We live in a world where we seem to need to be told the bleeding obvious. At taxpayers’ expense. And where strident propaganda is praised for its educational value.

Tony Abbott is considered a negligent and callous Health Minister for refusing to ban junk food ads. Super Size Me is praised. But we already call it junk food. Why do we need education programs to tell us something we call junk is junk? What did Morgan Spurlock think a month of Maccas would cause? Priapism?

We live in a world where when we debate climate change, we tend to debate the politics of the issue, not the actual issue itself. And strident voices seek to drown out all others there too.

The London Daily Telegraph had some wise comments in its editorial on the Stern report yesterday. It talked about Stern’s “lurid prognosis… clearly designed to shatter any sense of complacency we may still harbour towards this contentious issue” before adding:

Alarmism is never a sound basis for formulating public policy. In fact, the Stern review tells us nothing new in scientific terms — but for the first time it has pinned a price tag to the greenhouse effect, and that is invaluable. It should help encourage an informed debate on a subject that has, hitherto, been characterised more by assertion and dogma (on both sides of the argument) than by rational discussion.

As individuals, we can cut our energy consumption by driving economic vehicles. We can ditch the fan heaters round the house and put in a gas model. When the electric hot water system goes, we can replace that with gas. We can replace the light bulbs with long-life fluoros. When the fridge dies, we can buy a more efficient one.

All of this is common sense. All of this saves energy. And all of this comes with an incentive. It saves money as well.

Yet we seem to need to have symbolism. This is also the age of conspicuous compassion, of ostentatious caring. Hence all the talk over Kyoto which common sense should tell us is completely useless if we can’t convince timber barons to stop burning off large chunks of Sarawak.

John Howard is absolutely right to talk of “new Kyoto”, of participating in an international carbon trading system if all countries agreed to do so, to say “If everybody is in I’m prepared to lead Australia in”, to describe the “old Kyoto” as “failed… because it did not include the world’s major emitters.”

Politicians rarely admit to failures, to errors or omissions. It’s normally not in their interests to. They certainly don’t make ostentatious ritual abasements – unless, again, it serves their purpose.

Yet demand continues for some grand gesture from the government on climate change. It isn’t going to happen.

The Prime Minister knows that hair shirts don’t help global warming. And the same with publicly burning a few witches. Instead, he’s simply getting on with the job, with things like today’s announcement of $60 million for clean energy projects – which only seems to infuriate the hair shirt brigade even more.

Common sense should tell them that such a step by the Government – no matter how small they feel it is – is an acknowledgment that there is an issue and that it need to be tackled.