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August 08th 2009 print

John Izzard

ETS Forum – Roll on climate rationalism

If you are going to set up a new cult, which is what the emissions trading bill is all about, you really have to get in quickly and corner all of the best descriptive and emotive words; seize the moral high ground; then get out and kick hell out of any doubters.


Keeping your head on climate


If you are going to set up a new cult, which is what the emissions trading bill is all about, you really have to get in quickly and corner all of the best descriptive and emotive words; seize the moral high ground; then get out and kick hell out of any doubters. 

The problem for those who question the scientific and ethical nature of the new Climate Cult, is that all the beaut stuff has been snaffled by the New Age Weathermen, and, as a result we are battling to get a decent foothold on the mountainous terrain of public opinion. But all is not lost! 

If Rudyard Kipling was still about, or still fashionable, he would have, no doubt, given us something like this to fall back on: 

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are loosing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise.

The first difficulty those classified as “climate sceptics” face is the word ‘sceptic’. It has all sorts of various connotations, but a short version goes something like; “a person who habitually doubts generally accepted beliefs”. Ouch! No wonder the Climate Cult love the word ‘sceptic’. 

So the first thing needed is to re-badge ourselves. The Pharaoh Akhenaten tried it around 3300 years ago when he attempted to change the way most Egyptians saw themselves, both in relation to the heavens and how they depicted themselves in art. It only lasted until his death. How will climate sceptics be remembered in the next 100 or 1000 years? Not that well, I fear— unless we re-badge. 

The reality is that most of those who are badged as climate “sceptics” actually have no axe to grind about the science one way or the other – they are actually climate “agnostics”, and just want the facts of the matter to be allowed to fall where they may. But the word hasn’t caught on, and another alternative – climate “realists” – has all the appeal of a wet fish. So, of the available terms, climate “rationalist” is probably the best, and perhaps we should stick to that. 

The second problem that doubters of the current climate-mania face is that they are depicted almost exclusively for what they doubt rather than what they believe. It is an age old trick. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Don’t you just envy the warmaholics/carbonistas for their ignorance. The certainty of dogma. 

In facing the above problem it seems that what is needed is a concerted effort by Climate Rationalists to continually expound their beliefs. Not a sort of Soviet style manifesto, or gormless, meaningless list of “save the planet” jingles or chants, but a substantial statement of belief and purpose. 

Climate Rationalists certainly believe (or at least all the ones I know or have read about do) in fresh air, unpolluted seas and rivers, lush woods and the aroma of a distant wildebeest. Most dislike the wasteful use of resources, coal and oil included, or the slashing of forests and mountains of garbage, to say nothing of awful rush-hour traffic and unpredictable weather. So any notion that Climate Rationalists are generally against the cut and thrust of sound economic and social management of both the planet, and its resources, is really a gross libel. 

What Global Warming and Climate Change warriors believe in is very straight forward and clear. They believe that human activity is causing the planet’s climate to change (warm dangerously). They believe that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are bad, and should be controlled. They believe that just about any recently detected change to land, ocean or atmospheric activity is the result of accumulating, human-caused carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Anything that is changing in this world is being caused by irresponsible humans, not Sister Moon or Brother Sun.  

So what do Climate Rationalists believe? Well this Climate Rationalist, for one, believes in the following:  

1. Science based upon science, and in particular science which is rooted in empirical and experimental observation rather than unvalidated computer models. 

2. Science, defended against the heavy hand of politics, religious fervour, and media manipulation. 

3. Science based on the premise that all plants and creatures on this planet evolved because of the changing nature of this planet through time, that natural earthly events such as changes to atmosphere, ice-caps, land shifts, volcanic eruptions and non-earthly solar influences. And the natural ups and downs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

4. That all these changes ebb and flow through time, and are natural, evolving and to a large degree, unpredictable and unpreventable.  

5. Humans need to think deeply about the possible consequences of believing that they can interfere with the natural environment on a global scale by trying to stop evolution. Carbon dioxide today! What tomorrow?  

As the Senate is voting this week on the future of Rudd’s ETS there could not be a better time for readers on Quadrant Online to toss around the five notions listed above and add, subtract or demolish. We need a positive creed for our beliefs. 

Perhaps Kipling would say:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools.

The days when our lives were so much simpler. 


John Izzard is a documentary film producer and director whose credits include “Bastards from the Bush” on Les Murray and Bob Ellis; “Conversations With a Dead Poet” on John Forbes; and “A Fine Body of Gentlemen” on 1868 Aboriginal Cricket tour of England. Regular contributor to Quadrant magazine, and Quadrant Online.