Each year I drive to Queensland, adding to my carbon dioxide debt and depleting my ‘‘carbon budget’’, but that is okay for I can justify my behaviour!
Of course I can as I am no different from most others; we all justify our behaviours, be they good or bad, and it is argued that none of us could get through a day without justifying what is we are doing, or not doing.
Personally, my kids and grandkids live in Queensland and it does not seem unreasonable, at least to me, that my wife and I should drive or fly there to see them, and while there, not do anything to further worsen Australia’s carbon emissions, at least that’s my justification for a journey my parents would never have contemplated.
And does that justification make it okay? Of course not.
The mobility of people, all of which they can justify, is one of the key planks of our behaviour accelerating the worsening of climate change.
Listening recently to a visiting climate scientist, the dilemma of how we justify our behaviour was highlighted through a story about a contemporary who flew from Europe to Canada for a skiing holiday as a reward for a year of dedication learning more about the climate tragedy facing the world.
Few people would have been more aware of the damage flying does to our atmosphere and yet in a strange intellectual bifurcation he was able to justly his flying while damning that of others.
Recently I watched as a speaker used a chart to illustrate the energy-saving aspects of their fully electric car, but quizzed later about energy-rich road network it needs, not to mention the embedded energy of the car itself, the conversation was instantly deflected with a blizzard of justifications that provided comfort to the owner, but little to the environment, or me.
Climate conferences, international and local (local being within Australia) broaden our understanding of how our behaviour is damaging and changing the Earth’s atmosphere and so our weather, but they depend upon many things, among them the justification of the energy-intense travel delegates rack up as they fly in and out, not to mention the high-energy-use conference centres.
Coming to the close of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) recent three-day annual conference, the chief executive, Professor Jean Palutikof, admitted privately it had been a mistake to use five-star Melbourne conference centre as everywhere she looked energy was being consumed, and wasted.
However, it was a wonderful conference and for most, even for those who travelled from many parts of Australia, that seemed justification enough.
Melbourne-based Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty regrets the international flying his career in medicine demanded and although the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996 in some way justified that behaviour; it is a behaviour he recognises as detrimental our environment.
‘‘We are all compromised,’’ he said on Tuesday.
And of course, he was correct, and all of us, myself included, are compromised, but if the justification of our actions is deleterious to our environment, then it is time to rethink our behaviour.
Rob McLean is a former News editor.