People haven’t stopped caring about climate change
It was refreshing to hear something new in the public debate on climate change today. Liberal frontbencher Chris Pyne told Sky News: “If a modern political party wants to be taken seriously it cannot be a climate change sceptic party”.
Is there any issue which draws more predictable responses from people than climate change? The mere mention of it sparks a round of boring twaddle as folks argue from fixed positions over whether the latest news shows climate change is caused by people or even real - or, most hilariously, a massive conspiracy cooked up by an evil network of thousands of scientists with a twisted sense of humour.
But there’s one thing surely everyone agrees on. If sea levels rise and rain stops falling, we are all totally and utterly screwed. So we should probably deal with it.
That should be the starting point for public policy on this issue, and that’s what Pyne seems to grasp.
If it turns out that climate change is a big furphy then, by all means, let’s send an angry mob down to some science departments and abolish environment departments in government.
But for the moment there appears to be a risk of famines and towns falling into the sea and the appropriate response in that situation is to do something to avoid it.
Today the Lowy Institute reported that climate change has fallen down the nation’s list of concerns. We’re more worried about the economy and jobs now, the survey found.
But that’s probably to be expected given how the global economy almost collapsed. And Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan keep reminding everyone that the crisis hasn’t fully passed.
If your car is about to run out of petrol, you don’t worry if there are potholes on the road up ahead.
On top of this, people concerned about Australia taking action on climate change have also seen their worries being acted on by the government. Many who would have listed it as a priority a few years ago will have had those concerns addressed by the ratification of Kyoto and the preparations to start a carbon trading scheme that will be among the first of its kind in the world.
For some the Lowy findings were evidence that people don’t care as much about the environment. But with action being taken (if you like, read: taxpayers’ money being spent) on climate change and an economy in crisis it’s only natural it will go down the list of worries as a result.
It doesn’t mean people don’t care about it anymore.
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