16 December 2019
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Greta's 'I'm mad' speech got me thinking

Anyone who was not impressed by the communication skill and passion of climate-activist Greta Thunberg has a one-eye problem. That said there is a one-eyed infectious disease troubling the world that regularly shows up on Twitter and programs like Q&A where anyone who questions the much-loved, left-leaning paradigm gets booed.

I hate booing. I was once a victim of a heckler at a speech and it was really off-putting because I’d never dealt with a publicly rude person where I couldn’t, for large audience reasons, use my high male IQ and simply tell him to “f--k off!” It’s such a multi-useful comeback but at a business speech where I’m analysing the economy, business responses and government policy, I needed to look much more wise.

I have to say one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes focused in on Jerry being booed and heckled on stage. He got even by going to the workplace of the heckler, who he knew, and started to heckle and boo her for being a second-rate employee!

She regarded it as outrageous and that’s because heckling is seen as acceptable in comedy but it still is unfair. Similarly, dumb right-wingers and left-wingers should be spared booing, though I’m not prepared to cut Nazis and paedophiles the same tolerance!

The point is in an intelligent society we have to be tolerant of what we might see as silly views held by people who seriously think they’re thoughts are intelligent, no matter how crazy they might be.

Clearly, you can tear apart the arguments that they use to justify their ideas but we have to refrain from demonizing minority or even majority views.

For example, in a survey by British Social Attitudes — bsa.natcen.ac.uk — the conclusion was that most Britons “think climate change is at least partly caused by humans.” However, “the vast majority acknowledge a human component in climate change, but relatively few agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conclusion that it is mainly caused by humans.”

Here were the findings on what Britons thought about climate change:

  • 95% think climate change is at least partly due to human activity when asked about relative contributions of human and natural causes.
  • 36% say climate change is “mainly” or “entirely” due to human activity.
  • 53% think human and natural causes are equally to blame.
  • Just 2% claim that climate change definitely is not happening.

For those looking for the factually correct answer on our role in climate change, let me assure you it’s not easy and what you think is a matter of faith in some critically important areas. Of course, faith is always important when the question is more complex than “what do I get if I mix two molecules of hydrogen with one molecule of oxygen?”

For those who have been thrown by me using the word “molecule”, I am just talking about making water.

Faith is critical when answering most really hard questions such as:

  • Is there a God?
  • Will I be a great parent?
  • How bad is our input into climate change?
  • How much do we have to change what we do each day to help the climate?
  • And should a small total emitter of greenhouse gases, like Australia, be forced to restrict their economic processes when big emitters like China and India are cut a lot of slack because they are ‘developing’ economies.

I understand how it’s fair to give late developers a chance to play economic catchup but we are talking about a climate perilously in danger, if we accept those who have educated Greta.

Meanwhile we are a small total polluter but per head we’re big and so it’s a philosophical issue that we should lead the way in reforming the world’s bad habits. However, any reforms we make will be of low real value to the climate’s repair but it could create job losses and bankruptcies in the process.

These are the many issues our politicians have to take on board and dealing with the competing interests have proved too hard, however, the political party that is least committed to aggressive policy changes to fight climate change just had a pretty good election win.

This Lowy Institute chart shows plenty of Aussies are worried about climate change. Rounding the numbers it looks like about 60% of us are in the “we should do something meaningful and fast” group while about 40% are either in the “let’s make changes gradually” or in the “not sure about it so go away!” cohort.

The problem with the climate change debate is that there isn’t a debate. Controversial scientific dissenters are not treated with academic respect and one guy, Peter Ridd, was got rid of by James Cook Uni for questioning the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

The great poet, William Blake, in a more poetic way once told us that “without controversy there is no progress” but if dissenters are shouted down then a lot of people will take the Warren Buffett advice that “if you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it.”

There is a large group of people in the middle who might be cautiously sceptical about a subject like climate change and what needs to be done to fix it but if the aggressive tribalism of the climate activists prevails many of this large group will keep their views to themselves until they go into the polling booth.

Many modern voters are not playing ball with surveyors nowadays as if they fear being called a racists, a climate change denier and all of the other insults older, more conservative people get accused of being.

I wrote a book called The Carbon Crunch which former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made unsellable after he backed down on his own policy putting the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme “on ice”. And one big realization that has become apparent to me since I did the research for that book was that no leader really believes in the cause and that’s because they’re scared of what the voters of Australia really think of a policy that could really be personally expensive.

It’s like that old saying that everyone would like to be known for their generosity but they don’t want to give anything away to actually earn it!

I’m on a unity ticket with Voltaire or whoever really said this: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Greta’s “I’m mad as hell” speech might lift the level of the climate debate. Let’s hope so.

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