The Answer (to climate change) my friend is blowin’ in the wind- or something like that…..


Many people, including myself, thought Oscar Wilde had uttered the phrase “everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”…Wrong, apparently. While Mr Wilde is responsible for the cynical and snobbish “conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative” quote, that other wise guy, Mark Twain, gets credit for the astute pithy take on the topic about which everyone talks  but does nothing.  

The Irish smartarse Wilde, like Twain, Groucho Marx and a swag of others, offered scores of clever and witty sayings on the issues of their day, many of which, thankfully remain in conversation today. In fact, there was a time, pre Google, if you were unsure of who may have coined a particular pity, sage or humorous phrase; it was a safe bet to attribute it to Oscar Fingal O’Flaherty Wills Wilde. That in itself has now become a hot topic but it’s the weather and its fluctuating behaviour we must talk about.

It turns out Twain “banged on” a bit about the weather including an unkind comment about spending a cold winter San Francisco in the summer. But even from when the dawning of the age of Aquarius in that cold “Summer in the City” city first “let the Sunshine in” motivating creative folk the world over to have thunder in their hearts, to walk on sunshine, chase and catch the wind, stand, sing, cry, dance and even get naked in the rain which was sometimes hard and once purple, IMHO no one has topped MT’s astute observation of humanity’s apathy to all things meteorological.

Everyone still talks about the weather but still no-one does or is able to do anything about it…….Bob Dylan got a bit close with the awakening anthem….” blowin in the wind” but Twain’s wise weather witticism wins out.

We have just entered our sixth day of, depending on which clichéd news network you watch, the sweltering/scorching/roasting weather conditions which are sweeping across most of the South Eastern section of the great southern land including my home in the nation’s capital, Canberra, while at the same time being exposed to the graphic footage of large American cities completely snowbound. And everyone, even those souls lacking in imagination Wilde so savagely slayed with his tongue all those years ago, is talking about the weather. These days though a lot of folk want someone to do something about the weather.

Back in Twain’s day there weren’t too many tub thumping, pig ignorant right-wing radio commentators around talking about doing nothing about the weather.

But lately radio shock jocks have been publicly frothing at the mouth while privately offering prayers of thanks to the heavens for this godsend which is the hysterical debate “Climate Change”. People are still talking about the weather. Al Gore’s pot stirring doco “an inconvenient truth” got the right’s goat on the climate issue. But then again he had the temerity to almost beat George W Bush to the White House. He had to be dealt with.

Climate change or its more emotive and subjective tag global warming is guaranteed to get the punters banging the talkback lines. All the SJ has to do is to mockingly suggest “torrential rain in the Philippines, blizzards in Europe and scorching conditions down under in Australia” WTF…..??

Those with the clipboards and white coats seem to be evenly divided on the hot topic of warming versus cooling. Shockjock gets the Climate Change deniers on air to poo poo or demonstrate (with twisted facts and figures) how distorted facts and figures are polluting the already muddied waters of the climate change debate. There is a very fine line between twisting and distorting and muddied and polluted. It’s how adroitly you use the facts and how “expertly” your hand picked expert presents them.

I’ll paraphrase a TV weatherman in the US who suggested climate change should be “left to Mother Nature to sort, it’s way too big for we mere humans”

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it” still rings true after all these years. Those who can, can but won’t ,including Australian PM, Tony Abbott, who is on record as saying “climate change is crap”. Like most pollies he only has eyes on the next election.

So Mr Twain, it would appear, was way ahead of his time.

Might I humbly suggest, with the deepest of apologies to Mr Wilde, a couple of thoughts to balance the literary ledger? If Wilde were still around he may have been tempted to update or refresh a couple of his gems thus…..”There is only one thing in life worse than not talking about climate change and that is talking about climate change” and “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at where the hole in the ozone layer is going to be”

And without doubt Oscar’s favourite song from the pop era would be about the weather…………The Weather Girls 90’s hit “It’s Raining Men”



How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate 

Damien Cave

By Damien Cave Jan 8 2020 New York Times

WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.” 

The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined. 

And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”

Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.
Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

News Corp denied playing such a role. “Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”

Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lackluster response to the fires. They argue that the company and the coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible — together, as a team — for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation. 

Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr. Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December. 

In late December, the Oz, as the News Corp-owned paper is known here, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr. Taylor on New Year’s Eve.

Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page 4 on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.

Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr. Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Mr. Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals” — slang for unkempt country hobos. 

A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.
A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about the Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique. 

But a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen. 

The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so. 

Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox. 

Even fire officials report that most of the off-season burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change. 

Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian. It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”

A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.
A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned. 

“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny D. Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.

Timothy Graham, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who conducted the study of Twitter accounts exaggerating the role of arson in Australia’s fires, said media companies also needed to be cognizant of the disinformation ecosystem and stop contributing to the problem. That includes mainstream outlets, like ABC News, sharing inaccurate maps that exaggerate the reach of the fires. 

But in the case of the arson issue, he said, scores of bots and trolls — many of which previously posted support for President Trump — have joined conservative media like the Murdoch outlets in promoting the idea that Australia’s fires are not a “climate emergency” but an “arson emergency.”

“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said. 

Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has. Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.

“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.

But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway — at least in terms of what people make a priority. Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more backburning. 

Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.

“I don’t think it’s climate change,” she said.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.