Quite suddenly, the politics of climate has changed
Despite the storm clouds there was a thumping turnout at the second climate strike in Sydney today, and the same riot of colour and shouting as last time. The message of the protest, which was the same as it was last time and will be the next, and the time after that, is this: “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now.” Some among us grown-ups hanging towards the back were feeling a little teary, as the truth of this protest is that we have utterly failed the next generation, and bequeathed them a diabolical mess to fix. Among those grown-ups was Tim Flannery, head of the Climate Council, with his young school-age son. Something has changed in the politics around climate, Flannery agrees, which carries hope even for a scientist who has been researching and writing on the subject for a quarter of a century.
“I’m just so happy to see them out there and doing it,” says Flannery. “The amount of despair that young people feel today with this crisis can be immobilising. So to see people out getting angry and demonstrating is bloody fantastic.”
He adds, “It’s a sign of disgust with politics, the fact that people can lie openly and there’s no redress; the fact that inaction is so deeply embedded and that lobbyists seem to rule the roost rather than the voices of the people,”
Australia has been talking about climate change for at least 30 years. “It’s been a long, slow process of educating people and reaching out to people, that’s for sure,” says Flannery, author of works including The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, who has arguably done more than any other Australian to do just that. “But beyond that, now the climate crisis is very real to people. We see the results in our everyday life, in terms of the climate changing around us, so it really has got to the point now where people are demanding action.”
We’ve had droughts before, we’ve had record hot summers before, but something feels new. “That’s right,” Flannery says, “I think it is the frequency of those events. Also, people have the capacity to understand what’s driving this change now. This has been a slow burn for a long time now, and young people have felt totally disempowered, and the disgust that they feel at our generation for doing nothing is very palpable, and it’s just so important that we be seen to do the right thing at this very late stage in the day.”
The momentum is building and things have changed from a decade ago, when John Howard toyed with introduction of an emissions trading scheme that his heart wasn’t in, and Kevin Rudd welshed on a promise to address the great moral challenge of this century. The RBA deputy governor, Guy Debelle, gave a landmark speech this week on the implications of climate change for monetary policy – and therefore the whole economy – and it followed a call by the stock exchange for increasing disclosure of climate risk, which will put corporate Australia well and truly on notice.
In the media, perhaps the blinding false-balance blinkers will come off at last – climate denialism will be found only in cranky echo chambers and among devil’s advocates in dusty old corners of the mainstream media. The rest of us will get on with reporting the facts. There is a fresh determination among those who caught on to the implications of climate change long ago. This week The Guardian raised more than $100,000 in two days from readers to fund their climate coverage, after a powerful history lesson from editor-in-chief Lenore Taylor. Crikeydevoted [$] a special “Slow Burn” edition to climate change yesterday.
In terms of getting on the right side of history, there are three long-run drivers for more aggressive climate action: the planet’s climate gets increasingly scary; the solutions get progressively cheaper; and the by-and-large elderly science-deniers slowly die off.
The dinosaurs who think the kids protesting today have been brainwashed should take a look in the mirror.
“At a time where the vast majority of Australians see politics as fiercely divided, the irony is, I’ve made friendships that I believe will be lifelong on both sides of the chamber and am extremely proud of that.”
The number of Sydney Harbours’ worth of water used to irrigate cotton crops in the Murray-Darling Basin last year, according to The Australia Institute, while towns downstream ran out of drinking water.
“The Opposition accepts that the panel is constrained by the current legislative provisions, but no longer has confidence that these provisions have the capacity to deliver the wages growth that the lowest paid workers, and our economy, require … A fair wage system is fundamental to a stronger economy too. Everything is going up except for wages.”
“The sound of billiard balls is comforting, familiar. Hard to mistake that cascade of clicks as one ball hits another, then hits another, with anything else. But what would you expect synthetic human tissue, as on ‘Interior with Billiard Balls & Synthetic Fat’, to sound like? Like a syrup being poured? Like a set jelly wobbling? And in the absence of any knowledge of the object’s sonic qualities, how do we know what to listen for?”
“It’s an extraordinary thing that one of the great ladies of the American stage and screen has been lured to Melbourne to head the cast of 33 Variations at the Comedy Theatre. What has brought Ellen Burstyn – an actress with a career that spans 60 years – here to perform in a local production of the show that took Broadway by storm with Jane Fonda in the lead?”
“Mark Latham is a man of rare abilities. Not many of those abilities are positive, but that doesn’t stop them from being impressive. Few people, for example, can make left-wingers reminisce about the reign of John Howard with gratitude, or make them feel sorry for Chris Kenny. But Latham’s strongest super-villain power is to make other hacks write about him. It’s one I feel myself resisting right now. After all, I’m late to the party, and the police have already been called.”
Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
Despite the storm clouds there was a thumping turnout at the second climate strike in Sydney today, and the same riot of colour and shouting as last time. The message of the protest, which was the same as it was last time and will be the next, and the time after that, is this: “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now.” Some among us grown-ups hanging towards the back were feeling a little teary, as the truth of this protest is that we have utterly failed the next generation, and bequeathed them a diabolical mess to fix. Among those grown-ups was Tim Flannery, head of the Climate Council, with his young school-age son. Something has changed in the politics around climate, Flannery agrees, which carries hope even for a scientist who has...