Climate Change as a Moral Imperative Part 1

2014 Speech to Candidate’s Forum at the Riviera Christian Centre, Bairnsdale

By way of introduction I must say that I am not a particularly religious person, but I hope a moral one. I am concerned solely with climate change which is certainly a moral issue. I was once asked by a retired minister at Bairnsdale U3A what motivated me and I replied that it was a “moral imperative’. By this I meant that I could see that climate change was having an effect on society and could have disastrous effects on society and humanity as a whole. I was therefore obliged to do what I could to alert people to this problem and to try to offer some solutions.

To this end I have transformed myself from a bookseller and local historian to a climate activist. The political part of my activity is to contest elections at every available opportunity to try to persuade the public and the politicians that this is the most important problem facing us all. Hence the “Vote Climate” part of my slogan. The other part is to offer hope and solutions which are inadequately summarized by “Vote Solar”. Why do I spend my time doing this – many would say a fruitless task – when I could be doing the things I enjoy more. Why have I committed, and continue to commit, a substantial proportion of my life savings to this task? My answer is the moral imperative.

Climate Change is not a matter of belief or opinion. It is a matter of science. Climate science is one of the most complicated subjects on earth. Aside from the greenhouse effect there are a number of factors that govern our changing climate but most of these changes occur very slowly – over thousands of years.

The greenhouse effect is a matter of physics, a natural law or, if you like, God’s law. It is like gravity or the shape of the earth – and is hardly something to have an opinion about. It was discovered in 1827 and it keeps the earth warm. Without the greenhouse effect the earth would be 30 degrees cooler – a ball of ice and snow. Methane and carbon dioxide are the main greenhouse gases. They are in effect the earth’s thermostat – increase them and the temperature rises and vice versa. Since the industrial revolution we have been turning up the earth’s thermostat – mainly by burning coal – raising carbon dioxide from about 280ppm to 400ppm and the earth is measurably getting warmer.

When you are considering climate change I urge you to trust the scientists rather than the politicians in this matter. In a highly specialised society much of what we do is based on trust. We trust the pilot when we fly. We trust our doctors when we consult them. So unless you are curious about all the detail that’s all you need to know.

The results of this warming are measurable and observable everywhere – retreating ice mass in the Antarctic, drastic retreating ice sheets in the Arctic, and closer to home more frequent and longer heatwaves, bushfires and droughts. These are directly affecting life but we cannot calculate yet with certainty how many people have been killed by this or that event which has been heavily influenced by climate change.  For instance the heatwave of 2009 that preceded the Black Saturday bushfires killed 372 individuals – mostly the elderly, sick and very young. (to be continued)