Comment – Dear Tim: Time for your lesson.


Tim Blair in The West

Holly Edwards-Smith, Razia Osmani, and and other NewsVineWA writers

Attention, Tim Blair.

We read your toxic Daily Telegraph blog – that for some reason The West Australian saw fit to re-publish on March 18. We are writing now because you and a few other old denialists obviously missed the point of what you called the ‘little climate party’. Therefore, we’re going to assign you some extra homework to help you understand it a bit better.

Let’s begin where you did. Mathematics. You offered us the number 558,400,000 and you assumed that we wouldn’t know that it was the total tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent Australia emitted last year. We did, but it’s funny that the Federal Government is yet to add this figure to its website dedicated to sharing this info. Maybe it’s because the December quarter broke records making 2018 our most shameful year yet.

We’ll just pause for a minute while you and other diesel guzzlers stop crying. By the way Tim, before you comment on Samantha’s punctuation on her protest sign maybe double check your own article. You really needed the word ‘it’ here not ‘is’ when you wrote: “Can you imagine how terrible is would be … ”. (Pretty embarrassing for a 54-year-old journalist). However, unlike you, we understand that a person’s level of intellect is not determined by a spelling mistake, but what does determine a person’s intellect is denying science and the obvious.

Where were we? Oh yes. We are right about where you begin to make sweeping statements based on what you guessed were the protesters’ demands. Did you actually ask them what they were asking for? Did you even google it? Apparently not, (and as journalism students that troubles us).

Did you know that making up false statements that are easy to knock-down is called the Straw Man Logical Fallacy? Did you know that we can all see you desperately punching out a fake opponent?

You claim that the climate strikers wanted to bring Australia’s emissions down to zero. Firstly,  this is an exaggeration. The actual demands were these: Stop Adani; No new coal or gas; and for Australia to be 100% reliant on reusable energy by 2030.

In your condescending rant, you didn’t address a single one of the demands for the strike. Surely if you were genuinely trying to educate, you would have gone through these demands one by one and made it clear why you didn’t think they were feasible?

That does include banning coal immediately? No, the current projects can live out their lives. Let’s just let cut their government subsidies and let renewables take their place.

Does that mean genocide is necessary? No, that was your suggestion, not ours – and we think it was kinda scary. Even though there is some evidence that the massacre of 56 million indigenous people in South America in the 1500s caused enough forest to regrow that global climate chilled down a bit, we think a better take out from this is that we should stop cutting down our forests and get serious about revegetation.

Perhaps the weirdest omission in your piece is that in talking about ways of lowering our emissions total you have completely skipped over the concept of carbon offsets. You don’t seem to have heard of them, so let us explain.

An organisation or event is considered carbon-neutral when its net greenhouse gas emissions are equal to zero. Of course, it’s difficult to have zero greenhouse gas emissions when you are using fossil fuel or mining. But, what you can do is use some of the money you’ve earned to fund other ways of reducing your carbon footprint so that it, yes, offsets your emissions. This can include regrowing forests, capturing methane from piggeries for use in biogas generators; or even helping a developing nation use a new technology that reduces emissions. As long as the reduction is equal to the output, the company or event is completely carbon-neutral.

These offset opportunities were called the ‘flexible mechanisms’ in the Kyoto Protocol and they have been rolled into the Paris Agreement because, among other things, they allow small but smart countries like Australia to help out developing countries and still get carbon credits for doing so.

Also in terms of air travel – that you claim will have to go. Check out how Virgin Australia Airlines manages to offer carbon neutral air travel services – by using offsets. Amazing stuff, and they’ve been doing it since 2007.

Overall, we think that international cooperation is a better move than just sitting around crying about the fact that we are part of a planet facing a planet-sized problem.

We are not so mean spirited that we don’t want people in India and China to have access to transport and comfortable buildings. But to suggest that the only way they can have those things is if they buy Australian coal is not very creative. Both nations already have renewable power industries that dwarf ours and we would like to work constructively towards helping them to progress without following the west’s dirty footprints.

Do you have a point when you address the fact we are protesting to decrease emissions and simultaneously protest to end world poverty? Yes.

It is a valid argument if you take a surface level approach. But if we can address carbon emissions and become reliant on renewable energy, then we will be able to support the development in other countries without causing our sea levels to rise.

Another of your bizarre claims is that we would support ending immigration in order to reduce emissions because people emit carbon.

We suggest that you look up why people emigrate. You may argue they you don’t have time because you are too busy attacking worried children, but trust us, it is something we all need to understand.

The sad truth is that most people who emigrate and leave everything behind to seek refuge, are running from war, violence, and discrimination. So if we were to consider reducing immigration into Australia as a way to reduce global emissions then just shutting the door wouldn’t work, because those people would still be displaced, somewhere on our planet. A better strategy to reduce the numbers of conflict refugees would be to work harder on controlling the global weapons trade and military spending in general. It would be remiss, however, to forget that the next major wave of refugees expected to arrive are the people who will be exiled by rising sea levels. How can we work towards minimising their numbers? By pushing ahead with our coal addiction or trying something different?

If you were really wanting to present an appropriate counter-argument to the students striking for the environment, you probably should have made it clear that you understood that this was a global strike. It wasn’t specific to Australia and it wasn’t just focussing – like you did – on Australian carbon emissions.

If you’d done any, even minor research into the climate rallies, you’d realise we didn’t protest in the wrong country you would have known that our protest was part of a global movement involving over 2000 protests across 125 countries. What this means is not only do Australians care about climate change, the whole world realises this is an issue that needs to be addressed, why don’t you, Tim?

Another benefit of rallying was that seeing each other out in numbers strengthened our resolve to stand together against condescending denialists like you.

But let’s be honest here, Tim. Your article wasn’t written to change the minds or challenge the thinking of any students who might have participated in the strike – and if it was, you sure chose the wrong tone to get through to them. No, your article was written to appeal to baby boomers who condescend and belittle our youth before hearing them out; the kind of people who stand on a porch, shaking their fist and yelling through some false teeth: “You darned kids, get off my property!”

We’re sorry Gramps. But planet earth is not your property.