Adelaide, 1st June 2011Climate expert left speechless at revolt by the professional classes
by Scott Templeton, staff reporter
Professor Ross Garnaut’s first public appearance after the release of his final Climate Report sparked a near riot at the Adelaide Convention Centre earlier this evening. The economist and climate expert’s presentation was received with muted applause, and he was unexpectedly harangued for the insufficient vigour of his recommendations to the Gillard Government. The lecture theatre then emptied rapidly as the audience marched on the State Parliament for an impromptu democratic forum.
In his customary dry and technical style Professor Garnaut had outlined the contents of his report, before the capacity crowd was invited to ask questions. The first speaker, who introduced himself as John Connor [5/6/2011: I meant this one; it turns out there is also this one], outlined the recommendations that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had made for avoiding climate catastrophe, namely emissions reductions in the order of 25 to 40% on a 1990 baseline by 2020. He asked Professor Garnaut “Given that emissions are climbing faster than thought, and climate sensitivity is higher that thought, isn’t your plan – which would reduce emissions by somewhere from 5 to 10% on a 2000 baseline – entirely inadequate? Why are you advocating action that will guarantee a 4 degree rise in global average temperature, with the consequent die-off of entire ecosystems, and mass extinction for many species, including possibly human beings?”
A visibly shocked Professor Garnaut told the questioner that his views were almost certainly in an extreme minority. Before he could continue, a member of the audience stood up and shouted “Oh yeah? Let’s see! Who thinks we have to do more?” At this, more than two thirds of the audience stood and unfurled banners proclaiming “Nurses for healing the planet” “Retail workers for climate sanity” “Insurers for a safe planet” and the like. Prolonged hand-clapping then forced Professor Garnaut to take his seat. A cry rose up, echoed around the auditorium – “To the Parliament Building!” Within two minutes the room was empty, and a peaceful procession wended its way up North Terrace.
The crowd on the steps of Parliament House was exuberant, with people swapping contact details and making plans. At one point a small group of young people seemed intent on proving their radical credibility by smashing windows. They were quickly surrounded by a group of older women, told that true radicalism meant commitment and intelligence, and that they should disperse peacefully. One of the women told this reporter that she recognized one of the young men involved inciting others as a police officer, and raised the spectre of agents provocateur. In its new-found commitment to the right to protest, the Advertiser will ask the State Police to confirm or deny the presence of plainclothes or undercover officers.
Adelaide as a radical leader
Speech after speech was made from the steps. One historian, Clark Manning, pointed out that South Australia could be proud of many radical firsts – women’s suffrage, rights for Aborigines, the decriminalization of homosexuality – and that it was high time that Adelaide led the world again. This was met with immediate cheers of “shut down Playford” and “no new mines.” Speakers succinctly explained the fundamental inadequacy of existing action on climate change. Others led the good-natured crowd in a series of chants, including “Hey Hey Ho Ho Ecological Modernisation has got to go,” “2-4-6-8 We don’t want your sterile debate,” “Keep the coal in the ground. Human greed must be bound!” and -most loudly of all – “What do we want? Rapid transition to ecological sanity with justice for the poor and other species. When do we want it? Now!”
The Advertiser reporter’s note-taking of the event was witnessed by several in the crowd, and given the Murdoch press’s commitment to spreading misinformation and fear about climate change, it’s unsurprising that the hashtag #Tisertosh trended locally on Twitter.
A swarm not a rabble
Nobody outside the Parliament building expected or even wanted any precise consensus to emerge, but the following agreements were reached
* More rallies were necessary, but not sufficient. Rallies would have to be organised to create more opportunities for useful networking rather than ego-trips for speakers
* It was vital that everyone who cared about the issue started talking to their apathetic or skeptical friends, neighbours and work colleagues, finding out their perspectives and trying to explain the science in easily digestible ways
* The Advertiser should be encouraged in all non-violent means to appoint a panel of climate scientists to give same-day rebuttals to the climate denialism letters that the letters editor seems intent on publishing. The panel should be made up almost entirely of scientists with a peer-reviewed publication background, with views on the reality of human-induced climate change in proportion to the international consensus. This would entitle Ian Plimer and his ilk to 7 days a year to wave through appalling mis-representations of the established facts.
Before peacefully dispersing at 9pm, people were twice encouraged to “mingle with intent” – firstly on the basis of where they lived, and secondly on the basis of their jobs – students, teachers, retail workers, advertising executives, health care professionals. They were encouraged to swap contact details, and to start planning local action aimed at making their City Councils and employers more responsible.