Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Battling the Culture of Global Warming Denial

Battling the Culture of Global Warming Denial

Charlotte Steele

Year 9

What matters to me and is troubling me greatly, is that the global warming debate in Australia is still going on in social media, on talk back radio, and most disturbingly in the hands of our political rulers, where those who should know better, allow misguided, ill-informed fake news to persist despite the overwhelming evidence that global warming is real.

Even as the reality of our overheating planet becomes ever more obvious, the culture of climate change denial remains incredibly influential, not just amongst the crazy fringe groups, but in mainstream institutions like the normally uncontroversial Country Women's Association.

Every year I take part in the CWA public speaking competition, but this year to my horror, the choice of topics included the astonishing suggestion: 'Global Warming, Fact or Fiction' The topic was thrown in with other unproblematic high school debating points, as though it was a perfectly acceptable position to be uncertain about climate change, What's next for the CWA discussion: 'Is the Earth flat?'

Did no-one from the CWA, or the politicians, or the coal industry, notice that it's getting hotter, and not just in far flung spots that can be ignored (like Alaska, or the Gobi Desert), but in my home town of Bathurst.

In 1990, a new record was set for the hottest day in Bathurst, with the temperature hitting 38.3 degrees. In 2004, the record was broken again, this time hitting 40.1, almost 2 degrees higher than the previous hottest day in almost 200 years of records.  In 2017, it was hotter again with Bathurst hitting a scorching 41.5, and in 2019 we have just experienced our hottest summer on record.

It's extremely disturbing that the reality of climate change is still being touted as open to question despite countless studies on rising carbon levels in the atmosphere, the unprecedented coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, the melting polar ice caps are melting, and the fact the UN intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

The data on climate change has been collected by ordinary people like the scientists and statistics experts who work at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. These people are not evil villains or agents for enemy powers. They're just ordinary Australians who get up every morning, look at the temperatures and the rainfall records that come in from across the country. They add up the figures and the conclusion is glaring them in the face that climate change is real.

With ever more powerful cyclones, fiercer blizzards, bigger floods, and longer, drier droughts, things are getting so bad it defies logic to pretend everything is ok. Yet still the Australian government allows big cotton companies to take too much water from the Murray Darling causing mass fish kills. Still, they pass outrageously flawed environmental approvals for the Adani coal mine to win a few extra votes. Still they slash funding for CSIRO climate science, while handing billions to a little non-profit organisation on the Barrier Reef that was backed by Liberal Party mining donors.

This is a plea to society not to be distracted by self-interested, mining companies and politicians.  The evidence for global warming is overwhelming and the time is over for asking, is it real? The question for the CWA, the mining companies, the politicians, and the ordinary citizen, should be:  What should we do right now to slow this catastrophe? There is no doubt climate change is real, it is happening, and we need to act now.