Spare a thought for climate scientists: no longer the go-to experts for scary headlines. The epidemiologists have taken over.
2020 started well. The usual apocalyptic summer headlines. Then bang: they were gone.
For thirty years climate scientists have led public debate and focused political minds. No more.
It's now white-coated public health experts driving the debate and to much greater effect. No climate scientist ever locked a country down.
I doubt climate scientists will ever win back their exalted role. They now must piggy-back off coronavirus: "We can't go back to normal. The covid response shows what's possible".
The covid pandemic is just such a better scare. It's more immediate. Armageddon ten years hence is not as persuasive as tens of thousands dropping dead in ten weeks.
The covid scare is also up close and personal. We love polar bears but not as much as nana. It’s not the planet getting sick but me.
We also can do more. I don't know how to stop China burning coal but I can stay home and watch Netflix, wear a mask and social distance.
I can readily pot the neighbours for breaking their bubble but can’t do much about their V8.
Covid is just so much more satisfying.
Plus New Zealand has led the world in keeping us safe: it hasn't required the entire world to act in concert. We can do it: just us, a team of five million.
We can feel good and virtuous about being paid to watch Netflix. Our World War II is so much easier than the actual one. It's more in keeping with who we are. We don’t even have to plant trees. We can do the right thing by staying on the couch.
And Covid need never end. There will always be a mutant, people getting sick, and old people dying.
To be fair, climate scientists paved the way. Critics are readily dismissed as covid deniers. They don't care about the planet or nana. And “Follow the Science” sounds better than “Follow the Party”. “Evidence-based” has a better ring than “Party Diktat”.
Academics have become very adept at tying their pet topics to climate change for grants. The smart ones will now be talking up what Queer Theory can teach about our covid response.
And don’t worry. Climate Change is getting dealt to. Lockdowns have crashed the world's economy better than the framers of the Paris Accord ever dare hope.