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Friday, December 31, 2004

Response to Listener "Global Meltdown" article

Listener article implies "Make hay while the world sinks"

Earlier this year I was astonished to see that environmental issues made it to the front page of the economist and the listener. The "Hitting Home" article by the listener compelled me to buy it - but after reading it I was left puzzled. I read it again and recoiled at the fact that the article was spending a good deal of its attention looking at the short-term opportunistic benefits that would be afforded as a result of global warming. In response I wrote this - which the Listener published, and nominated as "Letter of the Week"

Rather than consulting climatologist-peers of highly respected climate scientist Peter Barrett for a second opinion on his prognosis for earth, this article places him in the company of the Hollywood entertainment industry , and then "balances" his views with non-specialists and vested-interest groups"

With all due respect to The Manufacturers and Employers Federation, they are neither scientists nor objective. Eliciting their view is like asking the Tobacco Industry whether smoking is dangerous. David Bellamy - respected ecologist? - yes, climatologist? - no.

If we have suspected bowel cancer, we see a specialist in that area. If we don't like the result, we get a second opinion from a second specialist. We don't ask the opinion of say, a gyneacologist , and an accountant. While truth may sometimes disturb us - chance of survival is increased by facing it, ie: talking to qualified experts.

"So relatively speaking, New Zealand is in a prime position to take advantage of global warming" the article says, whereas Australia are " in the shit" and Pacific Islanders are going to have drinking water supplies salinated by as early as mid-next century.

The article asks if New Zealand will be more suitable for growing Shiraz or Pinot Noir, and the effect on coastal real estate markets, while cautioning that no-one should be seen to be dancing on the graves of others.

In short, by focusing on Australia's imminent problem with global warming the article is saying there is a bad leak in their side of the boat. Then, rather than focus on our shared fate, the article speculates on a brief anomaly: the same force that sinks them first might lift our end up first - affording us for a time a fleetingly better view.

By isolating the voice of Barrett, ignoring short-term effects in a global context, and marginalizing the longitudinal effects of global warming, the article produces a favourable review of a bad Shiraz: good impression when it first hits the nose, bitter aftertaste that leaves us all gagging.