27/1/14 – Keeping a clear head and avoiding lumbering Ignoramuses.

By Mike Johnson

It is a grim irony that two of the Western countries most affected by man-made global warming, Canada and Australia, have reactive governments who are busy shutting down climate science as fast as they can.

In Canada, Prime Minister Harper has begun an unprecedented program of knowledge destruction by muzzling government scientists and  defunding Canada’s world-class fishery, ocean, and environmental libraries. Precious research and data has simply been dumped. Libraries closed and books trashed. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Nazis famous ‘burning of the books’ in the 1930s.

As the arctic ice melts with geologically unprecedented speed, and the Inuit people who live in northern Canada watch their eco-system, the environment on which they depend, melt before their very eyes, the government has reacted by choking off the flow of information about these very processes.

It may well be true that the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful in the world, has taken over these governments. That industry doesn’t take to too kindly to talk about diversifying from fossil fuels. But that can’t explain the apparently willing retreat of these politicians and the people who support them from the reality the data they are suppressing reveals.

As Alberta experienced its worst floods in history, PM Harper said in all innocence, ‘I never imagined you could have a flood of this magnitude in this part of the country.’

My question is, given that those who have studied the climate have been giving warnings of the increased likelihood of these events since the late 1980s, why didn’t he imagine such floods? What’s his excuse? His statement simply announces: I am an ignoramus. The Aussie PM has made similar declarations.

Presumably the voters of these two countries are comfortable with this willful ignorance. I’m not singling out the voters of Canada and Australia particularly – we have a softer form of the same denial tactics here. John Key is too cunning to come out and deny climate science (not wanting to back himself into that corner) but at the same time pushes coal exports and oil exploration for all it’s worth. It may be hypocrisy, or cognitive dissonance, or just plain greed, but the political manifestation is an aspect of our deep seated cultural ambivalence around man-made global warming.

Which brings me to this week’s links. This is an ongoing story that has hardly touched the media of an attack on NZ climate scientists by a group of rogues who have lumbered the NZ taxpayer with the bill for their misbegotten lawsuit against NIWA. The Judge threw out their attack on NIWA’s temperature record, a small victory in an ongoing war for freedom of information.

Hot topic covered the story nicely here:

http://hot-topic.co.nz/salinger-upsets-cranks-treadgolds-toys-exit-cot/

And The Conversation does the back story by Jim Salinger, NZ climate scientist, here.

http://theconversation.com/an-insiders-story-of-the-global-attack-on-climate-science-21972

 Reading these stories made me think of our hunter gather ancestors. A hunter’s survival depended on him not pretending that the leaping lion is a harmless kitten, or that there is no lion, or that the lion will kill others and spare him. He needs a clear-headed apprehension of the dangers.

We should expect the same of our governments. Maybe they are in pocket of the fossil fuel industry, supported by billions of dollars. The funding of climate change denial, and the character of the spearhead aimed at climate science, and scientists, is now well understood. The Washington Post for example, ran this story on how business and bigfarma groups were coming together to resist climate science:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/01/30/business-groups-form-new-coalition-to-fight-obamas-climate-plan/

But no matter how much they money these groups, or the Koch brothers, or anybody else throws at it, they couldn’t keep the illusion going without our connivance, our own willful ignorance, our votes.

 Apt toon: