Community responds to climate denial on Council

On 11 July 2020, Ballarat Councillor Jim Rinaldi wrote an opinion piece in the Courier talking about recent changes to the Local Government Act. While the piece started out making some reasonable points about the controversial change to single-member wards, it took a sudden turn towards climate denial when Cr Rinaldi raised concerns that the Act “forces councillors to join the cimate debate”. He asked “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?”

Of course, there really is no climate “debate” – scientists are constantly refining the details, such as how quickly it’s happening, how high the seas will rise, and so on, but the science is very much settled on the basics. It’s warming, it’s us, we’re sure, it’s bad, we can fix it. Pretending there is still a lot of debate among scientists on this point is a common climate denial trope – pretending to “just ask questions” which have already been comprehensively answered, in order to avoid having the conversations we need to have about how to fix it.

The people of Ballarat – including some members of BCAN! – saw right through this tactic, though, leading to a huge number of Letters to the Editor, which the Courier dedicated a whole page to. It was great to see such a firm response to this kind of rhetoric! (Letters also here.)

Unfortunately Councillor Rinaldi’s response to this was to double down on his claims, and conservative Councillor Grant Tillett jumped to his defence on Facebook, while Councillor Samantha McIntosh lent her support in another opinion piece in which she also suggested that refurbishing the Gatekeepers Cottage to provide a venue for kids to learn about how plants grow was “real action on climate change.”

It’s disappointing to see so many of our elected leaders behaving in this way, but fantastic to see the community’s response to it. The local government elections in October are going to be very interesting indeed!