Failures of Democracy

Steve Fielding: “I have trouble voting for a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) when there is a basic question about the science that needs to be answered.”

Interviewer: “But shouldn’t you be looking at longer than the last 15 years?”

SF: “It hasn’t been going up. Now 15 years is a very long time.”

I: “What about 50 years, for example?”

SF: “But the issue at hand has been is that we’ve all been led to believe that as CO2 concentration continues to go up, global temperatures would rapidly rise, and what we’ve found over the last 15 years … globally temperatures haven’t been going up over the last 15 years.”

Australian Senator Steve Fielding has his head firmly plunged into the sand.

He’s hoping to meet Al Gore to present him with a graph showing his ‘inconvenient fact’ and see his response. Apparently Steve has met with Australian climate scientists and they haven’t managed to convince him that climate change is a real problem.

To my eye, Steve’s spiel is completely predictable: fixate on one object (correct or otherwise) which, in sound-bite form, rebuts a position he disagrees with. When asked to broaden his viewpoint (the sound track of the interview appeared to cut up a bit here, so I’m not sure it’s in unedited form) to 50 years, he completely ignores the question. Later in the interview, when asked about a long-term rise in ocean temperature as another line of evidence, he claims that scientists on both sides of the debate (all those damn arguing climate scientists, they can never… oh, wait, he’s talking about the odd geologist or engineer who are vocal skeptics!) have long identified this as unreliable and unrepresentative. That’s similar to suggesting that a rolling 40 year stock market average is not a reliable indicator of long-term share market movement, and a 15 year snapshot is a better predictor of what will happen in the next 100 years.

“I’m appealing to senators to actually look at the facts, and it could be an ‘inconvenient fact’, but at the same token you need to actually take it on board and consider whether you can explain it themselves and if you can’t you shouldn’t be voting on something you don’t understand.”

By setting up a strawman and false dichotomy near the start of the interview, then ignoring questions posed to him, Steve reveals a lot about his position – it is not one which values logical and skeptical enquiry. The irony is probably lost on him. He implores others to look at the facts and suggests that if they, as politicians, cannot explain one particular bit of information in the vast area of climate science, they should not be voting on relevant legislation. I would invite him to practice what he preaches and, if Steve cannot explain how his non-warming position is consistent with the facts laid out in the latest IPCC report, he should abstain from the vote on the CPRS.

For my two cents, the inconvenient fact in this argument is that Steve Fielding holds one of the deciding Senate votes over whether any pollution reduction legislation will pass. It makes me shake my head in disbelief and worry for the future of the planet. At the same time, it steadily increases my resolve to work towards a career helping people all over the world understand and value science and critical thinking – political change must start with voters and if we, the voters, haven’t heard the best possible information describing problems like climate change, people like Fielding will still be getting airtime and positions of power.

One for the readers: I wonder if Fielding has any insurance policies (home and contents, cars, health) or uses risk abatement (seat belts). If so, has he considered climate in those terms and in terms of his vocal commitment to the wellbeing of children? Is he willing to risk the wellbeing and quality of life of not just his children, but everyone (and everything) living on the planet for hundreds of years, on the basis of his ‘inconvenient fact’?

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Categories: Science, Thoughts | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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