Monday, 2 December 2019
Matters of Urgency
I too rise to address this matter of public urgency that's been brought forward. I'm glad that Senator McCarthy did talk about the mental health impacts, because one of the concerns that I do have—and this is regardless of whether or not one believes in human caused climate change or that the climate has changed for other reasons—is the impact of some of the dialogue on young people, some who have written to my office, some who I have seen interviewed, some who appear in various reports, who are suffering high degrees of anxiety because of the nature of the language and wording that is used, which sometimes is quite inappropriate for children of their age.
One of the concerns I have with the whole climate change debate—and I speak here about the validity of science as someone who has a science degree and has worked in an engineering environment for most of my life—is if you take the time to not just read the political summaries from the IPCC but actually dig down to the underlying scientific reports what you find is that, in the vast majority of cases, the scientists do their job. They highlight the fact that there are a range of variables, and for some variables they're not quite sure about their impact. They look at the modelling and they give various degrees of confidence in the modelling. They give various outcomes depending upon which variables you accept, which you don't and how you vary the impact of those. And sometimes the impacts that may come out would be very small, but they say a different set of assumptions and combinations might make them very large. That is science at work: observation, measurement and appropriate reporting. But the summaries are often going to the extreme to try and capture a headline or to drive action. We see that reflected in some of the actions of the people who superglue themselves to roads—and all the rest of it—trying to get the attention, but the flow-on effect for young people, particularly primary school aged students, who aren't equipped at their age to distinguish between rhetoric or advertising or a scare campaign or fact, is that some of these kids are suffering significant anxiety. I encourage people on all sides of this debate to choose their words carefully for the audience that they are dealing with. And for young people to be having nightmares about an impending apocalypse and end of the world, essentially in their lifetime, I think is irresponsible on the behalf of the people who are putting that information in front of them.
Senator McKim interjecting—
Senator McKim scoffs on the other side of the room, and I'm not saying you shouldn't talk about it if you believe that climate change is caused by man and Australia taking action on its 1.3 per cent will have an impact, by all means, argue for that, but argue with the policymakers, argue in public forums, but don't put it on the shoulders and in the minds of young children is what I'm saying, because it does cause harm. They are not the policymakers. They are not the people who are leading industry or environmental movements—