WORRYING SIGHT: The coastal flood mapping for Noosa Heads.

Picture: Contributed
WORRYING SIGHT: The coastal flood mapping for Noosa Heads. Picture: Contributed

Climate emergency the real deal

IN 1973, scientists discovered that chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), human-made gases used widely in refrigerators and aerosol cans, were depleting the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

Within a decade and a half, international agreements were signed to effectively phase out the use of CFCs.

At the time, people didn’t question the science, even though they couldn’t actually see the ozone layer nor immediately experience the results of its depletion.

Now we face another human-induced environmental threat, that being climate change.

But today, science sceptics abound, in spite of palpable evidence of a rapidly changing climate.

One thing that has altered in the interim is the growth of the internet via personal computers and smartphones.

We now have unprecedented access to information, but also unprecedented lack of gatekeeping on that information.

Suddenly, everyone has their own virtual publishing business in the palm of their hand, often without the constraints of responsibility, professional integrity or legal consequence.

Social media platforms, in particular, have propagated the notion that all opinions have equivalence.

Thus today, any shock-jock or layperson can assert that their understanding of climate science is more accurate than actual climate scientists.

This artificial levelling of opinion is key to understanding the attraction of social media and how it entraps human egos.

Social media manipulates our desire for personal relevance by fooling us into thinking that our own opinions are of great importance.

The result is a growth in arrogance and a dwindling of reasoned debate.

It’s no wonder survey after survey reveals that trust in democracy is steadily plummeting.

Nor is it any wonder that our faith in social institutions continues to decline.

Furthermore, the rise of political populism echoes the uptake of social media.

Thankfully, many people do still appreciate the role of scientific empiricism. And surveys show that less than half of us trust social media as a source of facts.

However, with social media platforms being the main source of news for most Australians, science sceptics continue to influence the political agenda. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I do fear for the trajectory we are on.

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