Election 2013 media panel

Will the media convince Australians to sacrifice their kids’ futures on a false economic altar?

Drexel School of Public Health--Child Artwork, Global Climate Change

Most parents will tell you that they would do anything to protect their children. Many would go as far as to sacrifice their own life to save their child’s. This is said to be part of ‘human nature’.

Climate change is the biggest global threat to the health and wellbeing of our kids and grandkids. It is the biggest global health threat of this century.

Current national and international emission reduction commitments are nowhere near enough.

Given this you would think that the majority of parents and grandparents would be demanding policies that adequately protect the children of today and tomorrow from dangerous climate change.

Yet recent polling indicates quite the opposite. Australians seem poised to further endanger their kids’ and grandkids’ futures by electing a government which is not fair dinkum about preventing dangerous climate change. Rather than increasing our emission reduction targets so that we do our fair share, the Abbott Coalition has made it quite clear that protecting our kids and grandkids from dangerous climate change is not a core promise

How do we explain this?

To say that much of the media has campaigned against adequate action on climate change would be an understatement. Although the Murdoch press has been front and centre of this campaign against our kids futures they have not been alone.

The public climate change conversation has been deliberately sidetracked by twisted short-term economic arguments designed to distract us from our parental and ethical responsibilities to our kids and future generations.

The most prominent include those put forward by Bjorn Lomborg which seek to minimise the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. These arguments give comfort to those who want to continue with business as usual. Unfortunately, as with Lomborg’s previous work, when you start to analyse his argument you quickly discover that it doesn’t hold up to even the most rudimentary analysis.

Lomborg argues that “almost all policies for fighting global warming are bad deals…” and that “green energy is not ready…”

The first fatal flaw in this argument is that it does not acknowledge the huge economic costs that failing to prevent dangerous climate change will inevitably have in the long term. It does not adequately consider the long term implications (50-100 years plus) of unmitigated climate change and downplays and underestimates the costs of climate change of 4 degrees or more.

There are good reasons why government leaders at the international level have agreed that global warming must be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius. It is because they understand that this is what’s required if we are to leave a safe climate for our children and future generations.

Short-term economics won’t matter very much in the future to our kids and grandkids if we keep going with business as usual as Lomborg suggests. As US senator Nelson famously pointed out: “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

Lomborg is also plain wrong when he claims that “green energy is not ready.” An increasing number of analyses demonstrate not just that the transition to 100% renewable electricity generation is already possible in Australia but that it is also very economically viable.

However, the biggest flaw in Lomborg’s argument is that it is deeply unethical to think that it is ok for us to steal from the health and wellbeing of our kids and other people now and in the future just because some economic analysis says it may cost some money now to prevent that harm to others. It is not ok for us to leave the planet in a worse condition than that in which we found it.

This bogus environment versus the economy argument is also a major part of the Coalition’s election pitch to voters and most of the media blindly repeats the message.

If a wealthy high per capita polluting country like Australia isn’t prepared to do its fair share to protect the children of today and tomorrow from dangerous climate change how can we expect anyone else to? We have ample resources and the ethical responsibility to lead the effort to protect our kids.

As I said in my previous post (I hope the Australians love their children too) I truly hope that the Australian people do the work to cut through the spin and vote to help protect our kids and grandkids from dangerous climate change. If we don’t then they will have every right to judge us extremely harshly when they ask: “They knew what was happening, why didn’t they vote to protect us?”