Emergency? What Emergency? No Facts, Please. My Mind Is Made Up!


The wilful blindness of our political leaders to the realities of climate change is terrifying, writes Dr Richard Hil.

What on earth do we expect? Do we really think the likes of Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce, Michael McCormack, George Christensen and the rest will see the light and recant on the question of greenhouse gas emissions? 

Why do we expend so much energy trying to persuade the unpersuadable, the unrepentant, the unethical, the compromised and deceitful? 

Why stand outside the offices of these climate criminals and plea for climate action? These politicians and their corporate paymasters are wilfully oblivious to what’s going on. They’re too busy spinning, cooking the books or attributing the bushfire holocaust to exploding horse manure, sunspots or the obdurate Greens. 

To placate public outrage, however, the PM has been dragged kicking and screaming to admit that climate change is real which, when you think about it, is saying next to nothing. I mean, as Morrison and his National Party colleagues argue, the climate is always changing.  

But some have gone further. For example, the gaff-prone former head of Iraq’s multinational force, Senator ‘Jim’ Molan, asserted on ABC’s Q&A that he doesn’t “rely on evidence” about climate change, preferring instead to believe that our roasting planet is part of the natural order of things. 

Morrison no doubt would argue (perhaps in the privacy of Kirribilli House or among his Pentecostal friends) that it’s the will of God, and that the global environment movement is an organised attempt to roll back capitalism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison fronts the media after returning from a Hawaiian vacation in the midst of Australia’s bushfire emergency. (IMAGE: Screencap, Sky News)

But it’s not only the blokes who are complicit in muddying the waters. While NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian and her Queensland counterpart, Anastasia Palaszczuk, went about their respective states offering soothing words of comfort to the victims of the wildfires, they neglected to mention that their governments have presided over mass land clearances, new coal mine and gas field developments (recently the Berejiklian government agreed to a massive expansion of gas fields across NSW).

It’s tempting to attribute such doublespeak to greed and ignorance, which in part, it is. But it’s more a toxic combination of ideological zealotry and cognitive dissonance, in the end producing a lethal cocktail of stratospheric pollution and violence to the planet. The ‘facts’ about the climate emergency really don’t matter here.

This sort of closed mindedness is reminiscent of the infamous head of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Jacob Anslinger, who at the turn of the 20th century helped trigger the disastrous global war on drugs. 

Prone to hounding drug users and demonizing them as weak and feckless, including the great jazz singer Billy Holliday, Anslinger was never one to shy away from wrecking peoples’ lives. Yet when confronted by overwhelming evidence that the drug war was based on lies and distortions he responded: “I’ve made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with the facts”. 

Much the same sort of logic typifies our government’s response to the climate emergency, only this time the fudging will serve mainly to hasten our descent into self-annihilation. For Morrison et al the most pressing task now is to reclaim the political high ground by acceding to the appearance of doing something about greenhouse gases and, more importantly (it seems), reviving Australia’s’ image as a continent replete with forests, reefs and pristine beaches. 

It’s a hard sell, even for a marketing man like Morrison whose terrifyingly inept Education Minister, Dan Tehan, has established the Global Reputation Taskforce to shore up Australia’s image overseas, thereby ensuring that students and holidaymakers are not frightened away. Perhaps the real trick here is to sell Australia as an example of what happens with only 1 degree of global warming, never mind the three degrees we’re likely to get sooner rather than later. 

Here’s a slogan for Mr Morrison: ‘Where the bloody hell are you? Hell’s here, come and see it for yourselves!

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Dr Richard Hil is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Human Services and Social Work at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and Honorary Associate at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney. Richard’s more recent books include Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University, published in 2013 by New South, and Selling Students Short; Why you won’t get the university education you deserve, published by Allen and Unwin in 2015.