'What do you say to a kid?': the writer's daughter was in tears after watching part of a new broadcast about climate change.
A couple of Sundays ago, I was watching TV with my four-year-old daughter and we caught a news story about climate change. I zoned out and got us some chocolate from the kitchen but when we started to snuggle again she asked me "Will we die if the world gets too hot, daddy?"
I said "of course not", stuffed some chocolate in her mouth and changed the subject but her guileless concern stayed with me. Later I tweeted the conversation, asking my followers words to the effect "What do you say to a kid? 'I won't die. You might'?"
The response on social media was telling. Seven people bothered to respond, all seven a variation on the theme that climate change was not an issue and I should teach my child critical thinking skills.
The writer's daughter negotiates a maze unconnected to climate science.
The tweet was then picked up by a paragon of critical thinking, News Corp. columnist Tim Blair, who suggested I tell my daughter: “Let’s turn up the heater a couple of degrees and find out! Still breathing, kid?”
What surprised me most, however, was the comments on Blair's blog, the majority of which were absolutely certain climate change was some vast left wing conspiracy of which I was part, working for Fairfax, and that I should be reported to DOCS for terrifying my child.
Bear in mind what prompted this exchange was my daughter catching the end of a 6pm commerical news broadcast. I didn't stoke her with horror stories. It was the first time we'd ever discussed global warming. She simply intuited danger from the voice of a TV reporter.
When I picked up my daughter from her mum's house later in the week, my ex told me Noush had been crying, saying the world was going to get too hot and we'd all die. We both went to work on her, explaining it wasn't a certainty this would happen, and that we all had to do our part to help the planet.
As I spoke the comforting white lies to her, I wondered if they were a facsimile of the dialogue climate change deniers have between themselves, that our Prime Minister has when he lays his head down on a starched pillow as he goes to sleep in New York City tonight.
I wonder how the President of the USA views Abbott, a man now actively "seeking to build an alliance of like-minded nations to help counter Obama’s push for international action on climate change".
It's a strange space we now occupy globally, where our country's leader is massaging scientific facts, speaking to world leaders like they're frightened four-year-olds too silly to know the difference.
I don't pretend to completely understand the science behind climate change or, for that matter, the science behind how electricity works, antidepressants, deoderant, food hygiene, internal combustion engines and colonscopies.
I doubt very much whether any person reading this grasps the fundamental intricacies underlying every aspect of their life, be that physics, economics, cellular biology, mathematics, logic, chemisty or geoscience.
Every minute of the day we defer to greater minds than ours, when we flick a light switch, sip tap water or eat from a can - we accept the science behind these things because they are beyond argument.The scientific community has reached such vast and enduring consensus on subjects like germ theory, Newtonian physics, evolution and antibiotics, we accept them as fact.
No one, save fringe lunatics would dare to question their veracity, yet people on the street (or Twitter), not to mention politicians with absolutely no scientific training, like our PM, are prepared to speak with certainty about issues like climate change.
As Obama told The New York Times recently, "Science is science .. We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on. The science is compelling.
"The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny. And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognise this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces.
"The good news is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians ... then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem.’ ”
I wish I could tell my daughter our PM said those words but he's busy telling himself and us fairytales.