2006 will go down as the year that climate change finally joined farts and s-x as an acceptable topic of conversation at interesting dinner parties, while being banned at polite ones. Yes, after a brief run in the 1980s (ozone), the atmosphere once again became a mainstream political issue. A few highlights:

Cyclone Larry: if anything will engender concern about climate change in the capital cities, $3 bananas is it. Bananas are good for making daiquiris and a great source of folate, thus excellent for pregnant women (although daiquiris are not). Larry might have had absolutely nothing to do with climate change, but it was a stark reminder of what we might be in for should the frequency of severe storms increase in future.

Those Orange Bellied Parrots: the Akubra, moleskins and riding lessons can’t have come cheap, so I hope Minister Campbell kept the receipts – RM Williams should be good for store credit. But while getting knocked off his high horse by the Bracks government over the cattlemen issue can’t have helped federal-state relations, this was categorically unrelated to the minister’s decision to reject the Bald Hills wind farm. It was all about those green and orange bundles of joy that might suffer one fatal case of turbine-induced deceleration trauma – one year in every thousand.

The sceptics: after ten years of collectively playing the role of doorstop in the climate change debate – small, banal but extremely effective in preventing movement – this year they lost it. Now sulking. Don’t feel bad, guys. I’m sure Exxon will still send Christmas cards. Rallying for the release of the IPCC report in February next year.

The PM: once had more trouble mentioning climate change than the Fonz had trying to say sorry. No longer. Recently underwent cosmetic climate change surgery. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Stern Report: a climate change report that talks in dollars, resonates with politicians and makes for some predictable headlines (“Stern Warning” etc…). Nicholas Stern, former world bank chief economist – who should not be confused with Daniel Stern, perennial sidekick of City Slickers and Home Alone fame – resigns from the treasury after a comprehensively underwhelming response from Blair’s heir-apparent Gordon Brown, the commissioner of the report.

The Drought: the states and the federal government sling mud (or dust?) at one another over water responsibilities and the PM calls a cup day summit that has few clear outcomes. Malcolm Turnbull uses Ian Campbell’s store credit to get his own moleskins and Akubra. Almost chokes on his mineral water when MDBC official Dave Dreverman states that catchment flows are at a 1000-year low (does that mean orange bellied parrots should duck?). The wheat crop largely fails, but the people charged with selling it are busy with other matters anyway. Another climatic event that can’t be specifically tied to climate change, but again a bitter taste of things projected to come. My coriander dies.

Bushfires: the hot, dry south-east goes up. Some say the worst bushfires since 1939 if not ever. The media catch cry for the year becomes “ember attack”. The PM makes a pointed reference to climate change, saying that the public needs to be prepared for a continuation of such conditions in future. The surgery seems to have worked. Melbourne’s air quality makes Delhi’s look pristine.

Nuclear Power: government says we need all future energy options on the table and that there is no single “silver bullet” against climate change: therefore holds inquiry into viability of nuclear power. Ziggy gives the nod. BHP reportedly happy.

Snow: there wasn’t any. Well, barely in winter anyway. After the hottest October on record, in November it snowed down to 400m. Considered a climatic event of international significance. No idea what, if anything, it means. The beginning of an ice age, maybe? Christian skiers tear up their church memberships, saying they’re sure there’s a God, but that he’s just taking the p-ss now.

Peter Fray

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