“The Federal government has been promoting coal, misleading the public on causes of blackouts and electricity rises, and trashing renewable power. They’ve seemingly forgotten all about climate change. Meanwhile extreme weather has played havoc on power infrastructure around the country, and reports reveal the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing bleaching again.”
Amanda McKenzie, CEO, Climate Council
— UN Climate Action (@UNFCCC) February 23, 2017
The mess that the climate and energy policies of Australia and the US are in today probably has a number of causes, but I see in particular two that stand out and should be dealt with:
• The Lying Game, also known as the Fake News Syndrome, which Trump has given a moment of fame, but which is a global phenomena and in fact is nothing but the well-known and old-fashioned concept of propaganda, only now disguised by and fine-tuned to the new pier-to-pier communication technologies. All of these games invented and financed to cover up the underlying, immoral act of profiting from wrecking our climate – the most widespread Greed Crime of all times – which, among other things, has locked pollution and destruction of nature in as the norm, even though the reality is it causes havoc and deaths and should be condemned as a crime against humanity. That ‘Lying Game’ is what has enabled fossil fuel companies to become richer than entire countries, it has increased luxury and power to the richest one per cent of the population, and enabled just eight wealthy men to own more than what half of the human population owns, while another problem is:
• That there are so few young people in Australian politics and anywhere where decisions are being made, possibly because of that above mentioned ‘Lying Game’, which they have no desire to become a part of. Decisions are made which will impact young people negatively for years to come, but they are not having a say on them. If they did, I bet they would undo many of these decisions rapidly.
[CLIMATIC ROOT TREATMENT] is a series of blogposts seeking to uncover and understand the deeper roots of society’s problems with taking appropriate action on the climate emergency, and to explore the advantages we could see once the action sets in.
“The [fossil fuel] industry thinks we are all fools, so all I can say is dig deep, find the facts, knowledge is power.”
~ Damian Marchant from Frack Free Moriac
There is a pattern which repeats itself in governments all over the world: The more fossil fuels a country has in the ground, the more its government is influenced, if not directly controlled, by the fossil fuel industry.
And the package of messages delivered from the fossil industry has a clear trademark as well: Fossil fuel lobbying is for some reason hardwired to low morals: the art of lying and spreading misinformation.
People lie for a reason. Opinion makers and politicians know that they can get away with lying, and not only get away with it, but again and again they even ripe rewards and personal gains from doing it. In their own social circles, lying is considered acceptable as long as it serves that purpose – just like the tobacco industry “successfully” made huge profits over a period of 40 years while deliberately lying and misinforming about the dangers of smoking in order to run their business.
In November 2016, George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian: “Over the past 15 years, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.”
The tendency of dishonest campaigning used to mislead people was first boosted in social media, where no journalists or editors come in the way of the communication between sender and receiver – but really, we have seen it happening on a daily basis in mainstream news for years and years. The liars have long been able to get away with their misdoings because neither colleagues, their followers, authorities or even journalists think that they should be held accountable. Everyone shrugs their shoulders. “Don’t you know we live in a ‘post-truth’ era now, so… get used to it!”
Calling a spade a spade – and fake news propaganda
“Twitter-reality, fake news, post-truth… Why not just call it propaganda? We know what that is, and we know what needs to be done in order to deal with it,” the Danish author Niels Barfoed rightly pointed out.
Propaganda is based on irresponsibility and repetition. It wouldn’t work unless a fundamental irresponsibility was considered to be alright – and it only sinks in and has an effect when the same message is repeated over and over again until it becomes so well-known that people take it as a fact.
In Australia, the Liberal party MPs must be held accountable for doing just that. I find it astonishing that this process is still not happening already from within the party. On the contrary, the Liberal Lying Game just seems to get more and more bizarre and extreme.
Friends of the Earth Melbourne has decided to do just that – call them out – and they are inviting you to join them on 28 February in Melbourne:
— Act on Climate Vic (@ActOnClimateVic) February 24, 2017
“This bill is critical to protecting public health. We believe the Victorian public deserve to know how the Coalition votes on climate change laws.”
Friends of Earth Melbourne
“Matthew Guy’s decision to vote against climate policy and vow to scrap the renewables target could relegate the Coalition to the political wilderness. Voters reward political parties that act on climate and grow renewables. It’s a reservior of support that the opposition cannot tap with its current platform.”
Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth Melbourne
On Facebook, I am annoyed that I have to put up with getting sponsored, misleading propaganda-posts promoting coal pollution slammed in my face on a daily basis – disguised as anonymous Facebook interest groups with page-names such as ‘Energy in Australia’, ‘Securing Australias Energy’ and ‘Australian Energy Forum’, but using exact same wording and images as pamphlets and posters distributed and letterboxed by Liberal members of parliament.
“The futures of millions of Australians depend on the security of coal…”
“Coal and gas can help with the creation of long-term full-time jobs…”
“The Green-print for Job Losses…”
“On top of killing jobs, apparently Victoria closing the Hazelwood coal-fired power station is making electricity costs go up across the entire country. Bad for businesses and households.”
I might get back to that scam in a later blogpost. For now here are just some visual examples:
Most recently, in the Victorian parliament on 23 February 2017, it was painful to watch members of the Liberal party trying, pathetically, to explain that the reason they couldn’t vote for a proposed legislation, which will ensure new and stronger action on climate change, were that the legislation was only symbolic and wouldn’t reduce emissions, while they simultaneously tried to argue that it would destroy the Victorian economy.
Environment Victoria reported from the Parliament House in Melbourne: “They also argued that responding to climate change was a national responsibility, rather than a state one – perhaps they should talk to their colleagues in the federal Coalition, who are proposing new coal mines and coal-fired power stations and who have no coherent national plan to reduce pollution. It was the same old tactics of deny, delay and frustrate any action that attempts to rein in polluters.”
The story about the federal governments attempt to promote so-called ‘clean coal’ and mega coal mines in Queensland while deceiving the nation with lies and misinformation about what is happening at the energy market and in South Australia – the state which is taking the lead on renewable energy in Australia – is something we have been frustratedly ranting about in almost every Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse this year. Calling coal “clean” is doublespeak – a blatant lie, plain and simple. Propaganda! – that is what it is. And that’s what we have to call it out for.
What history has taught us, if anything, is that fighting propaganda requires attacking it at its root. Which in this case means confronting the liars and propaganda-makers directly, in public, and at the time when it happens. As Bruce Phillips, an American folk singer and poet who died in 2008, said, “The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.”
If we want the propaganda to fail, we must call out the liars and reveal their lies on the spot on a ‘top-down’ basis. Well-respected leaders who have a high level of credibility in the community must speak up about the issues and call out the wrong-doings. And it must just as well be happening from ‘bottom-up’ – like when a family member speaks up over a dinner table and calls the lies out within the home’s four walls, or at a meeting in the local community – or at the work place.
What is important, though, is to figure out how we can do this in a respectful, intelligent, civilised and non-agressive manner. The typical response from a liar is to shout “Liar!” back, and no-one will benefit from two opposing groups shouting ‘Liar!’ at each other.
This is the tricky part to keep in mind: What we desperately need is building, or re-building, a community of trust – and it will be a big mistake to think that such a job can be done alone by calling the other part out as liars. The basis of trust is friendship and peace. Manners. Showing what it means to have principles and values. Actually, in many ways, the good old-fashioned conservative values.
The Liberal MPs have chosen to run a crusade on energy, which has nothing to do with the values their party stands for, and which, in all honesty, according to all polls is a losing battle. Research shows that 93 per cent of Victorians want action from State Government on climate change.
So why on earth would any politician in their right mind try to carry a policy through which goes against such a popular conviction among almost all voters, both left and right? There is only one explanation, and that has to do with what I was talking about in the beginning of this blogpost: our current politicians are influenced, if not directly controlled, by the fossil fuel industry. The money and favours from the industry, that is.
“It’s not climate change that needs to be tackled. It is the political power of fossil fuel industry.”
Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, The Australia Institute
The elephant in the room is political "donations" and the influence that they buy #qanda
— Andrew Laird (@ReclaimAnglesea) February 27, 2017
Energy policy abused for political gain or distorted by vested interests
“The fear-mongering, misinformation and downright lies that have plagued energy policy in Australia since 2009 are rapidly unravelling, thanks in part to that now-famous tweet from tech billionaire Elon Musk.For the past eight years of the energy hoax, we’ve been fed two lies: first, that the global shift to low-carbon energy isn’t happening, or that Australia just can’t afford to join that transition; and second, that privatising state-owned energy assets would give us cheaper and more reliable energy. Mr Musk’s Twitter exchange last week with Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes helped punch through these lies.”
~ Rob Burgess
How this influence and control takes place has not been disclosed, because we have a media world which has been hijacked and tranquillised by that same industry. Yes, we know that both the major parties officially have received over a million dollars as gifts before the last federal election. But we don’t know what is happening on the side and in the dark. I reckon we will find out bits and pieces eventually, but we will never hear the full truth.
Here is one concrete example from the US. Similar evidence keeps cropping up all the time, in Australia as well as around the world:
“The newly released emails reveal a close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt’s office and the fossil fuel industry, with frequent meetings, calls, dinners and other events,” said Nick Surgey, research director for the Center for Media and Democracy, which has sued to compel the release of the emails.
The emails highlight an often-chummy relationship between Pruitt’s office and Devon Energy, a major oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. The correspondence makes clear that top officials at the company met often with Pruitt or people who worked for him. (…)
The documents detail not only how Pruitt’s office at times coordinated with industry officials to fight unwanted regulations from Washington, but also how he was a highly sought-after speaker at conferences and other gatherings for groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, which works with corporate interests and state legislators to shape key pieces of legislation.”
» The Washington Post – 22 February 2017:
Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry
The point is we don’t even need to know. It is totally obvious what is going on – and that it has nothing to do with genuine politics or political values, and everything to do with dirty business under the table, greed, and most of all: irresponsible self interest.
My thoughts about that is: shame on them. But what’s more important, when I look at these politicians, I wonder: what is it they are so obsessed about with their money and whatever luxury and influence that comes with it? Are they living happy lives because of it? I shouldn’t be judgmental, probably, but they don’t look that way.
There is a huge political potential for that first young conservative mind who realises this and establishes a new party built on what used to be the genuine conservative values… rewinding 500 years, I’m looking at the list in ‘Rules of a Knight’ here… such as honesty, cooperation, courage, justice, equality, freedom, friendship and love. But first of foremost: safety and security. Because there is no happy life for humans without those values.
Creating a community of trust requires a conversation at an entirely different platform. A blank slate with new topics, new skills, new collective goals. It is mandatory that building a society that is running on clean and free energy while restoring a safe climate becomes a collective responsibility that includes all sides of politics.
This is exactly what the Climate Emergency Declaration campaign is all about, as I see it. A cross-political, a-political call to declare a climate emergency. When you are hit by a flooding or bush fire emergency, it doesn’t matter what political party you belong to: you get involved, and you help out. The same goes for the climate emergency.
If you are with me on that, please sign the petition here, if you haven’t already done it.
Building support for such a declaration and mobilisation is something I’ve spent many hours, days and nights on in the last year, because it gives me hope. I see it as a way to create the kind of change at a level which is needed now.
But at the time, building trust in the community could be just as important as whatever is happening in parliament – and possibly it could open up a less challenging pathway to creating change. I’ll come back to that, and why, further down.
A political system which is defending, protecting and subsidising polluters is a broken system. During 2016 I wrote at length about the topic in blogposts such as these:
» 14 October 2016: The key to unlock the current climate action stalemate
» 29 September 2016: Climate inaction linked to culture of cutting corners
» 1 August 2016: Climate policy crippled by greed – and the way we can change that
» 20 January 2016: Climate misinformation thrives in Australian media
In the meanwhile, climate action campaigners have got themselves stuck in the muddy waters of the information battle field, where their common sense arguments, logical figures or any reference to science is torn to pieces by the powerful weapon of the dark forces on the other side: the fabrication of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’. It is a war of words, where old-school values of the past, such as honesty and principles of fairness and equality no longer have relevance.
Our times have not only given us ‘fake news’, we also have ‘fake religion’. Not so terribly long ago, humans used religion and the teachings of their religious leaders as their moral compass in their daily lives. They actually took it seriously. Today, in the fast-moving wifi-connected Western world, religion has to a large extent being replaced by individualism, selfishness, selfcentered vanity – games and greed. We have enough in ourselves. Or so we think.
Nowadays, most people still say they belong to one faith or another, but that has nothing to do with the morals that their religion used to stand for. Today religion is mostly understood as a way to define which group and which culture you identify yourself with.
Take the Catholics, for instance. How many of the Catholic politicians in the world are listening to what their religious leader, Pope Francis, is telling them? He wrote this incredible encyclical, Laudato Si, which outlines why we must stop polluting and destroying life on our planet – so what do the Catholics do? They pretend it doesn’t exist. Never heard of it. So far, it is not possible to register that a single one of the Australian politicians with Catholic background has the slightest interest in following the advice of their religious leader.
The seeds of the ecological crisis we are facing were laid long ago – at least some 350 years ago – at a time when leaders and business men in the Western world started destroying nature without any thought for the consequences, because they perceived humans to be living apart from nature, and more important than nature.
But if you seek an explanation as to how it could happen that humanity knowingly imposed climate change upon itself, disregarding that it could mean disaster and even extinction, then that culture of selfishness, irresponsibility, lying and feeling disconnected from nature really is the core, and the cause, of the problem.
Lying pays – and America has set new standards
In America, Donald Trump has once again proved that in the world as it looks today, lying pays off. A newspaper in California nailed the phenomena in May 2016 when in a single headline they wrote: “Donald Trump tells California ‘There is no drought’ as drought continues”. Because the point was: little did it matter! Trump lied. Everyone knew. Even so, enough voters didn’t care about that, they voted for him regardless. Or possibly even because of that. Trump got elected as the president of the United States regardless of the fact that at that stage it was known to everyone that he is a notorious liar.
American senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on 13 February 2017: “We are in a pivotal moment in American history. We have a president who is delusional. He is a pathological liar.”
We are in a pivotal moment in American history. We have a president who is delusional. He is a pathological liar.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 12, 2017
“The US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president,” George Soros wrote – a Hungarian-American business magnate, investor, political activist, and author who also is among the 30 richest people in the world. He is also one of the world’s foremost philanthropists, having given away over $12 billion to date. Soros also recently said:
“I find the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies — from fascist dictatorships to mafia states — are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.”
But who cares about the truth nowadays? Certainly not the Australian government. Honesty and integrity has disintegrated in muddy waters of lying, cheating and manipulating, simply because on the Internet, this has quickly proved to be an easy way to achieve various goals. As 2017 rolls out, humanity faces unprecedented challenges. Not only are the ice poles melting and record temperatures are causing havoc and death as a result of our governments allowing unlimited and unregulated pollution to continue. We also have to deal with the consequences of ‘false news’, ‘mistruths’, ‘denial’, ‘alternative facts’ and other expressions being used for what in the old days simply was called ‘lying’.
Just like our climate, which was stable for thousands of years before we started polluting the skies, truth is not just being undermined, it is under brutal attack. And just like we are currently at risk losing the great struggle to combat runaway global warming and climate change, there is also no guarantee that honesty will eventually win.
It didn’t in Germany in the 1930s. But then again, people in other nations stood up to the challenge of removing that cancer-growth that Hitler’s thinking had developed into, and from 1945 and onwards, faith in humanity’s future was to some extent restored.
So time will show. I don’t think it is too late to reject the ‘post-truth era’ acceptance – but it will take that a lot of people speak up loud and clear about this issue if we are going to make a difference – and with a much clearer and more demanding voice than what we see now. At all levels. Those who already have an audience or a group of people who will listen to them have an even greater responsibility to let their followers know.
But we need to spend less energy and time on discussing what is the truth, and more on how we create trust. We need to restore trust. We need to make enough impact to restore voters’ trust in their elected leaders, so that young people would also be more inclined to enter politics.
This should be the real project for the climate action movement: Get the youth on board – and help them get elected in our governments. After all, it is in particular their future we are messing up.
» Blogpost – 26 September 2016:
Benefits from understanding the connection between climate and mental health
Ted Talk: 3 ways to fix a broken news industry
Something is very wrong with the news industry: Trust in the media has hit an all-time low. We’re inundated with sensationalist stories, and consistent, high-quality reporting is scarce, says journalist and entrepreneur Lara Setrakian. In this TED Talk, she shares three ways we can fix the news and make the complex issues of our time easier to understand.
» Watch on www.ted.com
What needs to be understood by anyone working in the media world:
» World Economic Forum – 6 January 2017:
In a post-truth world, the fight against climate change is still winnable
» Financial Review – 24 February 2017:
Tony Abbott: Even his friends now say he is a liar and a clunkhead
“Reminder: There’s a lot of fake news out there.”
~ Grist Magazine
“Murdoch press runs scared on climate, claims court win by leading climate scientist over denialists’ lies a threat to free speech!”
» The Guardian – 17 December 2016:
Don’t call it post-truth. There’s a simpler word: lies
“Denying facts used to be for extremists only. Now from Aleppo to Trump, it’s becoming mainstream, destroying the ground we all stand on”
» International Business Times, UK Edition – 21 January 2017:
Here’s how clever people become science deniers
“Stating the facts is not an effective way of engaging with a science sceptic”
Busting governmental lies and mismanagement
“A new report charting Australia’s rising power prices over the past decade has undermined claims that South Australia’s high electricity prices have been driven by the state’s uptake wind and solar, showing that its rises have been less than in coal dependent states.”
» RenewEconomy – 21 February 2017:
SA power bills rose less in past decade than coal states
“Listen to the story and you will be amazed at how wrong this is.
It is shameful that this involves the Queensland Labor Government of Annastacia Palaszczuk, who promised before the last Queensland state election that Labor would stop the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine from going ahead. I guess she wasn’t able to resist the lures of Gautam Adani and his relentless history of corruption and environmental vandalism.
In September 2015 the Queensland Government appointed a former Adani coal company director – Brad Fish – the ultimate boss of the Abbot Point coal port, as the Chairman of the state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP) responsible for the ports at Weipa, Mackay, Hay Point and Abbot Point.
Six weeks after his appointment he resigned his position on the Adani board, but was actually for that time sitting on a board that wanted to get as much coal out through Abbot Point as cheaply as possible at the same time as being chair of a board that overseas and “protects” the port. Adani runs the only operating coal terminal at Abbot Point, north of Bowen.
Sometimes when you cover stories you are amazed. I’m numb with shock hearing this story which the ABC broke today on the radio programme “The World at Noon”.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt confirmed that it knew of Fish’s directorship and that he “disclosed potential conflicts of interest prior to his appointment”.
But the directorship WAS NOT DISCLOSED PUBLICLY by Pitt’s office or the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation at the time of his appointment.”
~ One Term Tories
How lies become media headlines
“Veteran climate science denialist Richard Lindzen sent a letter to Donald Trump saying he should pull out of the international convention to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Lindzen said 300 “eminent scientists” and “qualified individuals” had signed the letter.
Petroleum engineers, coal mining executives, bloggers, family doctors, anti-wind farm activists and a dude who qualified just because he said he “wished to sign the petition”. Pathetic… and some journalists fell for it.”
» The Guardian – 27 February 2017:
Just who are these 300 ‘scientists’ telling Trump to burn the climate?
“As with all such lists, the 300 ‘scientists’ badly lack climate expertise.”
“Another shocking story of how climate deniers have captured media headlines with… nothing. This Guardian article is the only kind of media coverage they should have gotten with their silly list – but sadly, most media just reported uncritically without even trying to look behind the deception.”
“Time to take a stronger stand against fake climate news – like this dishonest list of ‘scientists’.”
» Global Voices – 20 March 2017:
Fake News and Fake Solutions: How Do We Build a Civics of Trust?
Climate communicators need your support
Support Centre for Climate Safety’s ongoing work with independent climate ‘citizen journalists’, organisers and communicators. Or give some support directly to a climate communicator you know.
Climate change is a ‘people problem’, and the way we are being flooded with mistruths and lies is a big part of that problem. To deal with the escalating global emergency we need new thinking and knowledge, we must find new ways of collaborating. Much of that boils down to a communication job. But who is going to do it?
With a small contribution you can help your own local ‘citizen journalist’ on his or her passionate quest to communicate honest climate facts and inspire bold leadership on climate action!