Year 2, Month 1, Day 13: Talkin’ The Talk

The Sydney Morning Herald has an excellent article on the need for realism in the climate debate.

The floods that have led to most of Queensland being declared a disaster zone are a disturbing reminder that living in one of the richest countries in the world does not shield us from the devastation of natural disasters.

The footage of death and destruction we are seeing on our TV screens is gut-wrenching. Most dinner table conversations in Australia this week will undoubtedly focus on these floods and their horrific consequences. But while we are talking about the immense loss and what we can do to help, there is another conversation that we should be having: the conversation about climate change.

When we talk about climate change, we mostly talk about complicated economic policy, markets and reports. But we need to start talking about what climate change actually looks like – and we don’t need to look much further than Queensland.

So they get a letter. A new rhetorical flourish here is something I borrowed from a science-fiction short story I read a few years ago. I forget the author (Kornbluth, perhaps?), but it concerned a bunch of different groups involved in weather modification technology and the failure of communications between them. Hence the penultimate sentence of my letter, which is going to appear fairly often as 2011 waddles onward.

To any who’ve been following the slowly unfolding catastrophe of climate change, it’s not surprising that 2010 was a record-breaking year. And likewise, it will be no surprise when this year’s numbers are regularly surpassed. Since the nineteen-fifties, when scientists began talking about the climate-altering potential of increased atmospheric CO2, the consequences were always scheduled for some indefinite time in the relatively distant future. It was always our descendants who’d have to contend with a world in a state of environmental upheaval.

Until now. Queensland’s floods are far from an isolated case; all over the planet the weather is less predictable, more extreme, and more dangerous. For over fifty years, as our greenhouse emissions have steadily increased, we’ve avoided discussing their climatic consequences: everybody’s doing something about the weather, but nobody’s talking about it. This must end; denial is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Warren Senders