Well, if you are a book-lover of any shape or description. It’s from the New Zealand Book Council.
George Monbiot certainly thinks the first is true. Here are some quotes from a post on his blog on Monday (you’ll find all the data footnoted in the blog):
There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.
A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there’s solid evidence that the world has been warming over the past few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months. Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe that global warming is the result of natural causes (44%) now outnumber those who believe it is caused by human action (41%).
A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that manmade global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled in 2008. . . . On Amazon.co.uk, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1,2,4,5,7 and 8 in the global warming category. Never mind that they’ve been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles.
As he asks, ‘What is going on?’. One possibility he raises draws on the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker’s idea that we protect ourselves with “vital lies” when under threat. I’m not so sure. As Monbiot says, there are two opposed armies at war here: armies of right wing bloggers and their ilk in one corner, and concerned scientists in the other.
What we are seeing, then, is the wash-up of years of political tribalism; a kind of gruesome end-game to the culture wars, and a weak media that lumps science in with questions of ‘balance’ as if scientific opinion were like any other, and that reports climate change as a kind of remote novelty. What chance did science really have?
Meanwhile, Ross Gittins has an excellent column in today’s Fairfaxes, reporting on Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s recent speech about ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ in Oz. Population growth, global warming, technological change and the rise and rise of India and China are Henry’s themes. But warming is the bit where he gets really interesting. As Gittins says:
His second long-term force bearing on us is climate change. So far, the main thing occupying the minds of our business people and politicians is how we can introduce an emissions trading scheme without hurting anyone.
Henry offers the tart observation that the introduction of such schemes ”is intended to cause a significant shift in the structure of the Australian and global economies over coming decades; quite possibly the largest structural adjustment in economic history. That is the point of doing it.”
Translation: It’s meant to hurt because that’s what changes people’s behaviour. If it doesn’t hurt it won’t work.
So there’s another plank in Monbiot’s thesis about growing denialism: it doesn’t hurt as much right now. But perhaps denialism isn’t the real problem so much as stasis. Gittins continues with a spot-on assessment of the consequences of Ruddism:
Even if the world does get its act together on fighting climate change, we’re in for a fair bit of it anyway. And if the rest of the world is being led by far-sighted leaders like Kevin Rudd, with oppositions like ours, the likelihood is the world won’t get its act together.
If so, we’ll reap the whirlwind. If we find the consequences of mitigating climate change so daunting, what’s it going to be like adapting to it? Our already dry continent will become drier. It’s likely some of our agriculture will be wiped out, with much of the rest having to move north.
It could be that much of the population has to move from the south-eastern corner of the continent. You think we’ve got a problem with boat people? Can you imagine how many there’ll be if the Pacific islands and half of Bangladesh are under water?
But he’s not done yet:
It’s how these four disparate forces could fit together that worries me. Analysis is one thing, synthesis quite another. The possibility of our indulged and indulgent electorate successfully navigating all these cross-currents I find remote.
Which brings us back to where we started: we are now paying the price for an era of extreme political populism is which every voter whim has been pandered to, and in which people expect every policy solution to be cost free to them. Rampant denialism, in other words, is just one more symptom of a deeper political disease. The old public sphere and its redoubts in science, expert opinion and rigorous reporting, has fractured, with some gains (it was rather paternalistic and white and blokey, chums), but at what cost considering that what remains has been handed over to and is dominated by a conservative movement far more powerful and less democratic than its (lefty) critics ever anticipated was possible?
No wonder we can’t move forward on climate change.