While the climate is shifting into unchartered territory, so too are the many denialists. It’s easily noted in the news pages on social media and it’s seen in the media itself. It’s not a major shift, but it’s enough to make a difference.
Here’s one such example:
The Australian, as I've noted in a previous article, has a reputation for being quite right-wing and their followers follow suit. But interestingly their followers are also quite cluey and are rightly ripping this op-ed piece by noting the author has strong ties with the mining industry, among other things. Seriously, give yourself a moment and check out the comments. That being said, go have a look at the conservative media in your country or state and see what people are commenting.
This shift, especially in the Australian landscape, is thanks to the growing aversion to mining companies. New South Wales and parts of Queensland are going through a drought and there are growing fears of mining companies sucking up all the groundwater. There is also a lack of accuracy around the jobs market in new mining ventures, with the proposed Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland sharing differing views of how much direct and indirect jobs it could create. And with the growing desire for automation, the number of current mining jobs could drop. These factors are forcing the fence-sitters on climate change to be a little more proactive in their research. This explains the growing desire for renewable energy, where full-time employment in this industry is growing at a healthy rate.
Another thing I’ve noticed is how limited the climate denialist articles and news stories are becoming. Other major newspapers that peddle towards the conservative side are posting up less and less about climate change in general. And that’s because the arguments they peddle are losing rope.
One person who has duly noted this change is Fiona Harvey, the environment correspondent for The Guardian. In an article titled “‘There are no excuses left’: why climate science deniers are running out of rope”, she explains how attitudes have shifted in the past decade.
“Few people imagined 15 years ago that climate protest would become by now a mass movement, with thousands of people prepared to be arrested and schoolchildren around the planet shaming their elders by going on strike,” she wrote.
“The likes of veganism and the no-fly movement were easily dismissed as fringe fanaticism, never to catch on.”
And how wrong we were to think that.
All this change is primarily thanks to the internet, which has broken down the gatekeeping barrier that the media has held onto for the past century. We don’t have to just accept what a newspaper or newsreader says. We can fact check ourselves if we really want to, and that’s what people are doing when it comes to climate change.
“Our climate knowledge has increased vastly in 15 years,” Fiona wrote. “No one can now plausibly say there is not enough data, or that we lack the technology, or that saving the climate is too expensive. All of these pretexts have been exploded by patient scientific work.”
Because of all this slowly seeping knowledge that is permeating our political and social discourse, it’s becoming harder and harder to remain a climate change denialist. Not only that, there are unprecedented events occurring today that are causing denialists and fence-sitters to question everything they know. We’ve got bushfires ravaging the east coast of Australia, and summer is yet to arrive. We’ve got Venice drowning in high tides. Ice is melting at the poles at unnerving levels. Earlier this year, the US Midwest and Canada were hit by a polar vortex. And the most worrying trend is how much displacement is occurring in 2019 thanks to these extreme weather events. These things can’t be ignored. And it’s becoming harder to downgrade them as just another day on planet earth. There is something going wrong and more and more people are catching on and doing their own research rather than sitting in their media bubble.
All this social change does sound like great news, but it won’t mean anything if we cannot leverage in the upcoming elections around the world.
How to leverage the social shift on climate change
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Australian political history, the most important agenda in everyone’s hearts is jobs. I’m certain this is an issue that affects all countries. In fact, it’s one of the most important things in a human’s life. Obviously we must not disregard the growing issue of climate change, but if we’re going to change the way people act, we must give them hope.
There is growing research that indicates how lucrative renewable energy can be. According to Forbes, it’s now become the cheapest option in energy creation. And that is without subsidies. Not only that, but it’s also growing quite well in regards to employment. Not just in Australia as I’ve noted before, but also in the USA and in Europe too. To really put the icing on the cake, China, who is the highest polluter of fossil fuels, leads the world in renewable energy employment. They are currently nearing 5 million jobs that directly or indirectly relate to renewable energy production.
In order for us to transition effectively and efficiently towards renewable energy, we must shout out hope for the future of it. It’s becoming the cheapest alternative, it’s got a growing job market and the biggest countries are leading in the charge. Renewable energy is a viable option.
Indeed, this mustn't be done to the detriment or downplay of climate change. It is happening, and we are starting to see the early signs of it. But if you ever find yourself in a stalemate argument with a climate change denier, switch the subject to what transitioning to renewable energy could do, and how viable it is. Show them the jobs that could arise from really driving forward the transition to renewables. And then tell them that even if they don’t believe in climate change, it would at least be better to transition from the finite resource of coal towards infinite resources like the sun, the waves and the wind.
What you can do to build a better future
As an added bonus to this article, I’d like to share the little things that you can do to make the world a better place.
- Vote: Your vote means something. You are given this right and it’s the most powerful right you can have. Don’t waste it. Before you head out to the polling booth, though, make sure you do your research on all the candidates and find the ones that will lead the world on tackling climate change.
- Talk: Write about it on social media, share it in a video, tweet it and even discuss it with your friends and family. The more we talk about, the more prevalent it becomes, and the more newsworthy it is. Tell people about the viability of renewables. Tell them how destructive coal mining can be, especially with regards to water use. And tell them that we should act now. Tell them to vote, too!
- Protest: I’m not advocating for gluing yourself to a road and stopping traffic. That’s very counterproductive and can cause an uproar from the community towards climate activists. But if you hear of a march going on in your city, go and attend it. Sign petitions, email local councils, state governments and federal politicians. Advocate for renewables and share your dissatisfaction about incoming coal companies. The most important thing about protesting is not to disrupt, but to create conversation. So give them something to talk about, ie: climate change.
- Recycle: There is a misconception around the world about plastic. Indeed, plastic takes lifetimes to break down, but it can easily be recycled and used again. So be sure to recycle your plastics. This includes plastic bottles, where most can easily be recycled. If you notice your workplace isn’t recycling properly, create a memo about it and bring it up with the head office. If your local council isn’t recycling properly, tell them or bring it up with the local news.
- Conserve: Be a little pedantic with your energy use. I’m sure most of you are already, especially if your electricity prices are going through the roof. Turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them. Try hanging your clothes instead of relying on the dryer. Buy solar panels if you can afford it, or advocate local or state governments to subsidise them. Walk or take public transport rather than taking your car, or ride your bike to work. Be consumer savvy when buying new electronics so you don’t get electric-syphoning devices.
- Change: There are habits you can change that can help add to the reduction of greenhouse emissions. Firstly is your diet. If you’re not keen on becoming a vegetarian (like me!), then why not opt for a “flexitarian” diet. This term was coined in recent years by someone unknown, but it’s meaning is easily noted. This is important in tackling climate change since the meat industry is a strong polluter of greenhouse gases — not just from the farting cows, but also in the production and distribution. Instead of cutting out meat and poultry altogether, why not gradually cut down your intake of it? In fact, you’re probably doing it right now, and if so congratulations! But as well as cutting down on meats, you should be a lot more consumer savvy in what you buy and where you buy it. Locally sourced products are likely to have produced fewer carbon emissions because of low distribution. And buying greens from the local greengrocer is fundamentally better for the environment and the economy. Large supermarket chains are notorious for low prices, but with low prices comes low profits for farmers who are already doing it tough.
- Lead: When you change your habits, and when you do it openly, it’s not surprising to see others follow suit. We are competitive creatures, which is why capitalism thrives. When we see that our neighbour has installed new solar panels — and when they boast about it afterwards — we consider installing some on our roof. When we hear our friend has bought the new Taylor Swift album, we consider buying it ourselves. When we hear about the new movie that all our work colleagues have seen, we want to see it too. It’s a natural human instinct. A leader doesn’t tell people how to do it, they show them, and that’s what you can do when you change your habits. Become a leader. Adopt the new trend in fighting climate change, and then tell your friends and family about it.