Feb 25, 2014

Watch your language: why the climate change case has to be personal

In his winning entry for the Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition, Sydney GP Tim Senior argues at Inside Story that language has been getting in the way of action on climate change.

“I don’t believe in climate change.”

I’d just got back from Darwin in early October, and I and many of my GP colleagues had been closely following the news of the bushfires in New South Wales. We’d had our first warning of high fire danger in late September. As I returned to work in Campbelltown, in south-west Sydney, a grey haze of smoke hung in the air. Each breath I took left a metallic reminder of the bushfires at the back of my throat. My patients were coughing more than usual. Those with asthma were getting through more inhalers. On behalf of patients, I’d been writing letters to the Department of Housing asking for modifications to keep people healthy and safe in the weather extremes they were experiencing. It was what had been predicted. It was what was happening. So I was surprised to hear my patient say it.

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27 thoughts on “Watch your language: why the climate change case has to be personal

  1. Daly

    Thank you Tim for a very thought provoking contribution to the debate.
    It is precisely because those most affected have no voice in this issue that as a society, not just an economy, we need to ensure the best public policy for all Australians is implemented. That is current and future Australians.

  2. Coaltopia

    “hear the voices of marginalised and vulnerable communities” – they finally managed to get funding for the Torres Strait seawalls – and Fiji kindly agreed to take Kiribati refugees as a last resort after NZ and Australian (?) rejection.

    Bangladesh and other countries won’t have that luxury. The possibility of the globe only being able to support one billion (rich?) people is quite.

  3. Tamas Calderwood

    And yet there hasn’t been any actual global warming for 16 years… remarkable…

  4. rhwombat

    Calderwood: the channel billed cuckoo of climate change.

  5. Ted Parker

    “In fact, I’d suggest that the Left are more riven with self-doubt than the Right, who may see themselves as the rightful rulers”.
    Only fools are certain, intelligent people are always uncertain. Life is not black and white and is far more complex than the simplistic drivel from Cater, Bolt, Akerman, Newsverylimited.

  6. Tamas Calderwood

    Ah… yeah…that graph doesn’t show any warming JamesH… which is kind of my point…

    You may have noticed a bunch of recent academic papers that are trying to explain the “warming pause”? No?

  7. Jimmyhaz

    Surely denialists have moved beyond the intellectually bankrupt ‘warming pause’ by now. The ‘warming pause’ only exists if you intentionally frame the graph to be as misleading as possible.

    Does that look like no warming to you? Dips, spikes and plateau’s have been around since records started. They are identical to the temperature variation that we are seeing now.

    It doesn’t matter what the short-term global average temperature is, the only thing that matters is that it is constantly trending up in the long-term.

  8. fractious

    How surprisement, Tamas can’t see the upward slope in the link JamesH posted. Of course, if you plot the trend for 30 years (the minimum period accepted as meaningful by anyone even vaguely informed on the subject – heck even that charlatan Watts allowed that) this is what you get:

    Go on Tamas, tell me you can’t see the slope, I dare you.

  9. fractious

    Tim Senior, thanks, an interesting post with a different angle on why many cannot accept or deal with what’s happening. As someone who works full time for a very ordinary rate these days, I can fully appreciate why those who visit your clinic are so preoccupied with day-to-day stresses that they have no time for big-picture items like climate change, not to mention other, linked processes like continued and accelerating biodiversity loss (bye bye Cumberland Plain Woodlands, thanks to NSW Inc’s Growth Centres “plan”, for example).

    Thanks to State and Federal policies and their fanatical obsession with cutting government expenditure, the predicament of the people you talk about is only going to get worse – cuts to public health funding, cuts to (if not abolition of) funding for state and federal climate change/ environment departments, cuts to (if not abolition of) grants for reveg/ rehab projects, cuts to low-income super contributions, proposals to reduce or remove penalty rates and so on. Thankfully I have no-one directly dependent on me so I can be relatively free to move if the need arises – those who have families and/ or big mortgages and who are on low incomes will not be so lucky, and to be frank not being in calamitous debt comes higher up the scale of priorities than most other things.

    That’s why it is critial that those who can do something do it, and that especially includes multinationals who employ staff here and those here who makes a motza in the process. What these organisations (and the likes of Tamas) need to remember is that this isn’t just about now, it’s about what sort of planet we pass on to those who follow.

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