It's too hard to understand climate change


There is a great line in the Dan Brown novel, Angels & Demons, when Robert Langdon is speaking with the Camerlengo in the Vatican regarding the existence of God.

Langdon says, as an academic, he’ll never understand God, and his heart says he’s not meant to.

Without wanting to be too melodramatic, this sums up my feelings towards climate change.

To be frank, I’d love to believe in climate change.  It’s a popular idea, and it’s one that, if you can discuss it using lots of long-winded terminology, you can often sound very intelligent.  But the real problem for me is that I’m not a climatologist, a scientist, a geologist, a marine biologist, or anything else that ends with ‘ist’.

I’m a public relations consultant.  Which, unfortunately, means I tend to investigate the effectiveness of the message, rather than the message itself.  However, this led me to the problem I have with climate change.

Exhibit A is a media release Senator Bob Brown issued on the 15th of December 2006.  It says, "From melting polar ice to the spectre of permanent drought in previously productive farmlands, the report makes clear that climate change is not just a future threat, it is damaging Australia now."

The implication I take from this is clear.  Climate change means things are getting hotter which means less rain, warmer temperatures, less ice, and more droughts.  The world is warming so watch out!

It’s simple, to the point, and very well said.  Even an ignoramus like me can understand it.

Exhibit B, however, causes a few problems for Exhibit A.  That’s because Exhibit B is a quote from Bob Brown in The Australian on January 17 saying the coal industry should help pay for the Queensland flood damage because burning coal is a major cause of global warming, which caused the floods.

The sound you just heard was me banging my head against my desk.

I confess, I’m not a terribly smart guy, but can you seriously have it both ways?  If the floods are caused by significant rainfall, yet according to Brown’s own media release, climate change could lead to a permanent drought, surely there is a missing link somewhere?

And this is the problem!  If it’s hot, climate change advocates will cry, “Well, it’s never been this hot.”

If it’s cold, climate change advocates will say, “Well, it’s never been this cold.”

Maybe, if you were to remark “temperatures are normal today” they might reply, “Well, it’s never been this normal.”

As I said before, I don’t understand the science behind climate change.  So if Australia’s leading climate change warrior can provide such mixed messages on the topic, what hope have I of believing his message?

When you add this to the fact that floods of similar proportion to the ones devastating south-east Queensland occurred previously in 1974, 1893 and 1841, I have a hard time believing that this time climate change caused the floods, while the others were just random.

Unfortunately this leaves me in a tough spot, because siding with climate change sceptics is risky business.

For example, Exhibit C is a letter by climate change advocate and former Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Higgins, Clive Hamilton.  He writes that, “Your dad's job is to try to stop the government making laws to reduce Australia's carbon pollution… because of their pollution, lots of people, mostly poor people, are likely to die.”

So, in the opinion of one climate change advocate, not believing in man-made climate change is the equivalent of not caring that people (and poor people at that!) will die.

Just hold on a minute while I make a shocking declaration:

“I don’t want poor people to die!!!”

Which hereby presents my dilemma:  Some advocates say one thing, and when the opposite happens, they blame climate change anyway.  Add to that, if you don’t agree with them, one of them might write in a public forum that you’re condoning the death of poor people. That would make even Lindsay Lohan pause and take thought.

Yet thousands of good scientists all over the world swear by this man made climate change thing.  Did you know around 15,000 delegates and 5,000 journalists attended the Copenhagen climate change conference?

Am I, with my PR degree and Grad Dip in Theology, really going to stand here and say “Er… excuse me.  I’m terribly sorry to trouble you but… well… you see… the thing is… I disagree.”

The answer is: I don’t know.  But my overarching message to climate change advocates is taken straight out of Pauline Hanson’s playbook:

“Please explain.”

Something tells me I’ll never understand climate change… and perhaps I’m not meant to.  But I’d sure like to!

This article first appeared on The Punch.

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Robert Langdon
Robert Langdon studied symbols,
not climate change.

Bob Brown doesn't mind having a bet each way.
Lindsay Lohan is famous for her... apathy.