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Mother-earthism infects climate change debate

By Bob Carter - posted Thursday, 6 October 2005


Compare these tiny changes with the experience of an Australian citizen who moves from Hobart to Darwin to live. Such a person experiences a change in annual average temperature of 18C, which is accommodated quite happily by wearing fewer clothes, drinking more beer and trading in one's heater for an air conditioner.

To crucify the world's industrialised economies by spending trillions of dollars for a possible temperature drop of 0.2C simply defies comprehension. The daft, hairshirt policy exemplified by the Kyoto Accord is, in fact, a classic non-solution to a non-problem.

The best cure for the type of “mother earthism” epitomised by Kyoto is to remove the funds that sustain its advance. As Dr Flannery points out in a different context in his book, individual members of the public can exert influence here, by witholding their memberships and donations from the organisations (including especially green NGOs) responsible for spreading the disease, and by not buying alarmist books.

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The government too could do its bit, and save taxpayers’ money, by disestablishing the professional greenhouse lobby groups that now dominate its own environmental and energy policy bureaucracies.

It is rumoured that federal environment minister Campbell is earmarking extra money for research to develop a vaccine against this terrible disease. If successful, the vaccine could be compulsorily administered to good effect to all Australian climate scientists. I hope that doses will also be available to inoculate my grandchildren.

A goal to "stabilise world climate” is misplaced, not to mention unattainable. Climate is a dynamic system within which extreme events and dramatic changes will always occur, irrespective of human actions or preferences.Witness hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

As for other major natural disasters, the appropriate preparation for extreme climate events is to mitigate and manage the negative effects when they occur. Climate impacts are generally slower to appear than those of other “instantaneous” disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, volcanic eruptions, landslides or bushfires. This difference is not one of kind, and neither should be our response plans.

Needed are more research and the preparation of response plans for both climatic coolings and warmings. Not needed is more of the futile “feel goodery” espoused by those infected with the “mother earthism” syndrome.

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Article edited by Allan Sharp.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 29, 2005.



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About the Author

Professor Bob Carter is a researcher at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University. Copies of scientific papers and other media articles by Bob Carter can be accessed through his website.

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