Paul P. Mealing

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Sunday, 2 September 2012

This one is for the climate-change sceptics

Notice I use the English spelling and not the American (skeptic) for those who may think I can’t spell (although I’m not infallible).

Not so long ago, North Carolina passed a bill to ‘bar state agencies from considering accelerated sea level rise in decision-making until 1 July 2016’. Apparently, this is a watered-down version of the original bill, which I believe didn’t have the 4 year moratorium. I learnt about it because it was reported in the Letters section of New Scientist. What worries me is the mentality behind this: the belief that we can legislate against nature.  In other words, if scientists start making predictions about sea-level rise, it’s forbidden. The legislation doesn’t state that sea level rise can’t happen but that any science-based predictions must be ignored.

This mentality also exists in Australia where there seems to be an unspoken yet tacit belief that we can vote against climate-change politically. There is a serious disconnect here: nature doesn’t belong to any political party; it’s not a constituency. The current leader of the opposition in Australian Federal politics, Tony Abbott, won his position (within the Party or Cabinet room) over the incumbent, on this very issue. The incumbent leader, Malcolm Turnbull, felt so strongly over the moral issue of human-induced climate-change he put his leadership on the line and lost, by 1 vote (in 2009).

This interview with Climate Central's chief climatologist, Heidi Cullen, from Princeton University, helps to put this issue into perspective. We don’t live at the poles where evidence of climate change is most apparent. The signs are there and we need to trust the people who can read the signs, whom we call scientists. Malcolm Turnbull, who lost his job over this, made the point that there is something wrong with a society when we can't trust our scientists – they are our brains trust.

In Australia, the sceptics argue that this is a global conspiracy by climatologists to keep themselves in jobs and maintain an influx of funding. In other words, as long as they keep maintaining that there is a problem, governments will keep giving them money, whereas, if they tell the ‘truth’ the funding will stop. This is so ludicrous one can’t waste words on it. In Australia, scientists working on climate-change were sent death-threats, which demonstrates the mentality of the people who oppose it. Again, there is an irrational-held belief that if only scientists would write the right reports that tell us climate-change is a furphy, then it won’t happen – the problem will simply go away.

Addendum: I learnt today (8 Sep 2012) that the NSW government has done something similar: revoked local council laws indicating coastal properties which may be subject to sea-level rise based on IPCC predictions.


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Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Anonymous,

For some reason your comment went to spam.

Regards, Paul.