Can you be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in climate change?

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Recently, a work colleague told me that her decision to leave tropical Queensland for North West Tasmania was motivated by temperature rises. She said the stifling tropical heat, as well as the cyclones and floods, had become unbearable.

I told her that climate change was going to displace a great many people, and she was an early refugee to a place scientists say will remain a safe haven, spared the soaring heat and wild storms set to engulf much of Australia.

Given these dire warnings, it’s understandable that people are fleeing from extreme weather events.

But then my colleague said something truly shocking. She said she didn’t believe in climate change and that it was all a hoax because the earth had experienced temperature fluctuations before and therefore was merely undergoing a similar transition.

I was taken aback. Up until this conversation, I’d experienced a budding friendship with this woman. We have many things in common. We are the same age, have backpacked in our 20s, are working in the same profession and have moved from  mainland Australia to North West Tasmania. Yet, I  was now acutely aware we had nothing in common at all.

Could I continue to contemplate a friendship with a climate change denier?

Our differing conclusions on climate science make us ideologically opposed. Her denial of the climate science means she will continue to support a rapacious capitalist system that is gobbling up resources and polluting the planet.

Her rejection of climate science means she won’t fret about the survival of her children and grandchildren trying to survive on a resource depleted planet. She can shrug at the evidence of warming oceans, collapsing fisheries, degraded soils, and drought ridden farmlands.

She doesn’t have to bother about reducing energy consumption or think about paying a large sum to install solar panels. She can continue to support a political party who also deny climate science and who care little for science overall.

In fact, she can remain so blissfully ignorant that any attempt to wake her up to the dangers will come too late. Like they  said in the 60s, if you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.

Her attitude is a big problem.

Climate change deniers remain oblivious to the impending catastrophe of a 6 degree temperature rise by mid-century. Instead, they would rather believe that global warming is a vast government and scientific conspiracy whose main aim is to raise tax revenue.

No doubt climate deniers are the same as those who insist the moon landings were fake, and that thousands of scientists, engineers, and politicians were involved in this scam.

I don’t know what it will take to get the message through to climate deniers, but I do know that I can’t be friends with them.

Sue Bell

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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