Postcards from La La Land


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The news is bad. Really bad. I usually try to avoid the word “catastrophic” in association with climate change or global warming, but in this case I’ll make an exception. The latest news from the Arctic is that we may already be committed to warming that will trigger a huge release of methane from permafrost in Siberia and Canada. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the consequences of a large and sustained release will be truly catastrophic. Forget trying to cut emissions to stay under two degrees of warming, we’ll be fighting to stay alive on a planet gone wild.

Not that you’d learn that from what you might laughingly describe as “the other side of the climate debate”. Allow me to take you on a tiki tour of La La Land by drawing your attention to two articles that popped up in my browser in the last few days. The first comes from Australia’s Quadrant magazine — a title with pretensions to academic credibility, but instead wedded to the wilder shores of right wing politics and — of course — climate denial. The headline says it all: The Age of Global Warming is Over. The author, one Paul Collits, doesn’t exactly hedge his bets:

Many people will argue that my own conclusion—that the age of global warming is over—is wrong, or at least premature. The beliefs will go on for a time, and the pieties will continue to be recited. But this is merely the echo chamber of mutual support in its death throes.

To which I can only respond: “look North, young man, look North.”

Over at site that rejoices in the title American Thinker, we find an even more outrageous rejection of reality. For Jeffrey Folks, global warming isn’t just over, we’re heading into a new ice age.

What America is facing with global cooling is year after year of crop failure, higher heating bills, and general inflation (as the effects of higher food and fuel prices ripple through the economy).

As you might expect, there is only one solution:

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The best way to prepare for this crisis is to unleash the powerful forces of the free market, thus creating prosperity for all and putting our nation in the position to prosper no matter what.

As Swift put it, “there’s none so blind as they that won’t see.” In this case, the blindness is transparently ideological — a rejection of reality because it doesn’t coincide with preconceived notions. For the writers at Quadrant and American Thinker, that’s their job. They must take the libertarian free-market agenda and portray the world through that lens and no other. If the world won’t oblige by matching their desires, they’ll just ignore it.

This sort of madness is all too obviously on display in New Zealand. From Rodney Hide’s strident climate denial to the posturing of our little band of climate deniers as they try to prove that New Zealand’s not warming by taking thermometers to court, NZ’s right wing is so far out of touch with reality that they render themselves politically irrelevant.

We should be banging on the doors of our politicians, begging them to read the science and work out the implications of what we know now. We need to be planning to survive warming, not treat it as a minor inconvenience — or as something that might not happen. The siren voices from La La Land are pure political poison — and must be treated as such.


  1. And here in NZ, I’m dismayed not only by the NZ Herald articles from Chris de Freitas, which are produced every time an article is published on climate change, (giving his denial position the benefit of the last word), but also by the fact that he is the head of the School of the Environment at Auckland University.

    He has been in on the denier front for many years, having knocked heads with James Hansen and Fred Pearce (who refers to him as a climate contrarian) and involved in the Soon and Baliunas controversy over peer reviewed denialist claims.

    And he is involved in the education of our new environmental scientists.

    We are living in Auck-la-la-land ourselves.

    • De Freitas is certainly a high-profile denier — noted for teaching climate nonsense to first year undergraduates — but he isn’t head of the school of environment. That’s Paul Kench.

      • @ Gareth – thanks for that correction.

        Don’t know where I got that idea, but it shows a small ray of sanity at least.

        Still, would like to understand why Auckland University has him there in the first place.

        • I can’t work out why he’s there either. His CV is hardly impressive and he adds nothing worthwhile to the body of research. However, I’ve only ever seen one lecturer actually sacked from UoA, and he made the mistake of criticising the corporate structure of the university and its worship of the profit motive. I would imagine that de Freitas is very careful in this regard.

  2. For all the huff and puff of media deniers, talking to the (mainly conservative) locals in this area of rural Western Australia, they firmly believe in global warming – they can see it happening, they aren’t stupid, they are trying to quietly adapt to the new realities despite the posturing of politicians and talking heads, but most still don’t quite realise that it is just the beginning of something that will probably overwhelm them within a generation!
    It’s all rather sad, really.

  3. Yeah lets ignore the extreme weather patterns and the rising level of the oceans etc & go buy stuff – what a bunch of arse

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