The climate change debate has reached biblical proportions. What that means is that it’s now pursued with religious fervour,
and often teeters on the evangelical. Climate change is so divisive it means that emotions run high, so let’s call it being enviromotional. With a topic this complex it is no surprise; climate science can never be definitive, nor can sceptics claim to know any better. This was demonstrated on last Thursday’s Q&A and climate change documentary on ABC TV. Environmental campaigner Anna Rose and former Liberal science minister Nick Minchin travelled the globe – chalking up carbon emissions – to see if they could change each other’s minds on the climate. They presented each other with who they considered experts on the topic.
Minchin won the enviromotional award: some of his camp appeared both aggressive and suspicious. Perth-based sceptics Jo Nova and David Evans even employed their own cameraman to film the ABC for fear of being misrepresented.
While at least both sides agree the Earth is warming, the difference of course is whether or not it is man-made. But does it even matter? The real point is about economics. Minchin says there is no empirical evidence and that climate change policies will have enormous implications for the resource sector. He says Australia has an economic advantage because of ‘our access to cheap reliable coal’. He wants nuclear and coal-seam gas fracking too, presumably because it will meet our energy needs and will give us a job.
This argument is between those who believe economic salvation lies in free-market practices, whether they be renewable or not, and those who want our species to adapt to less-polluting energy sources.
Interestingly Rose claimed the people that Minchin introduced to her were almost all connected to the US conservative think tank, the Heartland Institute, which is funded largely by big oil and tobacco.
From Q&A’s panel discussion, the prediction was made that both the US and China believe that coal will be more expensive to produce than solar energy in only a matter of years. Another is that base-load energy (ie coal and nuclear) is now achievable from geo- thermal solar.
Questions that could have been asked include why can’t Australia develop base-load energy from geo-thermal solar right now, like other countries. It would sure go a long way in helping those who are facing a huge increase to their heating bills this winter.
Then there will be no need for dirty and dangerous coal or nuclear. One assumes it will take a while because of that great elusive rare earth commodity: leadership.