As an Australian I am sort of proud that the Earth Hour event has now taken off all over the world. Practically speaking of course I am not sure the event achieves all that much, but if it continues as an annual event it will serve as a potent global reminder of the importance of tackling climate change issues. I think its interesting that folks like Matthew Warren at The Australian and of course perennial climate change sceptic Tim Blair have quickly jumped back on the contrarian bandwagon. Unfortunately, the event embodies enough symbolistic bonhomie to attract satire and ridicule from anyone with a bone to pick with either the mainstream acceptance of the climate change science or symbolism in politics more generally. There is a target on its back as wide as a barn because of the way it is framed.
I suppose a slightly broader question is whether events like this are really worthwhile, when all things are considered. Regular readers of this blog will probably not be surprised to hear that I think they are, although I think its healthy to temper one’s view of symbolic events like Earth Hour with a dose of scepticism. I think the positives we can take out of Earth Hour mostly relate to increasing public awareness of climate change issues, and the marketing of environmental issues more broadly as being somewhat relevant to us all. Any reduction in overall carbon emissions resulting from Earth Hour is of course likely to be on the inconsequential side of things, as several critics pointed out in relation to last year’s inaugural event. However, critics who focus entirely on the raw carbon emission reduction from the event are missing the point. The event provides an avenue to people who ordinarily would not give two hoots about climate change issues to be part of something bigger themselves and make a small difference. Many people now doubt see that powerful corporations and other Australians they respect and admire are taking the event seriously, and decide to participate, or in the very least, think a little bit more for a moment about what climate change may eventually mean for the planet.
The professionalism and success of the campaign is an interesting contrast to the sheer juvenilia exhibited by some climate change science deniers. But then for some of these people, “denier” is too strong a word; they haven’t bothered to engage with the science, and only seem interested in letting off some steam with some faux-cool contrarianism. These guys are to climate change issues what kids taking mobile phone pictures up women’s skirts are to clothes shopping. Offensive, irrelevant, and just plain pathetic.
UPDATE: Tim Blair’s entirely predictable and brain-free snark in response to this post is here. I feel gratified to be the target of a re-run of the “Al Gore catches a lot of planes” gag. Maybe it is a summer programming thing over there – who knows?