For Climate's Sake, Keep It In Your Pants


Maybe I’m just old and tired. Maybe I no longer relate to the various alphabetical generations and their hopes and aspirations. Maybe I’m just sick of the cant and hypocrisy so common in the political sphere. But one thing is sure: I’m sick of hearing about "climate change" and what needs to be done about it.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not in climate change denial. Far from it. My inclination is to the pessimistic side of the argument. In fact, I think we’re doomed. My feeling is that if you want to visit Bangladesh, the Maldives or some of the lower lying pacific island nations, you should do it soon. It seems likely that at least some of the scientific predictions are on the conservative side and under-represent the dangers of global warming, rising sea levels, species extinctions and all the other horrors we read about daily.

No, my objection to the constant stream of expert knowledge, political debate and "emissions targets" that keeps my inbox full and depressing is the relative infrequency of news about the elephant.

"What elephant?" I hear you ask.

Well, that one — right there. The big grey one standing in the global warming room. The one that hardly anyone talks about.

As far as I can see, despite the views of the faithful Fieldings and their ilk, climate change is likely to be a real and dangerous phenomenon and we’re all going to be getting our socks wet a little sooner than we think. The main problem with the debate is that this is a symptom rather than the fundamental problem. Like headaches are a symptom of brain tumours, climate change, it seems to me, is a symptom of human reproduction rates.

Right now, according to the UN there are about six billion of us, give or take half a billion. Many of those six billion are rapidly emerging from what the occupants of the West would consider to be the modern dark ages as their countries industrialise and grow their consumer markets. As we’ve been told many times, we can’t blame them for wanting cars and refrigerators and we can’t expect them to deny themselves the luxuries we now take for granted. And we all know the problem with these luxuries is that they create a lot of the apparently ubiquitous "greenhouse gases" to make, operate and dispose of.

But it’s not the luxuries that are the real problem. It wouldn’t matter a damn to Mother Nature if we all had three cars and four refrigerators and produced twice as much greenhouse gas per capita as we do now — if only there were say, one billion of us on the planet. Maybe even two billion would be OK.

But there’s not. There are six billion people on the planet and almost every one of them would one day like to have the kinds of luxuries we so value in our lives.

But the best is yet to come. The UN acknowledges that population growth is slowing and by 2050 may be into negative figures, but by that time we’ll be sharing with nine billion souls. Nine Billion! In this age of big numbers and global financial crises measured in the trillions it doesn’t sound like much, but in reality, that number is the real problem. Mother Nature is kicking right now, voicing her objections in what most people concede are clear terms. What she’s going to do with a 50 per cent increase over the next 30 or 40 years, coupled with the aforementioned industrialisation and consumerism in the "developing nations" is anybody’s guess — but it’s unlikely to be pretty.

Of course, it may not come to that. Maybe there’ll be a nuclear holocaust over the availability of water in the Middle East. Maybe the religious fanatics of one flavour or another will attempt to wipe out everyone outside their belief structures as they’ve done so many times before. Maybe Gaia will employ the biological viral arsenal and launch a super swine-flu to rid itself of the threat we pose to everything else on the planet. Very sad, no doubt, for the victims of any one of these possibilities — but all those individuals from all the species that remain, if any, would undoubtedly be thankful as the balance was eventually restored.

So next time you’re sitting in front of the TV news and watching the climate change protestors pushing the twins in the double-decker stroller down main street, spare a rational thought for the world and keep it in your trousers.

Because it’s depressingly likely that, given the impotence of most political processes, installing low energy light bulbs and riding a bike to work isn’t going to make a whiff of difference in the whirlwind we’re just beginning to feel.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.