The most fundamental problem with the "climate change debate" is that a small disparate group of "loud and proud" people are manufacturing popular doubt. Lawmakers, gullible through the scientific ignorance they share with some within the community, are then cajoled into not taking action even though there is scientific certainty about the fundamental premises.
Don't all properly qualified climate scientists agree, for example, that "unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions will change the planet's climate profoundly"; that "doing nothing to abate our fossil fuel use will send atmospheric greenhouse gas to 750-800 ppm by 2100, which will profoundly transform global climate"; that "the projected four-to-seven-degree temperature increase in such a world means the Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are committed to disintegration", and so on .
We're being distracted from the objective realities of what is actually happening to our planet and to us, and their enormity, by what is really a comparatively vacuous nitpicking exercise that has been unwarrantedly elevated to and popularly promoted as a "debate". The "debate" itself needs to be scrutinised as carefully as its subject matter, if not even more carefully.
Leah Ceccarelli, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Washington and author of the book, Shaping Science with Rhetoric, accurately describes global warming scepticism as an example of manufactured controversy, noting that it "has been called an 'epistemological filibuster' because it magnifies the uncertainty surrounding a scientific truth claim in order to delay adoption of a policy warranted by that science".
It is simply no longer acceptable for a small number of climate change struthonians to be given undue airtime to prolong their filibuster. Nor should they get away with their scientifically dishonest attempts to refute climate change science by engaging in tactics such as deliberately commencing data from an El Nino year (1998) to skew results. Or putting forward data that examines trends over only a cherry-picked short period rather than scientifically significant periods such as 20 years or more. Or the much-repeated gaffe of asserting that in the past Earth experienced much higher air temperatures and much higher carbon dioxide than we have today, without also pointing out that those times include the Eocene 40 million years ago, when humans didn't exist and sea levels were 50 metres higher than today.
The message for all of our politicians is clear: the people in whose interests you govern, whether you know it or not and whether you like it or not, need a stable climate to live, to work, to raise their families, to love and to grow old. Just as birds need trees and polar bears need ice. Humans aren't unique. And whether you know it or not, our entire physical environment — our cities, our infrastructure and our patterns of land use — all were established during a very stable climate era. Did you notice that Frisch wrote about "Man in the Holocene", not beyond it.
Scientists aren't scare-mongering when, almost unanimously in both numbers and disciplines, they describe the challenges we will face with an average global temperature rise of more than two degrees. The impacts become even worse at temperature increases of three degrees and above, a warming level we are headed for without action to reduce emissions. We citizens know it's happening, too, which was an important part of why the Howard government was booted out in 2007.
If you as politicians and lawmakers choose to accept the manufactured controversy promoted by a small number of naysayers and eco-backsliders, and say that the "room for debate" justifies inaction, you are failing in your duty to those you represent. You won't maintain the status quo by doing nothing because the destabilisation will continue, and if you do nothing it will accelerate. If you adhere to some naive notion that we can adapt our environment to suit us rather than we having to adapt to our environment you are demonstrating one defining characteristic that does make some humans unique: an ignorant anthropocentricity reeking of selfishness as individuals and as a species.
Kellie Tranter is a lawyer, writer and expert on the Business and Professional Women Australia International Advisory Panel for Environment, Sustainable Development & Water.