Still struggling with an inconvenient truth

The only intelligent way to make sense of the very few remaining scientists vocally denying climate change is to first look closely at their political views.

On that basis it is unsurprising, but disappointing, that Taranaki Federated Farmers invited Professor Robert Carter to speak at their recent AGM.

Unsurprising because dairy farmers are feeling the winds of environmental change so profoundly that they desperately need to hear that it couldn't possibly be their industry contributing to any, er, global warming. Not that it exists, of course.

Disappointing because what the farming community needs most in these uncertain times is a forward- looking and realistic farming lobby. The battle ahead for farmers is colossal and for their representatives to endorse climate change denial as any sort of option is to do their members a huge disservice.

Prof Carter, an unashamed denier-for- hire, is a busy scientist who regularly treads the boards of the self- professed right-wing and business-speaking circuit. Indeed, Rodney Hide gave a speech at the launch of Prof Carter's new book Climate: The Counter Consensus.

Tellingly, Niwa scientist Dr Jim Renwick said in a review of the book that, "If the author had a genuine case to make he would be the toast of the science community everywhere. A modern-day Galileo."

The launch was held at the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, which describes itself as a think tank and has close ties to the Australian Liberal Party. It rejects being labelled right-wing while it strongly advocates privatisation, deregulation, hates unions and its funding comes from corporates such as mining, logging, and tobacco. Oh yes, and Monsanto.

Prof Carter is an Emeritus Fellow of the Institute.

Of course, he's entitled to his opinion, but it's an opinion funded by industries that have a vested interest in not changing their environmental practices any time soon.

Any acknowledgement by farmers of the reality of climate change is rare. If they do concede it is happening it nearly always comes with a rider that it is not man-made.

I think that bit is added on to emphasise that they shouldn't have to pay for polluting.

Such is the delusional nature of Federated Farmers these days that national president Don Nicolson reacted to the news that Labour, if elected, would bring farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme by 2013 (two years earlier than scheduled) by saying straight- faced that farmers should be revered.

To be fair, a false sense of power can do that to you and farmers are indeed being constantly feted by economists and the Government for their perceived financial heft.

As always there is another side to that ledger, which is the environmental cost. If no monetary value is placed on the environment then it can't be quantified. So it's mainly good news in the media.

Except that, while we're down here in Godzone rapidly destroying our tourism brand, the other 97 per cent of the world's scientists in agreement on the climate change science are steadily working on convincing governments to put global warming at the top of their priority list.

Of all sectors farmers have the most to lose by denying climate change. Their livelihoods depend on future-proofing their businesses now more than ever before and, whatever your politics, the weather is obviously doing something out there.

Fonterra and Dairy NZ know this but have perfected the art of letting Federated Farmers do their dirty work for them as they're the perfect foil.

By helping them to look like Neanderthals they can stay unaccountable on all manner of environmental breaches.

It can't last and I only hope that the bosses at Federated Farmers have the brains to eventually realise they are being set up. They willingly and happily walk straight into it.

Farmers are part of a larger and more ruthless industry and need to realise that denying climate change or dirty dairying is not actually their fight. It is the fight of their masters while they are mere pawns. It might be time for farmers to fly under the radar.

The entire New Zealand dairy industry, regional councils and central government are failing both them and this entire country miserably.

On their watch our nation has undeniably lost more than its environmental edge on the rest of the world. We have lost our mana. We have lost our way.

Farmers need to be careful about which horse they really want to back. Every other day they are losing hillsides, paddocks are under water, tornadoes have ripped through or a drought is deemed unrelenting.

Then they quickly turn to the Government - all of us - for financial help. Eventually the money will dry up due to the sad regularity of such assistance. Soon they'll be told no.

But, hey, climate change isn't happening, right?

Taranaki Daily News