Australia is a burnt husk of itself as devasting fires have devoured millions of acres and killed up to one billion animals. The smoke from the fires have traveled around the globe and back again to choke the southern continent. Supposed curious onlookers ask: “Were these fires caused by climate change?”
In Talmudic argumentation, just arguing the merits of the possible answers is considered lackadaisical form. A sharp mind is expected to take the question and turn it up, down and around as one would examine a rock in one’s hand. Even examining the integrity of the question itself is valid; in fact, challenging the integrity of the question is vital in this case.
“Were these fires caused by climate change” is a question only the ignorant or the climate denial lobbyist would ask.
The ignorant ask because they do not know where to start. They ask the most obvious question because they do not know how to ask better, more informative ones, much like the third child at the Pesach seder. When they ask though, there is an opportunity to teach.
The climate denial industry appreciates this sort of question. The implicit bias buried in the formulation of the question is a favorite denial tactic aimed at the gullible. The bias is the possible answer that climate change has had no effect, no easy-to-comprehend relationship with these consequential fires. With such a broad set of choices, climate change might not exist – at least as the question is presented. The ambiguity is exploitable, leaving the coal-driven sector of the economy in Australia intact and furiously mining for more.
The correct questions begin with established science. If we are a global information society, then the least we can do is begin building our questions with the confirmed information at hand. Climate change exists, climate change is human generated, and climate change is influencing events and circumstances around the globe now.
The better questions to ask are:
- How did climate change contribute to the fires?
- How did climate change prevent a quick extinguishing of the fires?
- How did Australian politics on climate change contribute to the devastation?
The truism is that better questions lead to better answers. As the world begins to burn on every permanently inhabited continent, the hope is that better questions will lead to better actions. Indeed, our world is depending upon us to do just that.