No, Prime Minister, Greta Thunberg's Climate Anxiety Is NOT 'Needless'
The same day global experts branded Australia a "denialist" on climate change, Scott Morrison claimed anxiety over pending environmental catastrophe was "needless".
Four days after millions of people around the world went on strike, pleading for political action and societal change in increasingly vain hope of averting a climate disaster, the Australian Prime Minister said the movement could be spreading "needless" fear among young people.
Speaking from New York, Morrison warned against "raising the anxieties of children in our country" regarding climate change.
"I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future," he said, claiming "disinformation" had spread over Australia's action on climate.
"We’ve got to deal with the policy issues, and we’ve got to take it seriously, but I don’t want our children having anxieties about these issues."
It was at least a better response than the one offered by US President Donald Trump, who tweeted sarcastically that Greta Thunberg "seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future."
Citing his own daughters, Morrison said "10 and 12-year-old kids need to have discussions about these issues, which have perspective and context. So that it doesn’t create needless anxiety."
Sorry, Prime Minister, but the anxiety is not needless.
Not when we've had a week where millions have hit the streets across the globe, calling for more swift action; not when warnings have been issued from such diverse sources as David Attenborough and tech giant Atlassian; not when the science has said, over and over, that we’re in serious trouble unless we make huge changes quickly.
We’re not making those changes. The anxiety seems pretty warranted.
Many have sought to downplay the concerns of Swedish climate warrior Greta Thunberg, and her thundering "how dare you" speech, by pointing out her age; her youth; her lack of scientific experience or expertise; and, disgustingly, her appearance and her autism.
They say a 16-year-old girl shouldn't be telling world leaders what to do.
But how about treasured environmentalist David Attenborough, who has repeatedly slammed Australia's "extraordinary" lack of response to climate change. This week, he praised the climate strikers, saying "young people see things very clearly... They are the people who are going to inherit the mess that we’ve made."
Is he, too, spreading needless anxiety?
How about Mike Cannon-Brookes, the co-CEO of Atlassian? His tech firm -- long-lauded by the government as an Australian success story -- gave their workers the day off to attend the climate strike. On Tuesday, he called out Morrison for "missing the point", begging him to "say something bold at the UN. For Australia. For our pride. For our fucking planet".
"We face the greatest human challenge for generations! We’re not improving our targets? We are using trickery & misleading about our national emissions," Cannon-Brookes tweeted.
Is he, too, spreading needless anxiety?
A recent piece published in The Conversation by psychology lecturer Rachael Sharman and geography professor Patrick D Nunn claimed that "ignoring young people’s climate change fears is a recipe for anxiety" -- that the downplaying of fears about climate change is itself a possible cause of anxiety.
And Morrison's attempt to dismiss that anxiety won't do anything to improve Australia's apparent reputation for not doing enough about climate change.
Bill Hare, a scientist and veteran of international climate talks, says, "Diplomatic officials from countries that I speak with see Australia as a denialist government... It’s just accepted that’s what it is. It is seen as doing its own promotion of coal and natural gas against the science."
Making matters worse, all of this comes just as a stunning new climate report is to be released. The findings are embargoed (check back here at 7pm AEST and we'll have the report for you) but the news is catastrophically bad for Australia, once again.
Our country has been criticised for using essentially accounting tricks and loopholes to claim its emissions reduction targets are being met. Just last month, the government's own figures showed carbon emissions rose 0.6 percent in the year to March.
Conversely, a report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation and released on the eve of the climate summit, found current 'business as usual' scenarios would lock in a rise in global temperatures of up to 3.4 degrees by 2100. Anything above two degrees would lead to hundreds of millions of people at risk of climate disaster, poverty and death, with that temperature increase being described by scientists as "catastrophic".
How can you call it “needless” anxiety, when literally days before, this report has outlined the effects of business as usual? Some young kids who attended the climate rallies across the world will almost certainly live to see that year 2100. This is not some far-off hypothetical scenario for these children -- it is about the effects they will see in their lifetime, about the realities their children will face.
Research released last week by leading youth mental health organisation ReachOut found up to 80 percent of students reported being "somewhat or very anxious about climate change". Nearly half of the students surveyed, aged between 14-23, said they felt anxious about the climate on a weekly basis. More than 80 percent expected their quality of life to be diminished by climate change.
Notably, 77 percent said they didn't believe the concerns of young people were being suitably addressed.
When a leader of a major world economy dismisses millions of people marching worldwide in peaceful protest as propagating "needless anxiety", it's not hard to see why they might feel like they're being ignored.