This evening, as some delegates at the Madrid climate conference stroll along Puerta del Sol, someone somewhere will be crouched over a keyboard assuring the world that climate collapse is a swizz.
That person, almost invariably white, male and middle aged, will have an echo chamber audience deaf to the conclusions of the great majority of the world’s relevant scientists.
These deniers exercise their right to free speech but the time may have come to be more dissuasive, less tolerant of their arguments which are, like it or not, undermining international efforts to avert catastrophe.
Samoa, already experiencing catastrophe, has put the common good before an individual’s right to free speech. A measles outbreak has killed at least 65 people, most of them children, over recent weeks. The outbreak is in part blamed on misinformation claiming that vaccinations are dangerous.
This led to a huge downturn in vaccination rates. The island authorities, in the face of a mounting death toll, have arrested anti-vaccination campaigner Edwin Tamasese who was charged with incitement against a government order. Is it time to be as firm with climate deniers? The stakes are far, far greater and the evidence ever more incontrovertible.
Just yesterday two more examples of our failing stewardship of our world came to light. Though these reports may have lost their capacity to outrage, to spur the complacent into action they cannot be ignored.
One, from BirdWatch Ireland and the NGO Client Earth pointed a finger at what was described as Minister Michael Creed’s negative role in driving commercial over fishing in the EU. The bodies say Ireland’s position has contributed to numerous stocks falling to critical levels and pointed out that under the Common Fisheries Policy over-fishing must end by 2020.
This may close numerous fisheries within months. Mr Creed had to, this year, close the herring fishery almost as soon as it opened because stocks were grossly undersized.
Unsurprisingly, over the last three years Ireland was among the top four EU states that have most frequently canvassed for catch limits that ignored scientific advice. In 2017, our representatives pushed for 14 stocks to be exploited beyond advised levels hence we still, like the climate collapse deniers, pretend all is well in our world and target vulnerable stocks.
There are eight stocks in which Ireland has a share where scientists recommend zero fish should be taken in 2020. How likely is that? Echoing that disregard the EPA yesterday published an update on water.
The agency found that that 52.8% of surface water bodies assessed — what proportion was assessed? — are in “satisfactory ecological health”. The remaining 47.2% have moderate, poor, or bad ecological status.
This compares with 55.4% at satisfactory status for 2010-2015, a decrease of 2.6%. This may seem and insignificant figure but it is not and should not lead to complacency in efforts to protect and enhance water sources.
Optimism and determination are defining human characteristics. It is time we applied them more forcefully in the climate crisis and its deniers as failure is not an option.