Tag Archives: climate change denial

The political economy of the Climate Crisis in the Pacific

During 2018 I travelled to Wellington in New Zealand to participate in the second Pacific Climate Change Conference hosted by Victoria University and located in the amazing Te Papa Tongarewa Museum. It was a fascinating inter-disciplinary conference featuring international climate scientists such as Professor Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University, as well as a diversity of social scientists, community representatives and activists from across the Pacific.

Professor Michael Mann outlining the science of climate change (© Christopher Wright)

I presented a paper on the political economy of the climate crisis viewed through the lens of Australia’s increasingly fractious relationship with its Pacific neighbours. As the world’s largest exporter of coal and gas, Australia has become increasingly marginalised in the Pacific community for its wanton disregard of the worsening climate crisis. As Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama declared in 2015 over the Australian government’s continued expansion of coal mining:

Australia is siding with what I call the coalition of the selfish – those industrialised nations which are putting the welfare of their carbon-polluting industries and their workers before our welfare and survival as Pacific Islanders.

Opening of the Second Pacific Climate Change Conference, February 2018 (© Christopher Wright)

It would be nice to report that since then the Australian government’s position has changed and there is now a clear focus on the need to embrace rapid decarbonization and wind back our fossil fuel industries. But of course that hasn’t happened. If anything, the current Morrison government is doubling down on the fossil fuel bet with its “gas-led recovery” from the corona virus pandemic and proposed Senate inquiries into financial institutions shifting away from fossil fuel investments!

While fossil fuel multinationals pivot from explicit climate denial to a strategy of predatory delay, our Pacific neighbours are facing the very real likelihood of the physical inundation of their lands by rising oceans and worsening tropical cyclones. The Australian government at the behest of its fossil fuel donors seems oblivious to the suffering that will ensue in this “age of consequences”.

Australia’s fossil fuel expansionism places its relationship with its Pacific neighbours at risk (© Christopher Wright)

You can read my chapter from the recently published book In the Eye of the Storm: Reflections from the Second Pacific Climate Change Conference here.

Professor Michael Mann in Australia

Last week the Sydney Environment Institute and the Balanced Enterprise Research Network at the University of Sydney Business School hosted a visit to Australia by world-renowned climate scientist Professor Michael Mann. Professor Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

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Regional warlordism versus the digital panopticon

Visitors to this blog will know of my interest in climate futures, a subject I’ve published on in academic outlets. Recently I re-read British sociologist John Urry’s excellent article “Climate Change, Travel and Complex Futures”. I remember first reading this in 2008 and the future scenarios it outlined opened my eyes to the huge issue of climate change adaptation. Indeed, this article and Al Gore’s 2006 movie Inconvenient Truth were major influences in re-directing my research towards the issue of business responses to climate change (which this blog summarizes).

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The Politics of Climate Change Research Funding

Readers may remember that back in November, Queensland Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald caused some consternation when he characterised the ‘appalling’ situation of too much research funding being devoted to climate change! Explicit in the Senator’s statement was an argument that competitive grants had been subject to political influence under the former Federal Labor Government. As Senator Macdonald stated:

I also know that a number of scientists—and I have had personal interaction with some of them—who wanted to do research that did not follow the then government’s view of climate change would never ever get a grant from the Australian Research Council. That seemed to me, if that were the case—and I accept what was told to me—that the Research Council was actually following a dictum from the then government about climate change and climate change research.

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Researching Climate Change in an Era of Political Denial

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That the social debate around climate change is a ‘culture war’ should come as no surprise to anyone observing current political debate in Australia, the US, UK and Canada. In contrast to much of the rest of the world where climate science is rarely debated, in the Anglo-Saxon world the culture war around climate change rages on with increasing vehemence.

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IPCC 2013 and Creative Self Destruction Redux

Image: Christopher Wright
Image: Christopher Wright

Well the IPCC‘s latest scientific report has come out confirming what many of us have suspected – that anthropogenic climate change is on track with previous worst-case scenarios and the future prognosis is bleak. Given the IPCC is by its nature a conservative organisation, it seems likely that as before, the current report may well underestimate some climate impacts. Be that as it may, this is startling and confronting  to read given the import of its conclusions.

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Can our Political Systems Deal with Climate Change?

Protestors outside the Copenhagen climate talks, December 2009 (Image: Bastien Vaucher http://bit.ly/1cVuhck)
Protestors outside the Copenhagen climate talks, December 2009 (Image: Bastien Vaucher http://bit.ly/1cVuhck)

So here’s the thing. Despite decades of debate and a scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change is a real and present danger to not only our societies, but our future as a species – greenhouse gas emissions continue their inexorable rise. This year we passed the symbolic 400 ppm CO2 concentration levels (not seen on Earth for several million years) and we now appear destined to exceed the politically constructed fiction of a 2 degree limit on global warming. The house is on fire, the experts are screaming ‘do something!’, and yet we remain oblivious, addicted to the distractions of hyper-consumption and tech-toys. Which brings me to the topic of this post: can our political systems actually deal with the challenge of climate change?

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Climate Change as Culture War

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugfaker/5847464425/in/photostream/
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugfaker/5847464425/in/photostream/

The social and political debate over climate change continues unabated, despite an ever worsening procession of extreme weather events and increasingly dire scientific climate projections (on track for a 4 degree warmer world).

While there is a significant over-estimation of the extent of climate change denial within society, those who reject the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change appear to have become even more strident, despite the overwhelming weight of climate science.

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