News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt

There is some dispute as to what constitutes the most difficult dive in official competition, but some say it’s the back one-and-a-half somersault, with four-and-a-half twists.

It has a degree of difficulty of 3.6, but you don’t have to vanish up your own arsehole at the end of it. That’s what Andrew Bolt has done in his column this morning, which begins with a series of mea culpas about climate change. 

It starts:

We sceptics can’t go on like this. These bushfires demand we all stop pretending and face the facts. And yes it starts with me. So I admit: the planet has warmed … man’s emissions probably play some role…

Well one man’s emissions, certainly.

You wait for the twist — “that’s what I would say, if I was a warmist greenshirt” — and at most you get a half-one: “I’ve actually said nothing here that I haven’t said for more than 15 years”.

Well possibly, but I suspect the record will show that Bolt has said everything about climate change, from complete denialism to the position he’s holding now: climate change will be good for you, greening arctic tundra, making new crops bloom etc.

Our new world’s gonna be great. 

Well doubtless Andrew Bolt is responding to nothing other than his own reflection and deep researches in this piece.

But, well, there’s a lot going on as well.

Over the last year or two, a lot of the right has quietly dropped the climate change chat, having realised that the only way to maintain a denialist position is to start spouting conspiracy theories about weather station readings, etc, which can leave you where the much-feted Lord Monckton ended up, as an Obama birth-truther.

Then there’s the change of wind direction at News Corp, as Rupert Murdoch ages, with Lachlan and James poised to try and take over, and realises that the org has no future with an audience-base of angry white Queensland retirees (most of whom, ironically, have sunstroke).  

Thus, a strategic rethinking is under way. Bolt has bolted. His means of escape is a variant on Bjorn Lomborg’s stuff.

Lomborg himself has had more climate change positions than a hygge Copenhagen sex party; the current one seems to be that climate change is happening, but that accepting it and changing human society to adapt and improve is more important.

Bolt’s spin is a more optimistic version, with a bit of Spiked prometheanism mixed in. Will it work? Hahaha, no.

But everyone’s got a plan until they jump, as divers say, and Bolt’s picture of a warmed world is absurdly static.

In this right-wing fantasia, warming doesn’t cause desertification or mass crop failure or water shortage or mass population movements or political crises therefrom.

Nor does the warming of cold areas thaw permafrost, releasing methane and other super-warming gases, pushing us into a rapid cycle in which we shoot past two degrees, and head towards three and beyond. Bolt’s “admission” then is simply redrawing a line to withdraw to. 

What are the right trying to save?

In a word, externality. In order to protect capitalism, fossil fuels etc, nature has to be a transcendent, inexhaustible external — a frame in which politics and economics occurs.

Once you admit that our actions transform it utterly, systemically, then the world must be managed as a system of qualitative-particular inputs and outputs.

That is an inherently post-capitalist system, since quantitative measures of success must be set within a larger system.

Once that system is mooted, and begins to be implemented, politics becomes the argument around different settings of the plan, and the right, as a political formation, effectively disappears.

The desperate attempt to preserve externality in Bolt’s Polyanna warmism has some curious consequences. Though it’s derived from the radical separation of humanity and nature of Western monotheism, it paradoxically ends up as the sort of nature worship Bolt and his ilk accuse the Greens of spruiking. 

For Greens, and anyone rational, global warming demonstrates that we have a promethean ability to transform nature — but that we do so as a series of accumulated unintended consequences.

Nature is a system we live in, not a transcendent other. For Bolt and the other Pollyannas, nature is a mother-god surrounding us that would never let us fail.

Heat the planet? Nature Mother will give us new crops!

Trash the biosphere? Nature will create new ones.

We can go on as we are forever.

It’s an infantilised conception of the world, just as the right’s other expressions of such — Craig Kelly’s manic tantrums, Jim Molan’s “terrible twos” mid-pavement “no, don’t wanna” reaction on Q&A — which pass for politics on the right now. 

Bolt has outdone them all.

How desperate and/or clueless do you have to be to spend 15 years on this only to come round to right-wing Gaianism, far more pseudo-religious than James Lovelock’s version of it?

Like all such positions, it will linger in mid-air for a moment before falling into the rising waters with an enormous splash. They didn’t so much twist down as screw up.

Once real, human-caused climate change is admitted, the Polyanna nonsense won’t last five minutes.

Bolt is trying to present this as a brave man making himself clear, diving in.

In fact, in a desperate attempt to save his politics, he and the right have, as usual, bombed. 

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and protect yourself against news that goes viral.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW