I had one of those potentially awkward moments recently where you risk realising that someone you only vaguely know may have wildly different beliefs than you do. I was chatting to an acquaintance about the weather we’ve been having, and said automatically, “That’s climate change for you”, and then immediately froze.
We both stared at each other for a second, and then she said, “It’s almost as if it’s real!” And then we both laughed, but not before she added, just to be extra sure, “You do believe in climate change, right?”
“Of course I do!” I replied, and we both sighed in relief.
But it made me realise, at this point in time, I can’t imagine what I would say to someone who genuinely wanted to argue with me that climate change doesn’t exist, off the back of the 2019/20 bushfire season and as we head into what could be another traumatic season this summer. I think I would just be flabbergasted, and maybe even secretly amazed, at the ability of people to stick to their guns even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
I remember working for a large agricultural organisation a decade or so ago and having to button my lips in the office whenever climate change or renewable energy was raised. At that point, the national board was staunchly committed to the line that climate change wasn’t real and was adamantly anti-wind farms on the basis of wind turbine sickness and the encroachment on farming land. As a 20-something-year-old, I was bemused by what I saw as a bizarre and outlandish position, only to then step further outside my political bubble to realise that those views were more common than I could have imagined.
But 10 years later, after the continued ravages across the country of floods and bushfires, unseasonable storms and wild weather, extreme heat and extreme cold, and continuous reports of ‘record’ new temperatures, surely even the most committed sceptic has to admit that something is definitely at play beyond the natural shifts and phases of the environment?
In my interaction, I was particularly surprised by my acquaintance’s hesitation because I assumed we were on the same page politically, purely because we’re both Canberrans. I see our community as, by and large, being environmentally conscious, probably because I know how important our beautiful mountains and reserves are to so many locals. That she paused to ascertain we were indeed on the same page reminded me that I am probably a little too relaxed in my insular bubble – but I still can’t imagine how anyone could be clinging to the notion that climate change is a beat up when we’ve gone from a frosty morning on the weekend to 29-degree weather that’s going to drop again to one degree overnight later in the week.
After our chat about climate change, my acquaintance and I decided to charge ahead with more controversial topics and spent a good 20 minutes talking about the Voice referendum (we’re both voting yes, for the record). In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.