Greta Thunberg and Andrew Bolt might be on opposite sides of the climate change debate but they both use the same techniques in their efforts to convince listeners that they are right.
The first technique is the complete rejection of the idea that their opponents might have anything meaningful to say. Greta does this with her anger and disgust at her elders who haven't done enough to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. She doesn't list specific ways carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced. She leaves that to the adults she so despises. Andrew's go to moves are the condescending laugh, the head shake and the use of expressions like hysterics and nonsense, usually with agreeing nods from a like-minded interviewee. Andrew doesn't think he needs to give any evidence for his views because they are so obvious, just like Greta.
The second technique can be described as disingenuousness, dissembling, hedging and stretching the truth. Or we might just as well say it: LYING.
Each side's defenders will say that all their statements are factually correct so they don't lie. I will agree that is generally true (although Bolt has been caught out), but if lying is defined as a statement designed to deceive the listener, both are certainly guilty.
In Thunberg's much celebrated address to the United Nations she angrily says:
- "people are dying"
- "entire ecosystems are collapsing"
- "We are in the beginning of a mass extinction"
It is certainly true that people are dying, we have been since the beginning of time, but Greta is implying that significant numbers of people are currently dying due to climate change. The World Health Organisation disagrees. It says "Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter." None of these four is currently significantly impacted by Climate Change.
Ecosystem collapse sounds horrific (which is her goal). It is difficult to pin down specific ecosystems, so Greta probably won't get accused of lying, but Climate Change is not the primary factor in ecosystem collapse. That is clearly Habitat Destruction. The IPCC, World Wildlife Fund, UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and World Health Organisation, all agree.
The idea that loss of habitat is more important than global warming as the cause of ecosystem collapse is intuitive. If a bulldozer is clearing all the native trees and other vegetation to build a farm or a city, that is certainly a more important threat to ecosystems and extinctions than a one degree increase in temperature, over the next 20-30 years.
Managing ecosystem collapse and the resulting extinctions are important to maintaining a high standard of living for the world's human population, as well as the other species we share the earth with. Managing the primary factor in ecosystem collapse, loss of habitat, means managing increasing population and increasing consumption of resources. Both Greta and Andrew know this, but neither mentions it because it doesn't fit the scenario they are selling. Greta is selling the scenario that global warming is causing ecosystem collapse and extinctions. Andrew is selling the scenario that everything is just fine and no changes from business-as-usual are needed. Both are wrong and both know they are wrong, so when they start their song and dance, they are trying to deceive you.
Climate Change is not even considered the second or third most important factor in ecosystem decline. Overharvesting, invasive species, pollution, population growth, poor land management and poor water management are all considered more important by scientific groups studying ecosystem decline.
Ironically for Greta, there is a lot of evidence that if we took better care of our ecosystems by reducing clearing, tree planting and controlling pollution it would be easier to combat climate change.
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