I am amongst the people who criticised Greens MP Adam Bandt for this tweet:

There are plenty of others who think Bandt’s action was entirely appropriate, best exemplified by this popular post from Ed Butler over at AusOpinion.

I posted a lengthy comment on Ed’s post, which is reproduced below, to demonstrate that it’s not only climate sceptics who are criticising Bandt for his intervention.

Unfortunately the discussion over the ‘appropriateness’ of exploiting a bushfire that is currently threatening lives is a conflation of a number of matters: scientific, political and behavioural.

The scientific issue is the most straightforward. Climate change is happening, and it is likely to increase the number and severity of extreme weather events including the high temperatures that exacerbate bushfires. We basically need to decarbonise our economy in the next 30-35 years to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Discussion and implementation of climate action in Australia has become a political football. The issue has been exploited, at different times and by most parties, to score political points against or wedge their political opponents.

This has reduced the issue in the perception of the community to yet another political issue and not one of sufficient import for non-partisan support across the parties, for example in the way that gun control was seen to be ‘mostly’ non-partisan.

Having turned climate action into a political football, its proponents are faced with a community that does not care sufficiently about it and is skeptical about those who seek to generate a sense of urgency around the issue.

The lack of a visible directly physical connection between climate change and voters makes it additionally hard to convince the community that the impacts of climate change are real. It’s no coincidence that community support for climate action was strongest in Australia during the last sustained drought that primary producers say happen in our nation once every 100 years or so.

Once the drought broke, it was bushfires, floods and cyclones that became the next best illustrations of what unchecked climate change can do. This is complicated by the fact that scientists are reluctant to say that one causes the other, only that the frequency and severity of extreme weather events will be increased by climate change. That’s not really the smoking gun needed by the proponents of climate action to move the issue from being a political to a non-partisan issue.

Which brings us to Adam Bandt – a politician – using a currently blazing bushfire that was threatening lives and homes, to score a political point against Tony Abbott, another politician who has travelled a very long way on the political exploitation of climate action.

It would appear Bandt’s intention was to transform community concern about the fire into opprobrium for Abbott over his scrapping of the carbon price. Unfortunately for Bandt, by reducing the issue – yet again – to a political level he will do nothing to sway those who are politically aligned to Abbott.

Bandt will be successful in maintaining the rage amongst those who politically agree with him, but not one mind will be changed amongst those who do not.

Until climate action becomes a non-partisan issue, it’s unlikely we’ll see real action occur.

And people will continue to be offended by actions like Bandt’s, which seek to politicise the issue at the worst possible moment – for the potential victims as well as for the prospects of consensus.

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. In the spirit of conducting discussion across as many locations as possible, I’ll just pipe up here and say that my point isn’t so much a defence of Bandt’s actions as saying that the best way to de-politicise climate change (in the same way that smoking or seatbelts are depoliticised) is to make sure we highlight the ramifications when they’re happening.

    It’s excellent that Bandt is willing to say that these bushfires will get worse and more frequent unless climate change is tackled. Pointing fingers at Abbott is far less helpful. There’s not much merit in making political points, but it’s vital to point at bushfires and other extreme weather and draw a big, bright, stonking line between them and climate change, then between climate change and the behaviour that we have that causes it.

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  2. I may be missing the point, but how do we depoliticise the issue of climate change, and please let us all agree that the climate scientists do know of what they speak, if our government and much of our media either reject or downplay the concerns?

    Agreed it is a very thin line between showing respect and compassion for those who are affected by the current bushfire calamity and seizing the opportunity to reiterate the urgency for real action. In this case, however, I think a wake up call to the LNP (Bandt’s and others) is more a cry of frustration than point scoring of the traditional political arena

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  3. No matter how you look at the whole Climate change argument, the non-partisan fact is we have to adapt to what is occurring or we will lose out and perish. Climate is something we cannot control, but we can effect, and there is no doubt on that in a majority of scientific consensus.

    Unfortunately the costs will rise as we have to work around the new paradigm that the climate is no longer what it was. Only one thing is constant in the Universe, change, and change we must.

    Prudent thought would ask the question; to pollute, or not to pollute? A worthy question indeed as it is the crux of it all. Now none of us want a waste dump in our backyard, so why make our atmosphere in our backyard one? Never forget the 2nd law of thermodynamics either. Industry and Finance that has raised us to the level of technology we have, has benefits and downfalls, but should we not be looking at reducing those downfall’s impacts as much as our advancements allow? Think on it.

    Today, costs are just a method of arguing for profit for some, at the expense of others, who generally will be mostly affected by the decision made, or forced to accept, by any means to that desired end, by those people not wanting to pay the price that always has to be paid by someone. In the end, that method is just refusal to even contemplate the opposing view has an argument at all and very disrespectful to everyone involved. It is the equal of burying your head in the sand and petulantly demanding everyone to accept your decision as final. When it becomes an “Or else!”, you know we have a problem and this is why people run from it as fast as they can. Can anyone blame them? This is what War perpetuates from. We all know it. Think on it.

    Our climate change so far leaves none of us unscathed as we, at our expense, have to now pay the price for the Captain’s of Industry and Finance refusal to pay to change their method-operandi. We are left by such, with the expense to adapt our shelters to cope with the changes affecting us all. It is we, who have to raise our homes to cope with more numerous occasions of inundation from storm and flood waters. It is us that have to pay for adapting our shelters to cope with extreme winds and storm actualities. It is us that have to pay to fire-proof our homes for more extreme fire events. All this, whilst we are told that we should not put the costs to the Captain’s of Industry and Finance that continue to pile further energy into the conflagration that is impacting us, so they can live it up in a high life romp at our expense. Is this a reasonable thing to ask a question about? I think it is. A reasonable reward for your labour, but debauched, gluttonous behavior is never a worthy thing to behold or to cheer about if you are sane and reasonable.

    We ALL have to wear that expense of our actions equally as a species which has chosen to change the natural course of the world. If we don’t, then we fail to evolve past the problem we failed to surmount many times throughout history and we will just fall back to a war, as it was every other time, over resources and power over each other again.

    Is it time we all grow up before we kill ourselves?

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About Drag0nista

Political blogger and columnist on the interwebs. Former Liberal staffer and industry lobbyist. Studying the entrails of federal politics since 1989. Otherwise known as Paula Matthewson.

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