Last week I attacked the mainstream media for their failure to comprehend the climate emergency, and our politicians who, in the main, follow the media. It is clear ‘business as usual’ must be replaced with the climate emergency. The term ‘climate emergency’ has been around now and in general usage for about 5 years and it has been adopted as policy by many government instrumentalities – mainly local – in Australia. In East Gippsland the local shire council was petitioned to adopt it in 2019 just before the black summer – a clearly connected emergency – but failed to do so.
Inertia in the climate system means that the planet will continue to warm after we have achieved the fabled ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. That will be a momentous task, but even more momentous will be drawing down of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a liveable level (well below 400ppm) for humanity and countless other species. The climate emergency recognises this task whereas for business as usual it is, at best, that global warming is just one problem amongst many.
The latter is clearly recognised in online media websites where there is a complete failure to give the issue both priority and prominence (with perhaps the exception of the Guardian) and this flows through to the wider media. The lack of urgency in the media influences both politicians and the general public. Amongst other results, this has allowed vested interests and their lobby groups to delay meaningful action in Australia for more than a decade and to sow doubt and denial generally. A massive advertising campaign on the basic science of the greenhouse accompanying the carbon tax legislation may well have saved us from a decade of Abbott denialism.
The media blitz that we have just had with the death of Queen Elizabeth may be approaching something along the lines that the climate emergency requires but for much longer and more or less continuously. It is yet to come. Until then we must do our best to promote and publicise the basic science as best we can. Perhaps it is time to ask the local shire again to declare a climate emergency.