Sean Kelly used to be an advisor to prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and he is now a columnist for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. In the latter, he has written a piece1 which explains in a much more pointed way something I tried to express earlier2, after the publication of the paper by Ripple and others3. He also shows that the sort of ‘balanced’ approach used by Emerson in his idiotic piece in the Australian Financial Review where he pillories both sides in the ‘climate wars’, is badly mistaken, something I also had a crack at4.
While the Murdoch media can be discounted as retaining any semblance of being a news organisation, it is the 9, ABC and SBS news outlets which have disappointed the most, by either not understanding the scale of the calamity we face, or being prevented from doing so. The latter stems from the unrelenting political interference in the editorial processes of the ABC.
The political arguments over such topics as the Ensuring Integrity union bashing bill, the Religious Freedom bill ensuring religious bigotry and hate speech continues, or the repeal of the Medevac legislation which will make asylum seekers suffer more and likely die earlier, will affect many hundreds or thousands of people and make their lives more miserable or shorter. However, climate change is an existential threat certainly to millions and likely to billions of people. There is one important lesson that the media desperately needs to understand, and that is: ever since the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out in 1990, and predicted that there would be an increase in global average temperature of 1 degree C by 2025, these reports have underestimated the pace of change. That is because the pace of change is increasing5. That is because any compilation by a group of scientists tends to err on the side of caution, such that the predictions are conservative. Some of the more recent climate modelling indicates that the aim of the Paris Accord to cap the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees C is a forlorn hope, because it requires drastic action to curb emissions now6. Given the denialism of numerous governments, including our own, that is unlikely to happen. We have to realise, as Sean Kelly says, that ‘catastrophic events are on their way’1. When will others in the media realise, as Kelly has, that a dire future faces us and we are heading for catastrophe, and that giving deniers ‘equal time’ or any kind of platform for their ignorant opinions is complicity?
- Ripple, W.J. et al., 2019. World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency. BioScience biz088, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088