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The Coalition's toxic denial of climate change is destroying us

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

It is our Government's denial of climate change that has brought so much destruction upon our country, writes Lyn Bender.

AS AUSTRALIA MOURNS enormous losses and experiences the dread and terror of this ferocious summer, the culture of denial attempts to assert itself in this new landscape. The professional denialists continue to promote their toxic climate lies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is their klutz villain who seeks to deceive, as the climate reveals its fury.

Perhaps this is the time that we may at last defeat toxic denial.

The great 19th-century novelist Charles Dickens clearly saw the injustices and failings of his time, yet managed to portray stories that offered elements of hope and restitution.

‘It was the best of times and the worst of times, when evil acts were perpetrated but the essential goodness of mankind prevailed.’

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Dickens, like many literary greats, understood and portrayed the inner workings of the human mind.

In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham denied that her lover had defrauded and rejected her and sought to hold back time at the point of hearing of his desertion. Stopping the clocks, she continued to preside over her crumbling wedding feast, long after the rats had devoured the wedding cake. In the end, she was consumed by fire.

“Have-a-sham” could be a metaphor for our times. May we present our sham leader.

Scott Morrison does not seem to accept the science of the times. If he understands the science, then his response to our climate crisis is homicidal.

Morrison wants to continue to consummate his love affair with coal, even though it means the destruction of our nation and the planet.

In May 2019, enough voters were in denial of the urgency of climate change to facilitate the election of a climate-denying government. Morrison showed us what he was made of when he fondled a lump of coal in the House of Representatives. It had been lacquered into cleanliness.

“Don't be afraid, don't be scared,”  he mocked. “This is coal,” Morrison bellowed. He laughed as his sycophantic frontbenchers handled the gleaming black lump with glee.

Optimism is not the same as pretending in the face of evidence to the contrary that all will be well. That kind of optimism exists in the realm of charlatans or fools.

The fire season began early in spring. As the conflagrations spread and worsened, Scott Morrison maintained his have-a-sham position. He enacted a show of optimism for the future. No worries, mate — he went on a secretive holiday to Hawaii. He returned after intense media scrutiny and criticism but went to the beach. Although this seemed rather staged.

Morrison did not look the part of a carefree family beachgoer. He trudged on Bronte Beach sands like a businessman on a lunch break, who has removed his shirt and trousers for an hour. Or, in his case, for a photo shoot. He declared bizarrely that under-resourced exhausted volunteer firefighters were as happy as Larry, doing their thing. They were where they wanted to be, crowed the fireproof Prime Minister.

He was enjoying the cricket and so should the volunteer firefighters and the people. Morrison had a Happy New Year’s Eve party and photoshoot with the cricket team. “Life, as usual, continues” was the message. As people died, houses burned, ecosystems and millions of native animals are incinerated, the Prime Minister was having his summer of beach and cricket. It was like a crass tourism promotion.

This is the bizarre game that the denialist team has been playing for many years. As the planet hotted up and the science grew more insistent of our need to act, the denial team was in full throat. As the birds were silenced, the usual suspects became more shrill in their squawking.

There are too many to name but here are a few of those seated at the have-a-sham table:

The Government is staffed by saboteurs of climate action. Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor has voiced opposition to the UN climate processes. Australia, along with Brazil and Saudi Arabia, pushed for a very disappointing outcome at the recent Climate Summit at Madrid. Angus's performance was slammed by climate scientist Will Steffen.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is awaiting divine intervention for the drought, rather than government intervention. As the former Drought Envoy, Joyce failed to produce a single report.   

You may know them by their words and deeds, the diners at the table of rot and corruption. 

Here are some of the deeds of the climate action destructors:

  1. Tony Abbott wins the election on a promise to axe the tax legislated by the ALP with Green support. It had been reducing emissions;
  2. CSIRO faced budget cuts in 2016 with the loss of climate scientist jobs. Scott Morrison was treasurer from 21 September 2016 until 26 August 2018;
  3. $3 million spent on redundancies by CSIRO and some science positions restored;
  4. Turnbull Government deposes Abbott in 2016, returns some funding that reduced staff cuts in CSIRO;
  5. the hard Right, supported by the Murdoch press, deposes Turnbull in 2018 — Turnbull had proposed the National Energy Guarantee, which was meant to reduce cost, increase reliability and lower emissions and be bipartisan;
  6. Scott Morrison becomes PM and fudges the carbon figures, saying Australia will meet its Paris commitments at a canter, despite emissions climbing;
  7. Morrison presides over a climate policy vacuum;
  8. in May 2019, Morrison wins the unwinnable “climate election” with no policies on climate;
  9. Angus Taylor argues at COP 25 in Madrid to water down Australia’s low target by using Kyoto credits, thereby not achieving an actual reduction of emissions;
  10. as massive fires worsened to catastrophic levels, Morrison tries to suppress discussion of climate change and was mocked internationally. The world has made the link between Australian coal, bushfires and climate change; and
  11. Morrison had actually intended to go to India to promote Australian coal this January. He has only recently pulled out (for now) under pressure. 

The trip to India was as tin-eared as the recent Tourism (carefree) Australia promotional video with Kylie Minogue. That has also been paused due to the fires.

Where does hope lie in this tale?

The people are waking up to the seriousness of the continuing catastrophe. We are choking on the smoke. Everyone knows someone impacted by these fires. It crosses all classes, ages and ethnicities. So much has been lost. So many animals have died.

This has to be our wake up call. Now, more than ever, we need to talk about climate change solutions.

The people on the ground are supporting one another and the animals. Maybe through all this devastating fear and sorrow, we will regain a new perspective on what really matters. Maybe we will fight for the survival of our natural world and of each other.

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

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