May 03, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

I can’t change your mind about climate

Because we will never get to evidence-based policy if we can’t agree on evidence-based science.

Last week’s program on the ABC, ‘I can change your mind about climate’ was a brave but flawed attempt to get to consensus. Young Anna Rose was marvelous, polite, restrained, and charming. Old Nick Minchin was less gracious at some points, and seemed to fall back on economic arguments whenever the data were particularly convincing.

But just because he believes (and so do I) that action to mitigate, much less slow, climate change will be hugely difficult, disruptive and expensive, that doesn’t change the physics.

Once again I turn to the trusty and conservative Economist magazine, which provides these charts for simplistic interpretation:

One of the misstatements that surfaced early in the TV doco was that the oceans haven’t warmed. But all the data shows they have. Look a bit further on the link above, and you will see that the importance of the oceans as carbon sinks and the value of the damage climate change might do to the world’s oceans is a ‘2 trillion dollar question’.

We dither while the time bomb ticks. Queensland will be extremely vulnerable from at least two perspectives: when the CO2 hits the atmospheric fan the coastal costs alone will be devastating, and when coal becomes valueless and that one basket full of black eggs spills many will find themselves singing Mammy like a minstrel with black soot on their faces.


Posted by Ronda Jambe at 5:30 pm | Comments (11) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. In recent times I have become an ‘evidence-based policy skeptic’. Politics is driven by public opinion which demands quick action and quick results. The time taken to properly carry out evidence based policy research is not ideal for political parties who want to be perceived as ACTIVE. Hence, they opt for quick polls and market research (not evidence) to inform their policy development. Because of this, issues such as drug legalisation will never get a minute in the media spotlight.

    Comment by lukechircop — May 4, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  2. if they ever do the tally on the real costs of illegal drugs, decriminalisation would soon be on the agenda.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — May 10, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  3. I think legalisation will always be seen as too politically risky to be seriously considered on the agenda. And it’s not like a party will get criticised for doing nothing (I.e keeping drugs illegal).

    Comment by lukechircop — May 10, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  4. Having taught the dark art of advertising, I am aware of how resistent governments are to identifying a return on their investment, be it social marketing, industry assistance, indigeneous interventions, or of course, military spending.

    By return I mean the whole quadruple bottom line business: measuring real world outcomes as broadly identified as appropriate.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — May 13, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  5. Ronda

    There are many articles out there both supporting and negating the anthropological theory of climate change, all purporting to be supported by scientific studies. Who knows what to think?

    A friend of mine, a self-declared Left Winger and climate change supporter, refuses to read any article not supporting her belief system, or even emanating from the Rupert Murdoch stable of newspapers! I at least listen to, and read, articles arguing very different points of view on both politics and climate change theory. Yet, people like me are accused of being “deniers” – a horrible, insulting term given its usual association with the word ‘Holocaust’!

    I simply don’t believe the case for anthropological climate change has yet been proved. After all, the climate constantly changes, and always has, for a wide range of reasons. But perhaps, by the time it is ‘proved’ it will be too late to take action, or at least the action required will be too drastic to undertake. That’s the risk of inaction.

    Nevertheless, I believe a world-wide effort to reduce the wanton destruction of the world’s forests and rain forests (the Earth’s lungs) would be a good place to start. And a move towards renewable energy, and away from oil and coal, makes sense. But please, without destroying our economy! I also favour nuclear energy – modern reactors, although very expensive, cannot be compared with the ageing Fukushima-type reactors currently being phased out in many countries.

    So please, do not attack people like myself with that pejorative term “denier” (your words on the other related Blog topic). Perhaps we just read a wider range of literature? Perhaps we have been through earlier world-wide scares like the 1970s ‘oil crisis’ and remember how the scientists back then were utterly convinced that the world would completely run out of oil in the very near future (it hasn’t). Age and experience makes us less enthusiastic about ‘scare tactics’ that smack of religious fervour.

    (This comment is copied from one I made on a similar Blog topic)

    Comment by Kay Kelly — May 18, 2012 @ 8:26 am

  6. The economist magazine stopped being “conservative” years ago. I don’t know any non-left people who still read it.

    Comment by John Humphreys — May 19, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

  7. Thanks, Kay, I didn’t think ‘denier’ was a negative label.
    Certainly agree with you that reforestation or stopping the deforestation, would be a wise move.

    The world’s climate has changed quickly and drastically in the past, but there weren’t 7 billion people on the planet, leading complex interdependent lives.

    If there are scientists that doubt the physics of the greenhouse effect, or that CO2 increases this, please do offer a link to this research.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — May 22, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  8. Ronda

    Thank you for your response. I thought most people understood the difference between being called a “denier” and merely being identified as one who is still not convinced about anthropological climate change – even the term “sceptic” is better as it doesn’t have the connection with the Holocaust. It might sound silly – but one word is upsetting, the other isn’t.

    As for links to specific articles, I don’t really keep tabs on these. But from time to time one reads articles on the web, in newspapers (which then refer you to web sites for further perusal), and discussions on TV – including the Nick Minchin/Anna Rose program. I don’t think the TV program came to any conclusion either way, but it did highlight some inconsistencies.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You thought Anna was “marvelous, polite, restrained and charming”. I thought she seemed a very pleasant young lady, but was frightened of considering any viewpoint that did not concur with her own views. And to an older person like myself, she seemed very naive and simplistic in her views. But she was brave to even take up the challenge.

    I also think that the climate change message is being overtaken by the greater, more immediate fears about the world economy. This can have a huge effect on people’s lifestyles – now and tomorrow. And everyone can understand that. Compare that with conflicting messages about climate change in the far distant future. It is a ‘no brainer’.

    For people like myself, who have worked hard all their lives to raise and educate a family, then provide for their retirement, the threat of climate change is just another challenge to be overcome. And we know what enormous changes have already occurred within our lifetimes, and we have faced and overcome them. Additionally, we have seen many global ‘scares’ before today – all backed up by so-called ‘scientific evidence’. None of these have come to pass, and the scientists at the centre of these ‘scares’ have just quietly melted away.

    This comment is not aimed at disproving or casting aspersions on any ‘scientific studies’ that appear to show an unusually rapid warming trend. I am just trying to explain why, for many people in the community, climate change is simply not the most important thing in their lives. Quite frankly, my focus is the worldwide money markets, because the value of my hard-earned superannuation (the employer was not required to contribute when we worked) is dropping rapidly and alarmingly. And my entire future depends on these markets.

    Add to that, increasing living costs, one factor being the Carbon Tax. It is not surprising that a tax that everyone acknowledges will have no effect on climate change anyway, but will definitely add to the cost of everything, is not supported by the community. As I understand it, less than 30% of the population support the tax.

    So, there you have it – an immediate and real threat we all understand versus a conflicting message about a far-distant threat. As I said, a ‘no brainer’.

    And just in case you think I am too dumb to understand ‘scientific studies’, I have tertiary qualifications in science and management; worked all my life in scientific and conservation organisations; and am a fervent conservationist. It is just that I have been around for a while!

    Comment by Kay Kelly — May 23, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  9. The economic situation and climate change are very closely related – that is perhaps the missing link in public communications about this issue. Egypt’s turmoil is not separate from its need to import food, whereas it was once an exporter.

    I have taken my money out of super entirely, because knowing and being able to act on the markets is way beyond me. Not that other ways of storing wealth are much more secure.

    The fact that neither you nor I have faith that the carbon tax will actually lower our emissions indicates how sloppily our government is dealing with the issue.

    A distant threat is not how the scientists see it, but of course it is natural to have concern for the current course of events and planning for one’s future, as you have clearly and responsibly attempted to do.

    It is not possible in our Ponzi scheme of a global economy, to have a good financial outcome in a deteriorating environmental landscape.

    I intend to keep hedging my bets and become as personally sustainable as I can, especially in areas of food security and community resilience.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — May 23, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  10. Once again, thanks for your very sensible response.

    Yes, you are correct in that the global economy and the environment are closely interdependent. Should the environment continue to be degraded by deforestation and pollution, and climate change start to produce increasingly frequent disasters such as droughts, floods, cyclones, snow storms etc, the world’s economy will definitely be very adversely affected (not to mention the world’s people and flora/fauna).

    I guess we both agree on two things we should be doing anyway – stop deforestation and pollution as rapidly as possible; accelerate research into renewable, non-carbon energy sources. I was just reading an article in the New Scientist (a very reader-friendly magazine for everyone) that predicted the use of petrol will almost cease in the foreseeable future, not because we will run out of oil reserves, but because we won’t need it! They are only talking about petrol for cars, but road use accounts for 50% of all oil consumption. I sincerely hope they are correct!

    I guess we aren’t all that far apart in our views. And I do appreciate your very measured responses. I think what I find most annoying is the ‘we know we are right’ and ‘you are just too stupid and selfish to see the truth’ approach by many of those who support the climate change theories and the Carbon Tax. Their comments often remind me of religious evangelists – and as I am an atheist, I find that approach very off-putting, insulting and even disturbing.

    Comment by Kay Kelly — May 24, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  11. and thank you, Kay, as your responses indicate we do indeed have much commonality of views. Like you, I’m not religious, but I believe there is a spiritual sense of unity with nature, and we are a strange species to take so long to act on the emotional message the world is giving us.
    Each of us has a role to play as this century unfolds, and won’t it be interesting? Reasoned, polite dialogue such as with you is part of what keeps me going.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — May 24, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

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