality with social and health problems; lies and misleadings; bad outcomes coming earlier than expected; feedbacks and runaway climate change; Paris and Stockholm; moral reprehensibility and the argument "the GBR is already cactus so why not keep digging"; jobs, coal and prime agricultural land; regulation; cities and states replacing federal action; the SA blackout; newspeak and pollie talk (or non-talk) on climate. Newish to me was the argument that if Adani goes ahead, so will other mines in the Galilee Basin. I wondered about the discussion of economics post-WW2. I see key problems arising with Neo-Liberalism after the '70s, at least in our ability to deal with issues, even if CO2 was increasing back then, too (it was, but it was little known). I was particularly interested in the latest updates on where various tipping points are expected. WS suggested 2degC, perhaps 2.5degC, definitely by 4degC. WS and colleagues have written an update article for PNAS that's currently under peer review, due later this year. It's a concern of the Stockholm Resilience Centre where he has recently spent time. There was some discussion on the recent Finkel report, its "blind acceptance" of an inadequate 26-28% cut vs. 2005 (lowest of G20 countries), lack of effective action, approach limited by politics (and, I expect, the terms of reference). Anna was asked what the "long goodbye" in the book title refered to, but it's not defined. Rejection of the word "belief" regarding climate change, preferring "acceptance" (nice observation - I too have wondered about that word, belief, in the context of science). Some questions about the "critical decade", which is now coming close to an end, and its little achievements (expect another report from WS and mates about this later this year). The last decade of cc politics and communications. Rudd and Penny Wong came in for some questioning on their politics playing with Turnbull and also for not communicating with some affected populations that sought change (Port Augusta, Gippsland region). And the quality of day-to-day politics, with, as an example, the derision around Whish-Wilson's quote of "and then we wept" from GBR researcher and students. (this got me: "My veil is down ... I have cried. I have broken down in front of cameras. This is the most devastating, gut-wrenching fuck up" / Prof Justin Marshall, re GBR bleaching). Yep, couldn't have said it better.

Anna Krein was interviewed by Will Steffen at the launch of her new book, The Long Goodbye : Coal, Coral and Australia's Climate Deadlock / Anna Krein [Quarterly Essay 66].

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