Climate change: what is “the greatest moral challenge?”

4 Feb

Last weekend’s storm was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced which means nothing, other than I haven’t been in violent weather events before.

Some years ago all my children and grandchildren went missing for five days in Hurricane Wilma. They were in Cancun, Mexico at the time the category four storm struck.  For a long time afterwards my granddaughter trembled whenever the wind rose.  The high-pitched whine of a violent wind, and the emotions it provokes in sentient beings, is hard to delete from the memory.

In what seems to me a rare example of synchronicity, I happened to be at the top of Tamborine Mountain and reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviours, at the time the Queensland storms struck.  The wind whined its whine in merciless gusts, the ferocity of which were alarming. Six adults, five dogs, six chickens in the bathtub, and one baby, we huddled by candlelight in a house on the edge of an escarpment while trees fell and water belted at the windows. This was a long way out of my comfort zone. At bedtime I read Kingsolver with a torch, wearing earplugs. What I couldn’t hear wouldn’t frighten me, I reasoned.


 Flight Behaviour is one of several recent novels that take as their theme the issue of climate change. Kingsolver is an intelligent, powerfully imaginative writer whose every book I’ve treasured, and she’s a biologist as well. The narrative is built around episodes of violent storm activity in a Mexican town that causes its resident population of Monarch butterflies to abandon the flight behaviour of lifetimes, and find a new home in southern Texas. It’s not easy for them there, either, but I won’t tell the story. Suffice to say in her usual accomplished manner, Kingsolver weaves the lives and futures of her characters through the fate of the butterflies, and indeed, of the world. She even includes Australia.

I find the climate change war difficult to understand on many levels. I’m alarmed by the emotions on both sides, in particular the rage that erupts from those who will not tolerate the concept of human contribution to global warming. I interpret this rage as springing from terror: terror of what that means, terror of losing what they believe they have, terror of necessary change, terror of being out of control, of the natural world being an uncontrollable force.

Those who argue against them, such as myself, also know terror: the terror of leaving things too late, terror of what the world will become if we fail to do everything in our power to halt the destruction, terror of our apparent helplessness in the face of climate change and those who to my mind obdurately refuse to accept that we have any responsibility in the matter.

What we share is our fear: we ought to be able to use that as common ground. And there’s a wishful thought, if ever there was one.

I don’t know if Kevin Rudd was either right or helpful when he described climate change as “the greatest moral challenge of our time.” I agree it’s the greatest challenge, and it is also a moral one, however, we might be better served focusing on the practicalities rather than the moralities of the challenge we face. When an issue is couched in moral terms it inevitably bifurcates into judgements good and bad, with one side or the other claiming the high moral ground even as it is wrenched away from under them, in this instance by flood, high seas, and fire. What becomes most important is the battle and who is right, rather than the biggest challenge.

There is a sense in which the argument about the morality of climate change action or non-action has to be postponed for the greater good: we can’t afford to waste our energies on that argument. We have to err on the side of caution, surely. We cannot prove to everyone’s satisfaction that humans have and continue to contribute to global warming, which in turn is causing extreme and destructive weather events. The “greatest moral challenge,” then, is to suspend our disbelief and act as if we have and are affecting climate change. As we are unable to prove that we are not, it makes sense, given the gravity of the situation, to act as if we are.

The greatest moral challenge facing us is to put aside the notion of moral challenge, and instead, act.

I’m dreamin’, I know. This is a fertile battleground for those who want only to battle. There’s precious little political good will, and a crop of politicians on both sides whose will to power outweighs any notion of the greater good.

Perhaps circumstances will eventually force these self-interested laggards to take action. Perhaps when enough people have suffered enough as a consequence of extreme weather events, and the roads are broken enough, and the food has become expensive enough, and the people turn in great numbers on their leaders, we will see politicians finally give climate change the attention it demands. When there’s votes in it.

Until then I guess what we can’t hear won’t frighten us? Pass that politician some earplugs and make them read Flight Patterns, by torchlight, of course.


59 Responses to “Climate change: what is “the greatest moral challenge?””

  1. Colin Mackay February 4, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Reblogged this on Colin's mind.


  2. gerard oosterman February 4, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Three days ago and sixty years there was a dreadful storm too. Just watch the video.
    The day that the Dykes broke. (video)
    February 3, 2013

    The Netherlands remembers 60 years since the dykes broke

    Friday 01 February 2013

    Special events are taking part in many places in the Netherlands on Friday to remember the great floods of 1953, in which over 1,800 people died.

    In the early hours of February 1, 1953, dykes in the south of the country broke, and large parts of Zeeland, the Zuid-Holland islands and western Brabant were flooded.

    Over 100,000 people lost their homes in the disaster, which was caused by a combination of strong winds and high tides. Some 500 buildings were destroyed and many more were damaged. Almost 200,000 hectares of farmland land was devastated by the salt water.

    In the Zuid-Holland village of Oude Tonge, where 305 people lost their lives, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony to remember the dead. Other events take place throughout the affected areas.

    The tragedy led to the development of the Delta Works flood prevention scheme, a massive complex of dykes and sluice gates along much of the southern coastline.

    More photos of the floods


    • Jennifer Wilson February 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks Gerard, I had forgotten, there are too many disasters to keep track of around the globe.


  3. zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I count amongst my friends staunch advocates for both sides ot the “man made or not” climate change argument. Those who support the move to act on man made caused climate change tend to have a more theoretical/moral/green tinge to their life values and are employed in environmentally related careers. Some profess to be “brownies” rather than greenies meaning they are prepared to work with especially less compliant industries to come to a better more earth friendly outcome without closing down or bankrupting the business. More staunch “greenies” than this are anathema to those opposing the man-made climate change viewpoint and generally the minds never meet in debate or argument. Those opposing the man-made viewpoint have surprisingly simple reasons for so-doing and it has little to do with correct policy approaches or whether the science is accurate or corrupted to by self serving scientists etc. The simple opposition stems from two main objections. Most of those opposed are small business people who suspect the whole thing is “yet another” beat up to raise “yet another” tax on them. To some extent this is a general agreement on this from all but the greenie extremist since door knocking for a tax handout does little to change weather patterns despite the intention by governments to punish non-green industries with taxes. The second most common objection stems for the reason these people went into business in the first place. Namely they got sick of being told what to do by a boss and simply wanted some economic freedom ,decision making in their own business and run their own way. In this context, climate change laws policies taxes and the like are seen as a gross interference in the working life from outsiders – the general view being that “those” people should stop preaching, pull there head in and stop looking to leech from others to fund there philosophy degree (and other similar arguments) Surprisingly to me most of the small business crowd DO acknowledge the need to act on global warming, they just dont want to be universally scapegoated for it and for this they have my sympathy.These people arent Exxon after all! And for me? I’ll support green initiatives that are 100% self funded, not exploited as a general excuse for people to have extended cafe latte meetings over (Copenhagen anyone?) and that come up with real world active and effective outcomes – the rest is just yabbering radio noise or a fund raising excuse for a poorly managed government budget. If you want to save vanishing species you wont do it sitting on your arse discussing whether to have a cream cake with your coffee.


    • gerard oosterman February 4, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Don’t sit on your arse alright. Why do people frantically fill sandbags while standing knee deep in floods. Is it so difficult to have , at least till levies have been built, millions of sandbags filled already for the next flood?


    • helvityni February 4, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Paragraphs, please…now have your cream cakes with your morning Instant Coffee…


      • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 10:40 am #

        Hahahah Helvis Presley……how did I know it wouldnt take long for you to reply? “love me tender, love me true…” LOL….so does this mean your going to join me at a landcare project?


        • helvityni February 4, 2013 at 10:53 am #

          What was it again you said about Amazonia only yesterday. Not very nice.


          • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 11:18 am #

            Who is Amazonia, and where was this? And does that mean, no you wont join me in a landcare project?


    • Poirot February 4, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      Au contraire, zerograv1.

      The climate “debate” is couched purely in political and economic terms.

      Why are climate scientists the only scientists who are deemed to act in a “supposedly” corrupt manner?

      Because there’s a well planned and funded movement to push that line.


      Because there are a lot of interests at stake in a world where big oil and big business pull the strings….they don’t necessarily wish to see a change in the status quo. It’s very easy to disseminate junk science to a populace that has just enough intelligence to grasp the idea of fraud and corruption. For humans, it’s much easier to doubt the science and buy the crap dished out by denialists, rather than get their collective heft to together and pressure governments.

      So what happens?

      The denialist machine just rolls along despite the fact that thousands upon thousand of scientists publish peer-reviewed material confirming the veracity of AGW (your won’t find much peer-reviewed material in the denialist camp – their main thrust comes from blogs run by people who aren’t climate scientists) 97 percent of climate scientists support AGW

      Here are a few links:

      Click to access 20120803_DicePopSci.pdf


      • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 11:30 am #

        You dont need to convince me, I have done more than enough reading, thinking, researching and observation of real world experiences to convince me that global warming is happening. I “get” that the argument has been hijacked by arguments about money, who pays and the like and political positioning but none of those fights do anything to help. Here in the NT, you can observe first hand the loss of species and the change in particular fauna populations on a fairly brief timeline. Some things like the migration of canetoads westwards from Queensland are responsible for the dramatic drop in native species, other things are due to an increase in average sea temperatures at the equator tending to noticeable changes in the types of species present in the oceans. There is no doubt at all climate change and more extreme weather events are occurring…..the question is what to do about it, and this is where things get log jammed and frustratingly ineffective. (PS most of my first posting summarised the viewpoints of others here in the north, this one is about my views)


  4. propinqua February 4, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Jennifer, you are exactly right. The arguments about religion, philosophy, politics can be interesting, but don’t actually change anything and are unlikely to reach resolution (until its too late, of course). Look at the issue as one of basic risk management – probability and consequence – and the need for meaningful action is unambiguous and incontrovertible. There is not a risk management matrix in the world that would offer a different conclusion.


  5. Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    The upside to AGW is the imminent demise of the species which caused it.
    Of course is the tragic collateral damage.
    One can only hope that inaction which does unleash population reduction is swift and wholesale.Best to extinguish the flame completely methinks,rather than risk a flare up and a further human outbreak later on.

    The greatest moral challenge for me is maintaining my silence,while watching deniers with children,lie to their offspring, knowing full well what they are setting them up for.It’s toss up between the lecture and the silence of acknowledging natural selection as a valid process.Even though in this case it aint so natural, in many ways.
    More reasons to vote Green and live with a clear conscience.


    • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      Oops EDIT:
      Of course THERE is the tragic collateral damage.


    • propinqua February 4, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      There might be some perverse comfort in your upside, except, of course, that the people who contributed least to the problem are likely to suffer most. And some of those who contributed most to the inertia might just have enough wealth and power to defy that valid process of natural selection.


      • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 11:56 am #

        I doubt there is enough money in the world to prevent Antarctic Icebergs drfting north, oceanic islands disappearing, the arctic caps melting and threatening the gulf stream, seaside cities flooding causing a massive refugee migration and food stocks being forced to grow on ever shrinking agricultural land. Money is just a comfortable illusion and bit like love – is blind. Wads of cash doesnt help if their is a) nothing to spend it on or b) the currency deflates alarmingly as in crisis and wartimes – Neither love nor money will sustain life when the chips are down.


      • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

        I agree.That’s the collateral damage I was talking about.
        Their leaders are their only hope.
        The West,especially us,USA ec is not likely to accept wholesale lifestyle modification.
        I see little movement at a rate which indicates a happy ending.
        Call me sad sack if you wish, but that’s my take.
        I wish it was different I really do.Our world climate as we know it approaches destructive levels and there are people who want to see less tits and arse on the way out.
        Do yo see the dilemma?
        Denial V apathy.

        Priorities kids,priorities.
        Short of an uprising by the ‘collateral damage’ (and to me , even sadder, the other species have NO say), it is likely to go as you say, with the rich powerful pricks hanging on till the end.Probably in sumptuous surroundings and plush,climate controlled bunkers.
        Nothing changes.


        • Poirot February 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm #


          If we do experience some sort of future “collapse” due to AGW…the powerful pricks will only enjoy their plush climate controlled bunkers for a very short time. As much as they skim the cream off the system, they need everyone else to be playing their part…as we know, our system is an intricate arrangement.

          I think we should be mindful that whole Western paradigm is living beyond its means. Ordinary Westerners live like royalty in reality. We are wasteful, we consume all the superfluous goods that are thrown our way. We pollute with gay abandon (even if we do it by farming our production out to places like China. We are just as responsible for their pollution as they are, because we turn a blind eye to their environmental controls).

          In short, we are the polluters because we readily consume and consume and waste and pollute – simply from living our lifestyle


          • Jennifer Wilson February 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm #



          • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

            Yep, I know.


  6. hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    People will act when they’re motivated to do so by changes that affect them. The problems are that those changes most people fear will only be manifest at some point when it is too late for us to easily rectify the situation, and that individual actions alone aren’t going to get it done.

    We find ourselves almost congenitally incapable of taking longer term views on anything while immediate pressures prevail, and equally disinclined to act in concert with any group of others beyond our immediate community however we choose to define that these days.

    We need to move to having means in place to insert our concerns into the economic system, possibly with something like the ETS Rudd narrowly failed to introduce, and we need to have real community based carbon targets and negotiation on that level with energy suppliers.

    If we do those two things then I think we at least give ourselves a better chance at improving our whole relationship with energy usage in ways I suspect are going to work.out for the better whether the problem is climate change or peak fossil fuels.

    If we don’t, if we accept that the influence we would need to have requires a more difficult and protracted battle with global corporate power then I think what we’re foolishly doing is conceding to fight the battle under the enemies’ rules of engagement.


    • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Consumer action to stop rewarding with sales the worst of the corporate offenders goes a LONG way, if consumers as a block start voting with their dollars the corporates will chase the sales….the Prius was an example from the car industry previously obstinately opposed to anything electrically powered. Those times have changed and I think there is cause for hope especially if smarter technology can achieve economies of scale savings and produce better and cheaper alternatives to the worst offenders products. It beggars belief that the local power monopoly up here hasnt quickly acted to promote solar power here in near ideal conditions, someone will steal their thunder and their already debt strangled revenue stream will diminish further. PAWA do offer token support for solar installations but its more of a marketing feel good ploy than a serious effort.


      • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

        I find a lot of what I read on this subject frustrating. To just point at “them” (meaning whoever we blame for the problem), and then say another group known as “they” should fix “it” seems to suppose “we” are guiltless but have a transcendent ideology.

        Sustainability always means asking what it is that we want to sustain before we move to assumptions that loosely fit some vaguely vegan, rustic kind of stereotype. The answer so it seems does turn out to be a less wasteful society, but not necessarily one with a lower standard of living. Since higher standards of living correlate so strongly with low population growth it does look like we really need them to address that aspect of sustainability. So energy needs will need to be met, but met far more intelligently, and that means technology change. I see that change as a powerful economic motive to create and procure stuff that frees us from what I think is rapidly coming to be seen as a failed model.

        Ideological thinking may have a small part to play in some quarters, but since magic bullets to fix this don’t exist I think the reality has more to do with shifting economic aspirations towards sustainability as the notion of a thing that we want to have and achieve in our lives. Think of it as the new thin and maybe you’ll get a sense of what I mean.


        • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

          I do get what you mean, and I see your point about magic bulllet thnking, although I need to add to that that new technological inventions are sometimes created by people with a strong desire to cure or ease a perceived problem, they are to some extent magical thinkers…..driven by curiosity, belief and less by by reality as it stood at the time. Lets not quibble though…I did wonder about your statement “Since higher standards of living correlate so strongly with low population growth” though. I wouldnt say this is universal and would argue that extremely unsustainable standards of living (think Rwanda etc) barely manage to achieve a birth replacement rate of 1. China and other state controlled environments also legislate a low population growth and I wouldnt call these places a high standard of living either. In countries with very high standards of living it could be argued that low population rates equate to high living/raising children costs. On another aspects there is a darker viewpoint expressed that climate change and its survivors (in a doomsday scenario) are merely another episode of Darwinism at work. In the middle ages disease was the population cull mechanism, perhaps in our time the climate will be. Who is it that said we are the architects of our lives and arrive exactly were our decision and values wanted us to belong at this moment? The US appears to a living example of what happens to those that venture down the wrong track and forget that money is only a means of exchange not an end in itself, and look how well it worked out for them in the relentless chase for little green pieces of paper?


          • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

            To call technology a “cure” is probably a bit of a stretch. It were as if the answers we provide in the next decade might come from these “magic thinkers” who finally solve the problem, rather than viewing it as a continuous improvement process with changing priorities.

            And to the part about higher standards of living correlating with low population growth, clearly the reverse is not necessarily true in the sense that you might be able to look at anywhere with low population growth and expect a high living standard to have been the sole contributing factor. Obviously for anyone who employs genocide or sterilisation, questions as to whether a moral standard applies to sustainability are probably going to be lost on them. Something that is also the case for those who think Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection excuses the self-centred exceptionalism of a catastrophic Malthusian solution.


        • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

          The other absurdity is that the word “sustainable” immediately turns some people off even though I argue that if for example having a successful business means great profits, food on the table, expenses paid, lifestyle or whatever you would want that to continue and not collapse wouldnt you? Well managed farms are an example of this but try to get a rustic old time farmer to swallow that word and they will struggle – its just automatically too “greenie” for them. So perhaps alternative jargon or linguistic expression is called for.


          • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

            Business and advertising have bastardised the word sustainable in the same way Gillard has bastardised the term, ‘fair’.


          • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

            Not that I know that there are that many rustic old time farmers left, but I’m not so sure we’re at a point where they’re the ones doing the most harm overall.

            As for “sustainability”, as words that have perhaps undeserved negative connotations go, its right up there with “Green”. But to the extent that it does at least lend itself to the question, “what is it that you want to sustain?” then I think it may be a useful kind of term.


          • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

            Why should we change the terminology?
            Do you really think that will sway anyone?
            Lead a horse to water…..
            I see the next generation of farmers as having the same reluctance, so waiting for natural attrition does not seem to be solution either.
            I come from a farming background and have worked at the coal face in agriculture and whilst there is a divide between city and country, quite frankly the farming lobby are happy to stay isolated within it.The majority of of our farmers are AGW deniers, anyway.

            I still have uncles farming in the wheat-belt who think all trees are a nuisance, and if you look at WA you will see the the number one cause the rural lobby wants is land clearing laws relaxed.This in a state rife with salinity and in drought stress cycles year after year.
            The farming community has a minuscule amount of sustainable land managers and yet the lobbyists claim they are green custodians every time they want a handout.
            My heart goes out to dairy farmers with small to medium herds,The rest are factories.
            Broad-acre farmers are nothing but exporters who smash square kilometres into submission.
            And dairy farmers / vegetable growers / orchardists / market gardeners are IMO a separate case to broad acre farmers.Yet the political arm of Ag lobbying likes to blur the lines.Just like the Shooters and Fishers Party does.Disingenuous.
            There are only a tiny amount of broad acre farmers ‘who put food on my plate’ but that does not stop the rest claiming that they do, and so therefore they deserve special treatment, subsidies etc.
            Reality>Large scale farming in many places is far more damaging and unsustainable than mining.


        • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

          Sadly there is a mirage the red-necks like to create of cave dwelling Greens, (who only exist in the minds of the accusers).
          Most of those who walk the ‘consume less’ ,’reduce footprint’ walk, don’t rub other peoples noses in affirmative actions they may have undertaken.

          I find it a bit rich have the worlds largest gun culture,car culture,consumer culture,breeding culture,religious zealot culture having a wagging finger at China etc.
          A bit like Dennis Leary’s take on Keith Richards lecturing people to avoid drugs.As Dennis said,what drugs Keith?You used them all up in the sixties.

          I think there is a great deal of wanton behaviour in the denier camp which goes well beyond simple denial.It is almost an anti earth, anti environment cult, where everything must stand aside for the relentless march of the humans ordained evolutionary outcome.
          It’s like the ‘cane toads have become the victim’ mentality.


          • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

            Yes there are an amazing array of ways we construe to convince ourselves that whatever it is that we want to believe is going to be okay!


      • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

        The energy supply seems to be based on compensating the owners of the grid/supply/big polluters etc, and punishing consumers.
        It’s all futile, without big picture visions,long term plans and human population should be the first three items on any top five list.
        The privatisation of utilities is reason for rioting in the streets.Wars will be fought on supply issues in the near future.China is at the cross roads of development and human health
        Wars and conflict over water are probably even closer at hand.

        Banging head meet thick brick wall.


    • Poirot February 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      Talking of peak fossil fuels…we are now going to greater lengths to extract oil.

      We are getting worse in the pollution stakes.

      Canada is a case in point. Long thought of as a place of much pristine beauty, it’s now become the home of the single most polluting industry on the planet in the Athabasca Tar Sands development.

      There is now a sizable movement in the US trying to halt the Keystone XL pipeline from being extended into the US…and Canada’s government has become gung-ho in its efforts to oppose any international agreement on climate mitigation.


      • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

        According to QI ostriches don’t bury their head in the sand when confronted. Apparently it is only humans.


  7. Sam Jandwich February 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    Well I haven’t read the foregoing but I just thought I’d say, secretly I feel that I’m probably an economist at heart – it’s just that I think most economists are pretty small-minded.

    But one person whose work I really like is Jorgen Randers, who around 1970 initiated serious global debate on the subject of sustainability of growth in the face of resource depletion and environmental degradation. He was recently in Australia to launch his new book, 2052, in which he sets out a projection of what he thinks the world economy etc will look like in 40 years.

    And basically jennifer your views are identical to his: we know what we need to do to mitigate climate change, and we know how much damage it will do once it starts getting serious – but we will nonetheless sit by and what it happen because as a species we simply don’t have what it takes to come together and do anything substantial to combat it until it starts seriously hurting us.

    But then, isn’t this the universal human condition? Recently a friend of mine fell ill, but decided it wasn’t serious and that he’d just get better eventually. When he finally got to the point where he couldn’t hold down anything he ate he decided to go to the doctor, whereupon it was discovered that he had cancer and had 12 months to live at the most.

    But isn’t this the way? we do what we can, we go with the flow, but we’re not always smart enough to take others’ advice or learn from their mistakes. Ho hum, we’ll just become another part of the fossil record eventually. Is that really such a problem?


    • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      If our fate is fossil bound I’d like it to be quick and selective.But I doubt it will be either.We have lost more than we knew we had already.I find it hard to watch Attenborough any more,in the knowledge that a huge slab of the wildlife he has tried to get us to reconnect to(and their life support systems) have gone since the shows were filmed.
      It is not the greed of Chinese medicine or mining which is the enemy,it’s the landslide of the witnesses,(us) as we slide from complacency,to apathy to DILLIGAF.


      • Jennifer Wilson February 4, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

        Every time I see another species my grandchildren will never know I feel powerless despair. I don’t know how we can deal with humans who care only about their own welfare and not that of the generations who follow us.


        • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

          We have to watch out for the frogs and the Polar Bears, but me I’m not too fussed over rabbits and cane toads going….

          At any rate there appear to have been quite a lot of species we missed along the way to evolving into our many and various modern forms. So maybe we should entertain those statistics claiming the demise of biodiversity with some degree of caution, given we’re not entirely sure as to the rate at which it morphs into other versions of itself.

          Not that I don’t agree with your sentiment. I do. I think most of us feel that way, but when the data is big and our understanding small we could be accused of feeling our way to the solution that best appeals when the smarter thing to do is counter intuitive. Otherwise how can I say that a coal miners’ intuition to assume a prerogative to pollute is incorrect and mine to adopt the precautionary principle is right. Pretending certainty without evidence being an almost categorically religious practice I reserve the right to decline…..

          I’m going with proper sceptics don’t let boneheads calling themselves “climate sceptics” tell us how to think about stuff. So no I’m not swallowing Gore’s Schtick whole, but nor should we react by assuming that God will fix nature by magic, because I’m thinking in that case the only miracle that happens is the one when we disappear!

          At least until the Polar Bears quit mating with Grizzlies because morphing into mocha bears seems preferable to watery oblivion….

          So while we’re on the subject of the environment and Polar regions…Did I just bring that in to segue? Anyway this is impressive no matter how you look at it


          • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

            When you can convince that the precautionary principle is not worth its salt,I guess I’ll give up entirely.But for now I will just teeter on the brink.


            • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

              I don’t think any of us are much differently inclined.

              One thing that may influence you however is the notion that this shouldn’t really be argued as just climate change. We’ve almost certainly passed peak oil, and the coal isn’t going to last forever either. So arguments for technology change are doubly important and, I think, all the more worth taking real note of. Because as finite resources do start to dwindle anyone who has watched the progress of the geopolitics of oil over the year knows that it could end very badly for us.


              • Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

                Good luck convincing the share holders, in their fading years, to switch missions.
                I agree about what we know and what we agree on, but preaching to the converted is futile, and unfortunately the wealth mongers want t throw a big wad of passengers over the side of the lifeboats, to accommodate their gold bullion, etc.
                I admit to being a person you not would reach out to to seek a positive solution on this,because my idealism (DQs take) does not stretch that far,I’m afraid.
                I see only one outcome and the only scenario I see as flexible is the time-frame.
                At some point I will probably drop out of this conversation for that very reason, and let others draw a picture of where the reachable hope lies.

                Readers could revisit Gotye’s song “Eyes Wide Open”.
                I have posted the lyrics here before.
                Profound and accurate.


                • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

                  Did you read the first post I wrote on the topic?

                  I think there are ways that will work, and then there’s idealism, and there’s daylight between the two.


              • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

                I think its important to recognise that its mainly the US and its companies we tend to focus on. There is great work being done on Tidal power, Geothermal, Solar, Wind and other alternatives world wide and some have real world production in place on a commercial scale. The thing is the Canadians and Texans believe oil sands extends peak oil 50 years so they arent going to come over any time soon. I still think market prices will be the final determinate of which technology dominates especially now the idea of oil companies buying up competing technologies has now been broken. Oil sands are 3 times more expensive to recover and still have to compete with other suppliers, but be aware an Australian company made a major announcement last week on potentially the 3rd biggest ever oil discovery in the world. Oil is here to stay, we need to look at all factors contributing to climate change and work with what can be done, and do your best with the rest. Its not hopeless, it just requires marketing and hopefully engagement of the western worlds love affair with new technology and smart ideas.


                • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

                  If you believe that oil is in the least but easy to get then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Not to mention that anyone who estimates a deposit at somewhere between 3.5 to 233 million barrels really ought just to have admitted they didn’t know.

                  We hope oil will be around for a while because we need it to make a number of important products none of which we’d dream of setting fire to. But otherwise as a fuel…. let’s just say I think facing an inevitability is healthier than ignoring it.

                  It has always seemed surprising the amount of time, effort, money and lives we’re willing to spend fighting over oil when we could have just putt up a whole load of wind farms, plus a few solar arrays and stayed home. I think we ought to get some sense from that, why it is that we don’t want to tempt fate by waiting until is is even nearly too late.


                  • zerograv1 February 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

                    The number of people committed to alternatives is miniscule compared to the convenience shoppers who dont really care too much as long as the lights switch on and the car runs. Apathy from the worldwide population is the biggest single problem, again I maintain influence the markets and the companies will follow and chase sales


                    • hudsongodfrey February 4, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

                      So give ’em something to shop for. Solar panels at never before seen prices…. Second hand Tesla, one little only lady owner only used to drive to coven on Sundays.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      It isn’t such a problem that we’ll become another part of the fossil record. What’s the problem is the process involved in us becoming that, and the hideous miseries that await my descendants.


    • Poirot February 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm #


      Have you read E.F. Schumacher’s 70’s classic “Small is Beautiful”?

      If we had a few more economists like him, we wouldn’t be in such a sorry state.


  8. Hypocritophobe February 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Another problem which haunts the topic is the infestation of the denier trolls.The ABC allows the most insane conversations to occur.I expect anti science in some quarters but not the public broadcaster.If no real alternative science is brought to the table by deniers,the ABC should not enable misinformation.The issue is about whether the planet can sustain the climactic consequences being manifested.The time for trolling is well over.
    Hence my acceptance of the inevitable.I agree with JW.
    Foisting this knowingly on millions is a criminal act,akin to nuclear holocaust, in both scale and time span.Possibly worse, for many people / species.
    Denier speech is not something which has earned the right to claim a status under the ‘free speech’ banner.

    I don’t need any more evidence than the universal science which confirms the anecdotal and lived experience of millions of generational witnesses.Quite frankly the big picture items of consumption,waste and population needed addressing anyway and have for decades.AGW was a call to arms which has fallen on deaf ears.The get out of jail card we were handed has been set aside as dunny paper for the greedy, as they flush away the future on millions (if not billions) of innocents.
    Share holders are the problem.They have the benefit of safety in numbers as they reach for the Pontius Pilate clause, whenever it comes to environmental custodianship.


  9. doug quixote February 5, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    Well said Jennifer. An excellent article.


  10. Gracie February 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    What an absolute load of rubbish that article was.


    • Hypocritophobe February 6, 2013 at 12:23 am #

      You should read these then Gracie.Right up your alley.
      If your brain doesn’t slide out your arse,then you never had one.

      And don’t look now, but you’re Graeme Bird.


      • hudsongodfrey February 6, 2013 at 8:05 am #

        I thought we talked about feeding ’em?

        Bird, by the way turned up over at Bob’s place and made a right mess of itself. Took the kind of liberties that probably resulted in the ruination of the Drum given that their moderators put up with people’s crap so that we don’t have to.


    • Poirot February 6, 2013 at 1:23 am #

      Gracie gets the award for “Denialist of the Day”

      Good one ,Gracie…perhaps you’d be more at home over at Watts Up With That or Jo Nova’s…..those sites are full of people who gather together in denialist hysteria and buy the fullsome garbage regurgitated by people who aren’t climate scientists.

      Off you go now : )


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