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My climate change denial is worse than Malcolm Roberts'

  • 26 September 2016


'How do I even begin to come to terms with this barrage of bad news?' So begins a journal entry I wrote in March this year after reading recent reports on climate change.

In January, swathes of ancient forest in Tasmania had burned in bushfire. February 2016 was a scorcher — the warmest February in 136 years of modern temperature records, explained NASA, an unprecedented 1.35 degrees Celsius above the average. By late March I was looking at images of a bleached Great Barrier Reef and feeling similarly blanched of colour.

I went for a walk, breathing heavily, looking at my feet. It was sunny. Ominously warm.

Fifteen minutes later, when I returned to my desk, I'd dismissed everything I'd read. My mood was buoyant again, based on absolutely no new evidence. I turned off my computer, and threw the report I'd been reading in the recycling bin. I simply didn't want to know about it.

This is my denial, the denial of someone who understands and accepts the reality of global warming, has made changes big and small to reduce his personal environmental footprint, but still needs to shut out the news reports just to remain sane.

Then, in September this year, I watched another variety of denial play out, as newly elected One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts gave his maiden speech in parliament.

It's hard to overstate just how backwards and isolated this man's views are. Denying the basic facts of climate change means rejecting the consensus view of qualified scientists on the topic, every major scientific institution and all the world's governments. It's quite a feat of confirmation bias.

But Roberts is even further on the fringe — he questions whether the atmosphere can warm the Earth at all. 'The sun warms the earth's surface,' he said in his maiden speech. 'The surface, by contact, warms the moving, circulating atmosphere. That means the atmosphere cools the surface. How then can the atmosphere warm it? It cannot. That is why their computer models are wrong.'


"It's not the literal denial of Malcolm Roberts that will be a barrier in the future. That phase is over. It's the subtle, unspoken denial of people who fully accept the science, but deny the implications."


Wow, what a blooper. As Professor Matthew England, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Climate Change Research Center, explained in response: 'This denies that the atmosphere has any heat storage capacity, or that greenhouse