Councillor’s make troubling comments regarding climate science

UPDATED 9th August to include Cr Samantha McIntosh who added her voice, joining Tillett and Rinaldi, who all push a particular kind of climate denial.
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On July 11 2020, Ballarat Cr Jim Rinaldi wrote an op-ed deploying a classic climate denial trope, where he paints climate change as being disputed science. He wrote, “My question is which scientists are councils believing when we consider the climate? Those who say the sky is falling, or those who argue it hasn’t, and won’t?” And that there are those  “creating environmental alarmism – the new religion, it seems, in an increasingly secular world.” His contention is that it is a “concern” for Local Government to be mandated through the Local Government Bill 2018 to consider climate risks. As the Act states “the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the municipal district, including mitigation and planning for climate change risk, is to be promoted”. 

In other words Jim Rinaldi is practising the rhetorical trick of sealioning a subset of “just asking questions“, a favourite of anti-vaxxers. 

In response multiple members of Ballarat Climate Action Network and others wrote Letters to the Editor, see below. Jim Rinaldi responded to these by doubling down on his claims, saying he “received many phone calls and emails thanking me for raising the issues and asking the questions” – doubt that – and that he was merely asking questions, not taking a position. He says that asking questions “was, after all, the intent of my article,” even though he framed the mandate for councils to consider risks of climate change as the “sky is falling.” He continues:

I didn’t take a position on climate change – I merely asked which science it is that we should be guided by when making our decisions, again, those ‘who say the sky is falling, or those who argue it hasn’t, and won’t’. [or the IPCC?]

This question has got nothing to do with my view on climate change. As far as I’m concerned – and I think all scientists agree – the climate is always changing. It always has, it always will. It is the science I was asking the question about.

Yes Jim the climate is always changing, however, now it’s human causing the changes by digging up fossil fuels and burning them causing, as the Royal Society, “the fastest known natural sustained change on a global scale.” If Rinaldi is concerned about the science then he can go to Royal Academy of Science or the International Panel on Climate Change which summarises the best scientific knowledge on climate change.  Instead of creating silly false dichotomies.

Not to be outdone Cr Grant Tillett, who recently announced his candidacy, jumped to Jim Rinaldi’s defence, gaslighting the community at the same time, by saying that we read him wrong: 

…you and the other critics should really reread Jim’s comments. You are doing him an injustice by misinterpreting what he said. In Jim, the South Ward has a very caring dedicated representative who quietly goes about his work in a very professional manner – just re-read what he said.

Tillett has form, previously voting against a climate change motion, saying “We can’t, as councillors declare a climate emergency in the City of Ballarat..” I guess at 83 he doesn’t have to worry much about the long term consequences of climate change?

UPDATE: Councillor Samantha McIntosh added her voice joining Tillett and Rinaldi, who are pushing a particular kind of climate denial, on the 9th of August writing:

“In a democracy that supposedly celebrates freedom of speech, Cr Rinaldi recently asked a very simple question: which scientists should councillors listen to given we are now required to consider climate change as a ‘governance principle’?

He referred to climate change ‘warriors’ such as former environmental advisor to US President Barack Obama, Michael Shellenberger, who are now apologising for creating environmental alarmism and highlighting more pressing environmental issues facing the world.

Jim voted for the Gatekeepers Cottage.

He voted for it as an opportunity to seed understanding about nature and gardens and their role in our broader ecosystem. Our climate.

Some might call it real action on climate change.”

I have the same level of qualification and one that is closer related to the field of climate science than the the popular science writer Ranaldi thinks has debunked conservative climate science. Myself and Michael Shellenberger both having a Master’s Degree, him in Anthropology, and mine in Master of environment from Melbourne Uni. He, like me, hasn’t published in peer reviewed literature on climate science (which is why I defer to credible scientific bodies that synthesis the most up-to date knowledge). His recent POPULAR work in the Murdoch press has been trashed by real climate scientists.

“Six scientists analysed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be ‘low’. A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Cherry-picking, Misleading.”

Any way here’s the letters to his first op-ed:

Ballarat councillor ‘irresponsible’ to cast doubt on climate change

 

‘An irresponsible stand’

I am concerned that our City Council is not showing leadership about our climate emergency.

Informed people know that there is no doubt that our climate is changing so it’s potentially dangerous to all life. This fact is not alarming because we have the ability to mitigate the damage. It becomes alarming when governing bodies like our City Council ignore the danger and carry on business as usual.

Although it has declared a climate emergency, our Council’s policies and behaviour suggest that we have all the time in the world to respond to that emergency. They have made improvements to lighting, tree canopy, recycling, etc which are easy to justify even if we didn’t have a climate problem.

He goes on to question the science of climate change. This is clearly an irresponsible stand.

I applaud the emphasis in the proposed Bakery Hill Precinct development on energy efficient and low impact living, but it is not a response to an emergency. In an emergency this development can wait, while we spend the $15million on changes to the current operations of Council, and working with the citizens of our city to become more efficient in living with our environment. They barely talk to us about it.

One of our councillors, in an opinion piece in your paper last Saturday, even complained that a State Government act “forces councillors to join the climate debate”.

He goes on to question the science of climate change. This is clearly an irresponsible stand. What alarms me is that he may be speaking for the majority of council in expressing this opinion.

Joe Boin, Invermay.

‘Scientific consensus is overwhelming’

Recent legislation introduced by the State Government – the Victorian Local Government Act 2020 – requires local government to consider climate change as an “overarching governance principle” in which councillors must think about the “environmental sustainability of the municipal district, including mitigation and planning for climate change” as outlined by Cr Jim Rinaldi in his opinion piece 11/7/20.

Cr Rinaldi is critical of this legislation. He asks whether we should believe those scientists who say “the sky is falling” or “those that say “it isn’t and it won’t” – a reductionist and inaccurate portrayal of any climate science.

He also questions the science of climate change and criticises “environmental alarmism” which he describes as the “new religion”.

It seems hard to credit that anyone could hold this view after a year in which the eastern seaboard was aflame.

The recent budget, with some minor concessions to climate change fails to reflect this declaration or treat climate change as urgent.

The scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming and it is worth remembering that most of the scientific arguments denying climate change have been funded by vested interests such as the fossil fuel industry.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, the contrast between health outcomes for countries like Australia that have been willing to trust and act on the advice of scientists and those like the USA and Brazil that have defied the scientists has been stark.

Ballarat City Council has declared a climate emergency. The recent budget, with some minor concessions to climate change fails to reflect this declaration or treat climate change as urgent.

There is much that Local Government can do to reduce the impact of global warming and this “whole of Government” approach mandated by the legislation is welcome. In addition, there is a unique opportunity in planning for economic recovery from Covid19 to prioritise programs that will not only stimulate the economy but will also reduce the impact of climate change.

The vast majority of Australians when polled, express a high level of concern about climate change – unlike Cr Rinaldi, they need no convincing.

The Victorian Local Government Act also stipulates that “priority is to be given to achieving the best outcomes for the municipal community, including future generations”. In the upcoming Council elections residents will have an opportunity to vote for representatives who better reflect their concerns for the future.

Sally Missing, Buninyong

‘Should have used Google’

Cr Rinaldi asks which scientists councils should believe when it comes to climate change, citing ‘Australia’s top scientific body, the CSIRO’ said that ‘climate change was not to blame for the summer bushfires.’ (11 July) A simple google search would prove this incorrect – with CSIRO actually saying:

Climate change doesn’t cause fires directly but has caused an increase in the occurrence of extreme fire weather and in the length of the fire season across large parts of Australia since the 1950s. In addition to 2019 being the driest year since records began in 1900, it was Australia’s warmest year. In 2019 the annual mean temperature was 1.52 °C above average.

Strong, decisive, science-based leadership is steering us through this pandemic. We need the same to tackle climate change

The CSIRO also includes an extensive breakdown on what causes bushfires and why climate change is making them worse.

So, I would say to Cr Rinaldi, you don’t need to be confused about which scientists to believe when it comes to climate change, you should follow the advice of CSIRO – just be sure to read all of it.

This year alone has shown us how lucky we are to live in the Ballarat. We have been sheltered so far from the worst that 2020 has thrown at us – bushfires and now the coronavirus pandemic.

We are in the best position to become leaders and show other LGAs how to tackle the challenges ahead. Strong, decisive, science-based leadership is steering us through this pandemic. We need the same to tackle climate change.

Lucy Bracey, Golden Point.

‘No more time for denial’

Regarding politics in local government, the reality is that the majority of local councillors are affiliated with political parties. Wouldn’t we rather know the values of a candidate up front, rather than waiting until after they are elected for their allegiances to be revealed?

Concerningly, Jim has also outed himself as a climate change sceptic, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that man-made climate change is real – 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree on this. His own council acknowledged the climate emergency in 2018 – but Jim missed the vote.

There’s no more time for denial. Climate change is real and we need to act. The climate, the economy and the planet need people in power who are able to take the best advice available and to act on it for our collective benefit.

Jackson Snep, Black Hill.

 

The obsession with economic growth

We may escape the rain, we may escape the cold, we may even escape COVID-19, but we seemingly cannot escape economic and its associated population growth.

Both are destroying the environment, destroying the eco-systems, destroying the biosphere, have the world into the 6th mass distinction, and will ultimately destroy humans. Only then will the obsession with the duopoly of growth finally end.

This may sound like doom and gloom. As an optimist I hope it will not come to this, that those vested interest growth people will come to their senses, do a 180 degree turnaround and pursue an economic and social model that will return the planet to a well balanced living place for all life forms.

We can do it, it is not even hard, it just requires the will to do it.

Margit Alm, Eltham

‘Increasingly worrisome article’

While I agree with the first part of this article, it does become increasingly worrisome as it progresses. And ends in climate change denial – which totally discredits the author. Sorry but the science is unanimously warning of the increasing risks.

The only deniers are highly questionable people and organizations – usually with something to gain by putting their heads in the quicksand.

A new generation is voicing its concern about the secuirty of its future as the globe changes.

A new generation is voicing its concern about the secuirty of its future as the globe changes.

While I like the idea of non-party-aligned (independent) local gov Councillors, unfortunately the Libs keep putting up closet Libs, some of whom reveal their colours /ambitions by standing for state/fed gov.

At least the ALP & Greens are open about their allegiances. The branch stacking certainly has besmirched the ALP but right wing Libs who deny the weight of science evidence on climate change are dangerous.

We do have something to fear about the future of our planet, destruction of species/habitat and I want our local councillors to have the guts and intelligence to do what it takes to at the very least protect what we have.

Merle Hathaway, Buninyong

References:

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning

Workshop Dec 7 9.30am

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A quick reminder to join us on Saturday morning as we workshop our new major project commencing 9.30ish am on Saturday morning at the Ballarat Trades Hall.

If sleeping in and arriving late you are most welcome but be sure and ring 0457463971 to gain entry to the building.

Here’s a quick recap:

We are running an info session about MP meetings, covering everything from how to set up the meeting, getting good press and social media coverage, and, most importantly, having an effective conversation with a politician.

Join us on Saturday 7 December for a workshop to learn how, or contact us to arrange another way to join the campaign.

When: Saturday, 7/12/19, 9:30-10:30am (Join in the Strategy meeting from 9am also if you like and feel free to stick around after the workshop for a coffee and a chat down the road.)

Where: Ballarat Trades Hall, Camp Street

Enquiries and RSVP: By reply email, or contact Elizabeth on 0402 553 181 – it helps to know how many are joining us, but if you don’t get to that, please feel free to turn up anyway.

If you can’t make it on the day, please register your interest and we can either run you through the info individually or make sure to let you know of our next workshop.

Letter Writing Cafe

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In solidarity with the good people of NSW and Queensland, as they confront the most appalling bushfires, Therese will lead our last letter writing session for the year tomorrow Sunday 7th from 4 pm at RJM’s Wine Bar at  95 Mair Street East, Ballarat East.
Come along for as long or as short a time as you can manage
The last session led to a number of letters and replys from councillors as well as published letters (and some rejected). There is a real sense of momentum building that we are keen to back and hurry along. It can also be a good chance to share with like-minded people.

Letter writing cafe will be at:

 

RJM’s wine bar

95 Mair St East, Ballarat Vic 3350

Sunday 8 December

4-6pm

Ballarat Climate Strike – SS4C

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Let’s do this! All are welcome!
Locally, nationally, globally, we have to act. We face a climate crisis and we can’t wait for others to fix it. It might feel overwhelming… but it’s not! We can show our voice, show we care, and begin to affect meaningful change.
We need you! And we need a healthy planet. Will you join us?

Ballarat Trades Hall, 24 Camp Street Ballarat

Sept 20 at 12 PM – 2 PM

MAJOR EVENT FOR BALLARAT

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“If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that’s something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can’t live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.” Noam Chomsky

It’s time to get real about the ecological and climate emergency we are facing. Our political system is broken and our leaders are failing to protect us.

It’s time to tell the truth and act as though the truth is real. It’s time to band together and be effective as part of an international movement of mass participation civil disobedience. Come and hear about why we need the Extinction Rebellion and how you can be a part of it.

Everyone is welcome, the first hour will be a talk introducing Extinction Rebellion (arrive before 11 please!)

And from 12-1 it’s a chance for local residents to form an affinity group and start making the connections that will make this movement a success. If you can’t make this talk we have lots of other area talks coming up regularly.

And if you want a talk in your area email xrvicoutreach@protonmail.com and we can organise one

11am to 1pm, Ballarat Trades Hall, Camp St, Saturday, Sept 7 2019

 

A quick informal get together for climate change concerned folk over coffee/tea or wine & ales is planned for Saturday 27 July from 5-6pm at The Lost Ones Gallery.
We’ll be compiling dot points for our work to maintain the intensity of focus on the City Council’s commitment to a sustainability officer and emissions related goals.
A great opportunity to join in if you are not a fan of more formal meetings 🤔 and as a follow on to the CSIRO forum on Thursday night!
It can be easy to discount the importance of your own individual attendance at these brief get togethers but without compelling numbers on this journey we will struggle to carry the argument forward.

If people wish to stay after 6pm that’ll be fine – Much thanks to Therese for organising.

Respond to Ballarat City Council’s Draft Budget

The 2019/20 draft budget is currently available for inspection. Submissions must be received at Ballarat Town Hall by 9am Monday 17 June 2019.

All written submissions and presentations will be presented at a Special Council Meeting to be held on Wednesday 19 June 2019 at 7pm in the Council Chamber, Ballarat Town Hall.”