Sometimes it is what is not mentioned, or little-mentioned, rather than widely discussed, which tells the story.
The Section 44’s citizenship issue and the marriage equality issue have recently dominated the Federal Parliament. However, with a few exceptions, the looming global warming crisis, to which Australia is contributing over four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (including coal and gas exports), is hardly mentioned in Parliament and is markedly subdued in the media.
This is surprising when CO2 emissions are accelerating at 2 to 3 parts per million per year, and global heating and mean global temperatures have reached 1.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2017). These changes have produced a spate of extreme hurricanes (cf. Caribbean, Texas, Florida, Philippines, Fiji) wildfires (cf. southern Europe, California) and floods (Pakistan, China) around the world .
Despite an ongoing campaign of untruths by climate denial lobbies, the world’s leading climate research organizations (NASA, NOAA, NSIDC, Berkeley Earth, Potsdam Climate Impacts, Hadley-Met, Tindale, CSIRO, BOM) have confirmed current trends toward a world of +2 degrees Celsius and +4 degrees Celsius above mean pre-industrial temperatures.
According to leading authorities in climate science, including Hans Schellnhuber (Germany’s chief climate change adviser), James Hansen (NASA’s former chief climate scientist) and others, at +4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, large parts of the world will become uninhabitable, due to extreme weather events and rising sea levels inundating coastal regions and low river valleys.
But the silence of the political classes is hardly surprising, given both major parties support, or at least tacitly support, coal mining, and coal and gas export. Thus: “Bill Shorten told reporters on Monday that, if the Adani project cleared all the regulatory hurdles, ‘then all well and good’”, negating Kevin Rudd’s assertion that climate change is “The greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”.
Even some Greens appear to regard too much focus on global warming as a vote loser, aiming instead to be a broad-church left-wing party rather than a climate change-focused effort.
To a major extent, these parties are the product of a media in the thrall of the denial syndrome. Thus, even the ABC, when reporting large-scale extreme weather events around the world rarely, if ever, relates them to global warming, which drives increased energy levels in the atmosphere-ocean system, which triggers hurricanes and wildfires.
There is not one climate scientist in the Australian Parliament. The media commonly shuns the views of scientists. For example, the bulk of the mainstream media recently shunned an open letter to the PM signed by 200 scientists and communicated to the press. Further, many progressive journals appear to suffer from “climate fatigue” and regard climate communications as no more than “nuisance value”.
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” (T.S. Eliot).
Andrew Glikson is an Earth and paleo-climate scientist at the Australian National University