The two levels of climate denialism in Australia

Banner hung by Rising Tide climate activists on Newcastle coal loading conveyer belt on August 15, 2011. Photo by Rising Tide.

This is a country in serious denial. Australia is a world leader in per capita greenhouse gas pollution and in fossil fuel exports. We produce 30 tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year (or 54 if Australia’s exported CO2 pollution is included).  Pakistan produces 0.9 and Somalia produces 0.1 and yet in these two countries people are dying from climate change as we speak.

On August 5 this year, two young activists from Rising Tide scaled a coal conveyor belt in Newcastle  and hung a sign that said “WE’RE SORRY SOMALIA/COAL= CLIMATE CHANGE AND STARVATION”.

At the same time an unholy alliance of fossil fuel companies, reactionary media shock jocks and politicians is trying to organise a so-called “people revolt” built on climate change denialism. It is monstrous and outrageous but the complete denial of human-induced climate change is really minority phenomenon. But so were the defenders of the slave trade in the nineteenth century.

However, a much bigger climate denial is also at play in Australia. There are influential people who are trying to fool themselves and others that the Gillard Labor government’s climate change measures, now before federal parliament, are real attempts to tackle the climate change emergency. These people include, unfortunately, the leaders, activists and spokespersons of most of the big environmental groups and even the Greens politicians, who have otherwise taken a good stand on most other issues.

Yet every time Labor’s minister for regional development Simon Crean opens his mouth, the real agenda behind the carbon tax/pollution trading scheme comes out. Australia is poised to become the “Saudi Arabia of gas”, Crean has boasted.

Using the analogy about the debate about the slave trade in the nineteenth century, what the Gillard Labor government is doing with fossil fuels today  is the equivalent of supporting the right of some slave traders to continue trading because they claim to treat their slaves a little better!

Green Left Weekly rejects the argument that the climate movement should put a “positive spin” on Labor’s carbon tax/pollution trading bills. We will speak the truth no matter what because we know that the climate change emergency is real. The people dying or being dislocated in Pakistan and Somalia as we speak remind us of that hard truth. And science tells us what our society must do: move rapidly towards 100% renewable energy sources and sustainable practices in all fields.

If you support us in telling the truth about the global climate change emergency please dig deeply. We need to raise $20,000 each month for the rest of the year to make our annual fighting fund target of $250,000. There is a little army of  supporters organising fundraisers for Green Left Weekly every week but we need some sizeable donations now. If you can help – or know someone else who can – please help us make our target.

Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

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