When did stupid become the new normal? When did the line between self-serving rhetoric, legitimate opinion, and sheer bloody-mindedness become so blurred that we are prepared to take apparently false statements at face value?
Tony Abbott says climate change ‘could be beneficial’ because it saves lives. You see, people die from cold snaps and so global warming will save lives.
Let me digress from this rant into reality for a moment. People die from heat more than from cold. Very few people in Bangladesh die from cold, tens of millions will die as they are forced from their homes by rising waters. And this is a disaster-level issue for our children, not just longer Summer surfing conditions for Tony Abbott for the next couple of decades. That’s reality and the man is talking utter rubbish.
But apparently it’s all OK because even though global warming will help in Abbott’s fevered mind, it isn’t happening anyway. How does Abbott know this? Because he’s looked at photos of Manly beach over the last 100 years and can tell the sea levels have not risen.
Look, Abbott is not a stupid person, he’s a Rhodes scholar who schemed his way to the highest office in the land. So if stupidity is not the answer to why he can spout this guff, what does that leave?
One answer might be to question his mental health, and I mean that seriously not in some random attacking fashion: how can an intelligent person spout such overtly dangerous stuff? He’s not pontificating over a beer down the pub, he’s got a national, an international, platform to which he’s delivering considered statements. So how can he so blithely run in the face of such an overwhelming weight of evidence that global warming is happening and that the consequences will be dire? While some twist in his mental health might be an answer, it doesn’t seem to fit the reality.
The third answer is that this is completely, cynically self-serving. He knows perfectly well what he is doing but is willing to throw anything on the altar of his own ambitions. He knows people are worried and he’s happy to give them a simplistic comforter if in return they give him money and power. And again this seems to be the new normal.
None of this is even entertaining. It’s just horrifying. Just when it looked like the egregious Malcolm Roberts may well lose his national platform, the cast of lunatics expands to fill the vacuum.
None of us can do anything about why Abbott and his fellow-travelers are prepared to say this stuff. But we can do something about normalizing it by not accepting it and calling it out. And that’s not a job that can be left to scientists as though they had a moral responsibility to take on populist politicians.
I’m beginning to realise that what we need is not more scientists or campaigns to respect scientists. What we need are new politicians and a new political society. We need a new approach that doesn’t cater to the basest needs of the masses for simplistic answers and impossible dreams of endless free electricity. We not only need people prepared to speak truth to power, but we need powerful people prepared to speak truth. But what we need does not seem likely to be what we will get.
What we do not need is to be battered into a submission where the new normal is that we accept Tony Abbott and his ilk spouting such utter drivel without batting an eyelid.
Image: Climate Refugees.