When a natural disaster strikes another country, the House normally grants leave for (mainly) party leaders to express condolences to the country concerned. Yesterday John Key asked for leave in relation to the typhoon in the Philippines. It was granted and both Key and Cunliffe gave excellent short speeches expressing condolences and solidarity.
Then Russel Norman got up and decided that he knew what had caused the typhoon – greenhouse gas emissions, and subjected to the House to a lengthy diatribe about climate change. He spoke for probably twice as long as the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition combined, and just used a tragedy for political point scoring. MPs got very very grumpy about this, and the Speaker had to intervene to calm things down.
There is a time and a place to debate climate change. It is not during the condolences to a country struck by a typhoon. Norman showed appalling judgement in politicizing what is by convention a non-political series of speeches. Have a look at the Hansard at the link provided. Key, Cunliffe, Martin and Horan all made short non-political contributions. Then read the lengthy diatribe by Norman.
It takes only one MP in the House to deny leave. If Dr Norman continues to use such occasions to grand-stand on climate change, then there is a significant risk than the next the Prime Minister asks the House for leave to express condolences on a tragedy, an MP will say no.
There are two striking things about this nauseously speedy rush to blame every natural disaster on man’s thoughtlessness or wickedness. The first is how unscientific it is. As some scientists have pointed out, there is no “absolute certainty” that climate change causes things like Haiyan. Indeed, the latest IPCC report says: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” The ugly urge to say “that storm was caused by climate change”, even before serious studies have been carried out, even before the bodies have been counted, is fuelled by the weirdly self-flagellating moralism of the Green movement, by Greens’ never-flailing instinct to “prove” that modern life kills, rather than by any cool-headed assessment of the facts.