In an emotional TV program, Australian senator Jim Molan said he was “not relying on evidence” when it comes to climate change, but he is keeping his mind open.
“You should keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out,” commented climate researcher Michael Mann, who was also present.
It was an emotional night in Australia, as the classic Q&A television program premiered with a new host. Q&A is a popular panel discussion program, and the most recent episode cemented its prominent role.
It was a special edition focusing on the bushfire crisis. The audience was filled with people affected by the unprecedented fires on the south coast of New South Wales and there were raw emotions on all sides. It was a run-of-the-mill show, with people expressing compassion for the affected ones, who, in turn, expressed gratitude for those who helped them.
But then, something happened. The discussion inevitably came to climate change.
Researchers in Australia and elsewhere have found that climate change dramatically increases the risk of bushfires. At the very least, higher temperatures and drought make for more fuel for the forest fires. But some Australian politicians are full of doubts — not just when it comes to the connection between climate change and the bushfires, but when it comes to climate change itself.
“I accept the climate is changing,” said Jim Molan, former major general in the Australian Army and current senator for New South Wales. “It has changed and it will change. What it’s producing is hotter and drier weather and a hotter and drier country.”
“As to whether it is human-induced climate change … my mind is open.”
Being a Q&A show, a question was bound to follow such a statement. What is the evidence you are relying on? — Molan was asked. The response came starkly:
“I’m not relying on evidence”
Herein lies one of the cruxes of climate change denial — the systematic rejection of science, the denial of reality. Science can provide all the evidence it wants, it won’t do much if you just ignore it.
For people like Molan, not ignoring evidence is part of the job. Climate change denialism is at home in the Liberal Party of Australia, just as it is in the Republican Party in the US.
Everyone reacted to Molan’s statements. The crowd booed, and climate researcher Michael Mann, who was present at the debate, did not mince his words.
“You should keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out.”
“When it comes to this issue and human-caused climate change, it’s literally the consensus of the world’s scientists that it’s caused by human activity. Now you sometimes hear the talking points from contrarians from the Murdoch media,” Mann also added.
Trying to bring some balance into the discussion, the Q&A host Hamish Macdonald argued that since Molan is a member of a party that was democratically elected, then there are probably many people who agree with him.
Indeed, that’s almost certainly the case. Molan’s “ignore the evidence” approach must have its supporters, although it’s questionable whether it’s these policies that the voters support. In the US, for instance, despite prominent members of the Republican party openly denying climate change, more and more party supporters believe that climate change is real and that it is caused by humans.
At the end of the day, this is the way of democracy: the people vote for the leaders they want. For better or for worse, people choose who their leaders will be. But they cannot choose what is true — and being elected is not an excuse for ignoring the truth.