I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I can’t even bear to watch it on iView – an hour and forty minutes of Nick Minchin and Anna Rose debating climate science, followed by another hour of Q&A panel discussion.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think the ABC should be commissioning such a documentary, certainly not in such a format. But if the ABC are going to persist in indulging climate deniers, climate activists like Anna Rose are faced with a choice – should they engage?
Rose makes the case for engagement, on the basis that climate denialists haven’t gone away:
For a long time, many environmental groups and scientists tried ignoring the climate sceptics. The argument had traditionally been: ‘If we tackle them head on, they’ll get more airtime.’ Others had been willing to challenge sceptics by exposing their sources of funding and the dirty tactics they used, such as the sending of threatening emails to climate scientists and activists. But that strategy only worked for so long and, by 2011, climate sceptics and deniers were dominating talkback radio, the daily tabloids, and our national newspaper, The Australian. The “ignore them and they will go away” strategy had clearly failed. In many cases, sceptics were getting media attention whether or not environmentalists responded. Perhaps it was time to try a new approach.
It was a flawed format, for sure. But it was still an opportunity to reach those Australians who still had questions about climate change science – people who many environment groups had struggled to communicate with for years. This was a chance to highlight to them both the strength of climate science and the weakness of those who refused to accept the evidence.
Ultimately, what convinced me was the fact that the program was going ahead anyway. It was clear that the production team would find someone willing to debate Nick if I said no. If the show was going to happen, it may as well be me. I’d changed the minds of sceptics before in one-on-one conversations, and I’d try my hardest to do it again on this larger scale.
I’ll concede the point in the last paragraph.
But, on the earlier point, I think a better strategy is to engage on the question of “what should we do about climate change” rather than “does human-induced climate change exist”.
Let’s note that, despite lots of wink-wink-nudge-nudge from the Coalition, their official policy is still to make a 5% cut in Australia’s emissions by 2020. Yes, this is a manifestly inadequate target, but it indicates that they concede that there is a problem, or at least a risk that must be managed.
Then the question is not “is climate change a problem”, it’s “what should we do about it”.
And the success of Tony Abbott’s attack on the carbon price isn’t really, I suspect, deep-down skepticism about the science in most cases. It’s the the fear – inadvertently aided and abetted by climate activists who want far faster and costlier action than what the government is proposing – that the carbon tax will send us all broke. Get over that threshold fear, which will almost certainly happen once the carbon price is introduced, and my bet is that a lot of “climate skepticism” will evaporate.
So where does that leave us?
For what it’s worth, I reckon that we should all just wait for July 1, and when that momentous day comes around, note that the sky hasn’t fallen in, and then start the push for more ambitious action by pointing out not only are those opposing action wrong on the science, they’re wrong on the economics as well.