Year 4, Month 2, Day 13: Too Much Confusion Going On, I Can’t Get No Relief

The Canberra Times runs an op-ed by a chap named Nicholas Stuart, who gets the brass ring:

Even if you still believe there is doubt about the specific linkage between carbon dioxide emissions and the rising global temperature – and I do not believe there is – there can be no doubt about the increasing incidence of extreme climatic events. The hottest January on record resulted in terrible bushfires across the nation, while at the same time we’ve suffered devastating floods in the tropical north: Australia can no longer rely on ”global action” to avoid the catastrophe that climate change represents.

Yet you would not know this listening to what passes for political debate in this country. Politicians still seem to believe that all that is required during a natural disaster is for them to tour the affected area, nodding sympathetically and promising relief.

Environmental catastrophe is framed as the ”work of nature” and therefore inexplicable. By pretending we cannot comprehend why this is happening we absolves ourselves from dealing with reality. This means that individuals can avoid the hard choices about the future while society pretends it can still afford to ”nationalise” the losses. A far better way of coming to terms with the way the climate is changing is provided by the internal workings of insurance companies.

Businesses don’t deal in academic theory. They deal in reality. That’s why the cost of insuring against damage caused by natural disasters is climbing, because the companies realise that the chance of these events is increasing. There’s nothing ideological about this and certainly no pro-Labor bias at work.

The opposition needs to explain immediately how it will deal with climate change because the holes in its current program are so large, and urgency so absent, that one inevitably returns to the possibility that Tony Abbott doesn’t believe in climate change at all.

Aye. Sent Feb. 5.

Nicholas Stuart has it exactly right in his description of climate change as an existential crisis. We humans have faced other crises of our own creation before this; the life-shattering forces of war and the morally overwhelming phenomena of slavery and genocide come to mind. But these, all-encompassing and inescapable though they may be, have always played out on a planetary stage that has changed its shape slowly if at all. The climate crisis, rendering our feeble political systems incompetent and impotent, is a threat of an entirely different nature.

War, slavery, and injustice transpire on a historical timescale of decades and centuries, while climatic processes have taken place over millennia, over eons. Now, climatic transformations are happening with the speed of war. With our wasteful consumer economies and our fossil fuel addictions, we have unwittingly an auto-immune response from the natural environment upon which our lives depend. Our species’ continued survival hinges on how rapidly we can understand these facts and their implications.

Warren Senders


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