Stop laughing! There’s nothing funny about climate change

18 September 2017

NERO NEVER FIDDLED while Rome burned. It is a popular myth, but it’s simply not true — there were no fiddles back in Roman times.

© Dean Sewell / Oculi/Agence VU


This piece was first published on Independent Australia. 

Nero is, however, reported to have sung a song about the sacking of Troy while watching as 70 per cent of Rome was swallowed by flames in a single blistering gulp.

Some of our current crop of politicians have gone one better — they now laugh like small children whenever climate change is brought up.

This week, the conservative side of politics continued what seems to be the running gag of climate change for the during a motion by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson calling for recognition of Australia’s climate scientists.

Whish-Wilson told the floor and later posted on social media, that it was “the angriest I have ever been in the Senate” as he watched members of the house openly mock climate scientists.

Liberal Senator James McGrath stood to read what appeared to be his party’s talking points in a deadpan monotone stopping a number of times to smirk and chuckle.

Leader of the Australian Conservatives Party, Cory Bernardi, rose to make a point of order, informing the house that it was, in fact, he who had been raucously laughing.

Presumably, he was concerned the people who voted him in would be upset if he wasn’t earning his base pay of $199,040 a year by chuckling his way through Senate motions.

 Nice work if you can get it.It’s part of a trend in Australian politics for conservatives to openly mock, laugh and ridicule climate change, even as the Great Barrier Reef bleaches and dies, even as we notch up record hot year after record hot year, even as natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma increase in frequency and intensity worldwide.

When asked about climate change in June this year by a Liberal colleague, Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg had a good laugh.

He spent 30 seconds answering the question and then two-and-a-half minutes openly laughing about an interview where Labor MP Andrew Leigh mentioned climate change could have an impact on the ski season.

“He’s just worried about one thing: losing the ski season,” guffawed Frydenberg.

Someone else who is worried about the ski season is the CSIRO, who warned climate change could shrink Australia’s ski season by 80 days a year by 2050.

But never let reality get in the way of a good joke.

And it seems there’s nothing funnier than the threat posed by climate change — once described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (before he was Prime Minister) as  “catastrophic”.  

And it’s not just in public that politicians are laughing it up.

The Australian people were lucky enough to hear Peter Dutton’s private corker about rising sea levels destroying people’s homes in the Pacific after he was accidentally recorded on a boom mic joking about “Cape York time” and how “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”.

Which is apparently a hoot. Prime Minister at the time Tony Abbott apparently thought so — he laughed until being warned by Scott Morrison “there’s a boom [microphone] up there”.

People are losing their homes and their livelihoods due to the impacts of climate change? Good one Pete, you’re the best.

You know who else thinks it’s funny? This woman sitting on the back porch of her house. Her daughter took a picture of water literally lapping at her feet.

‘This is what living with climate change is’, she wrote.

What a crackup!

Yes, laughing at the effects of climate change is now so common it’s become something of a tradition among a certain section of politicians.

Which begs the question — what exactly is so funny?

Experts don’t think it’s funny. They’re warning climate change could lead to drastic shortages in the global food supplyrising sea levels“doom” for small islandsmelting glaciers, increased insurgency, terrorism, and organised crime and even an increase in allergies.

Professor Terry Hughes doesn’t think it’s funny. He is very clear that the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef is due to climate change.

Former senior Australian defence officers including the former chief of the military don’t think climate change is a laughing matter either. Earlier this month they warned of “long, slow, lingering, and horrible” consequences if something is not done about climate change.

They’re not alone. Their message came after a similar warning from the former director of national intelligence for the United States.

I guess they just don’t get the joke.

Someone should ask Education Minister Simon Birmingham why he laughed when he was asked about bleaching and coral death on the Great Barrier Reef by Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson earlier this year.

“Do I agree that Senator Whish-Wilson needs a tissue?” he jeered. “He needs a lot more than that.”

Well in June, UNESCO said you can’t save the Reef without doing something about climate changemeaning the measures the honourable and esteemed Senator Birmingham championed to try and help the Reef will not be effective.

That probably had some MPs rolling in the aisles.

But maybe it’s just a habit in Parliament to make jokes about things that simply aren’t funny.

We all remember Scott Morrison waving around a chunk of coal in parliament to raucous laughter from his colleagues as though they were watching the complete box set of “Dad’s Army” all at once.

“This is coal Mr Speaker,” he declared. “Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you.”

What a cracker of a joke. Coal won’t hurt you. It’s your buddy.

It’s only driving climate changecreating a black lung outbreakpoisoning the air we breathestealing natural treasures from your children.

Our mate coal, that old kidder.

No, Nero didn’t fiddle while Rome burned — but this crop of politicians are laughing their way through the most important decisions of our generation.

We deserve better.

This isn’t a joking matter anymore. Seven years ago Malcolm Turnbull considered climate change to be such a serious matter that he crossed the floor to vote against his own party to take action.

He has since gone as quiet as rats’ feet over broken glass. An absence of leadership while his colleagues laugh.

This can’t be how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a chuckle.