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Stepping stones in Climate Change

It’s been a week of change. The most obvious change has been, of course, the Democratic surge in Tuesday’s elections south of the border. While most of the talk there has resolved around the Iraq war, Democrats have traditionally been more open to climate change action, at least in principle. Let’s see if a little more of that talk filters into action over the next few years.

On a more personal note, Rupert Murdoch has changed his mind about climate change. He now agrees that it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Since Murdoch is the founder of the News Corp empire, including Fox News, and is a conservative political icon, this change of heart is significant. Perhaps other conservatives will now find it easier to follow his lead and speak out in support of proactive action without fear of chastisement. Climate change respects no political ideology.

Australia, meanwhile, is apparently experiencing something of a mass change in perspective on climate change. Traditionally opposed to climate change action (along with the US, Australia is the only major economy that didn’t sign the Kyoto accord) the country is currently in the midst of a devastating four-year drought. Farmers and others who rely on agriculture to make a living are in dire straits, and are beginning to question the cause of the drought, and eyes are falling on climate change.

In general, water supply problems have plagued Australia for years and are continuing to worsen. A water shortage affects everybody, whether they are rural or urban dwellers, and whether or not they work in agriculture. Food can be imported from other countries at reasonable cost (indeed much food in Australia already is). Municipal water can’t. Perhaps this will be the uniting issue.

In my personal opinion, the recent shift in thinking about climate change seems to be happening because the implications are becoming more obvious, but also more economic. When threatened by a vague crisis, such as warnings about species extinction or warming oceans, most people express only mild interest. They may “care” to an extent, but these issues seem remote and not directly related to their busy day-to-day lives. However, when the reality begins to affect their jobs and their wallets, people suddenly sit up and take notice.

It may not say much for human nature, but whatever works, I suppose. In the end, motives are not important. Action is.

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