Oz Blog News Commentary

Will the media twig now?

November 8, 2019 - 10:10 -- Admin

Although similar
things have happened before with regard to the danger we face from climate
change, they have never been this large: More than 11,000 scientists from 153
countries around the world have put their names to a scientific paper
explaining the extreme danger the world faces1,2,3. For Australia,
this is on top of a petition presented to parliament signed by over 400,000
people urging the Coalition government to declare a climate emergency,
something that they voted down last month4.

It has been clear that
the climate is changing at least since the first Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) report, which came out in 19905. Indeed, the
First World Climate Conference, held in Geneva in 1979 had rung alarm-bells over
a decade earlier1,2. The predictions in the 1990 report were pretty
close to what has been observed since then4. However, over the last
few of years, it has become clear that the pace of change has increased. Global
Average Temperature, Ocean heat content, the number of extreme weather events
are all increasing faster than previously1,2. In addition, Arctic
sea ice and glacier thickness are decreasing at a faster rate than previously.
Records of the Greenland ice mass and Antarctic ice mass do not go back beyond
2002, so rate comparison is impossible. However, the mass of the Greenland ice
is decreasing at a rate of 261 billion tonnes per annum, while that of
Antarctica is decreasing at a rate of 123 billion tonnes per annum1,2.

Will this eventually
make a difference to the Australian political scene, and especially to the
numerous climate change deniers in the Coalition? I suspect not. Their parties
are paid too much by the likes of Gina Rinehart and other billionaires and
millionaires to ignore science and to keep the fossil fuel subsidies flowing.
One hopes that it will make a difference to members of the Labor Party who
often seem reluctant to call out the deniers in the Coalition for fear of being
wedged somehow. There is no hope with vegetative halfwits like One Notion, who
are impervious to knowledge, let alone evidence of any sort.

I suspect that the
only way the Australian political scene will be made to notice is if the
mainstream media realises how dire the situation is in which we humans find
ourselves. Given that a large proportion of them (i.e. mostly NewsCorp media)
have been denying the science for as long as the Coalition, I suspect it will
make no difference to them at all. This is because, as Naomi Oreskes has
demonstrated, discrediting science is a political strategy, used by
corporations to prevent or slow action in dealing with the deleterious result
of their products. It worked for the tobacco industry (lung cancer), the
chlorofluorocarbon industry (ozone hole), and now the fossil fuel industry6.
The non-Murdoch remainder of the commercial mainstream media are so bereft of
any concerns except selling advertising and making do with fewer journalists,
that it is unlikely they would be capable of interpreting the paper by Ripple
et al. (2019)1,2, as there are so many more important stories about
tennis, cricket, the Melbourne Cup and flammable cladding on buildings, to name
a few. Indeed, much of the mainstream media including the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation seems to think that science is just a matter of
opinion and that while the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree
that global warming is an existential threat, some other scientists don’t seem
to. Almost all of those ‘scientists’ either work for or are paid indirectly by
the fossil fuel industry, and yet much media gives them equal time. This is
exactly how the fossil fuel industry’s denialism system operates, by creating
doubt in the minds of the ignorant. The problem is that many of the ignorant
are journalists.

Despite well over 30
years of global climate negotiations, we have gone blithely on largely conducting
business as usual, while failing to even consider addressing the problem in any
serious way. Now the climate crisis has arrived and it is accelerating faster and
is more severe than most scientists expected. It not only threatens ecosystems,
but humanity itself1. Especially concerning are the feedback cycles7,
which seem to have begun already, much earlier than expected8,9.
These could lead to a catastrophic runaway global warming which will be well
beyond the control of humans. These could destroy some ecosystems, economies
and societies, and could make large areas of the Earth uninhabitable. Some of
those uninhabitable parts of the world will likely be in Australia.

When it becomes
obvious to the denialist politicians in parliament that climate change is real
and that it is an existential threat, they will likely say something like: ‘we
didn’t know it was so serious’ or ‘why didn’t the scientists tell us earlier’
or ‘the scientists should have made it clearer’ or ‘we only did what we were elected
to do’. They will blame anyone and everyone but themselves. The concept of
evidence is alien to them, as is the concept of leadership. One relatively new word
makes it into the Ripple et al. (2019) paper which I have used elsewhere10,
and that is ‘ecocide’, and it is in the context of litigation. Ecocide should
rank, not as a litigation topic, but as a crime against humanity. This is because
the global warming deniers, in preventing or delaying action, have effectively
aided and abetted ecocide, and will have given us a planet on which many
millions will be displaced or will die. It will make the crimes of Hitler,
Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot seem like chicken feed by comparison. Litigation is not
sufficient to punish these deniers; they need to face criminal justice for
their crimes against humanity.

The fact that so many
scientists have signed a paper detailing the data is something that should wake
the media up to the catastrophic threat we face. If they do not than they are
complicit in this crime against humanity.


  2. Ripple, W.J., 2019. World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency.
    BioScience biz088,