According to World Water Council‘s director-general Ger Bergkamp, Australia is ‘the metaphorical canary down the coalmine when it comes to climate change‘:
In Australia, what was projected to be here in 20 years from now, in terms of the drought, is already here as we speak.
Now where have we heard that one before? It’s not just Australia that is still clinging to its perch only because somebody has nailed it there. If climate alarmists are to be believed, there are as many ‘climate change canaries’ out there as there are canaries in the Canary Isles: penguins, migratory birds, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Tuvalu, sea turtles, Kenyan pastoralists, islands, polar bears, Australian ski resorts, US ski resorts, Australian vineyards, Napa Valley vineyards, Canada’s Inuit, Alaska, mountain ecosystems, tropical ice-caps, Greenland, pika, naturists, the Bering Sea, intertidal zones, coral reefs, to name but a few.
‘Climate canary’ is the perfect metaphor in the age of the precautionary principle. Especially when it can apply to anything you want it to. Because, when you’re watching everything for signs of catastrophe, it follows that you can’t do anything without at least one of your canaries karking it.
Trouble is, it doesn’t quite work. While actual canaries were once very useful for alerting miners to the presence of deadly gases – first they stopped singing, then they keeled over – there is little reason to believe that any of our climate canaries serve their putative purpose. Despite the ‘fact’ that ‘climate change is real and is happening’, none of them seem to have actually popped their clogs yet, or even to have stopped singing. All a climate canary has to do to justify an alarmist newspaper headline is hop metaphorically from one side of its cage to the other, or look at us in a funny way. Like that other favourite metaphor of the risk-averse, the ‘ticking time-bomb’, the climate canary is predicated on the idea that nothing terrible has happened yet, but you can’t rule it out.
The metaphor also fails on the basis that while canaries were used to make mining safer, the climate variety are deployed to encourage us to stop mining completely – and stop doing everything else for that matter – because it might possibly be harmful to canaries.
Its ubiquity means that even the likes of Gristmill have recognised that the climate canary is a dead parrot – that we need something bigger and scarier. We suggest that, next time, Ger Bergkamp might consider ‘Australia more like a climate change canary than previously thought‘.