A Liberal senator has been heckled and jeered by a live TV audience after disputing the existence of human-led climate change in a fiery episode of the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night.
The first show of the year was a bushfire special broadcast from Queanbeyan, outside Canberra, as fires burned nearby. The program focused on the communities devastated by the ongoing bushfire crisis.
The panel show typically gathers politicians, as well as journalists and industry leaders, who take questions from the audience. On Monday, many of those questioning the panel were directly affected by this bushfire season, some of them having lost everything.
NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance, who has been in the spotlight since his Bega electorate was ravaged by bushfires, drew praise for his authenticity and honesty when describing the pain of this summer, but fellow Liberal Jim Molan drew audible scorn from the audience throughout the show.
In one moment, the crowd’s exasperation was palpable when Mr Molan was asked if he agreed with American climate scientist Michael Mann, who was also on the panel, that “climate change is real and human caused”.
“It’s already leading to disastrous impacts here in Australia and around the rest of the world. And it will get much worse if we don’t act,” Mr Mann said.
Host Hamish Macdonald then asked Mr Molan if he agreed. The senator took a deep breath before beginning his response.
“I accept the climate is changing. It has changed and it will change … and what it’s producing is hotter and drier weather and a hotter and drier country.
“What’s causing that?” the host prodded.
“As to whether it is human-induced climate change is …,” Mr Molan started before loud heckling from the crowd interrupted him.
“As to human-induced climate … to whether it is human-induced climate change, my mind is open,” he said, as loud laughter came from the crowd.
“This is not the key question. The key question is what are you going to do about it?”
‘I am not relying on evidence’, Molan says
Mr Macdonald pressed the senator on the matter, asking if he believed humans were causing climate change.
He again expressed skepticism about manmade climate change. “I respect very much scientific opinion but every day across my desk comes enough information for me to say that there are other opinions,” Mr Molan said.
He went on to say that he was open minded and the important thing was to focus on adaption before being brought back to the initial question.
“What is that information?” Mr Macdonald pressed him.
“It’s a range of information which goes,” the senator offered before the crowd jeered and heckled him so loudly the host had to ask for them to remain respectful.
“What is the evidence that you are relying on?”
“I’m not relying on evidence, Hamish,” Mr Molan conceded as the crowd howled in laughter again.
Much to the delight of the crowd, climate scientist Michael Mann made light of the situation with a timely slapdown of the senator.
“You should keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out,” he said.
Online criticism of senator’s climate-change stance
The episode was scheduled to be broadcast from Bega but was forced to relocated to Queanbeyan due to ongoing fire danger.
The show encourages viewers to tweet questions and observations while watching at home and those online were no less scathing than the audience members, with many lambasting the Liberal senator.
“It’s a mournful night on the ABC,” wrote TV personality Benjamin Law, referring to the Q&A episode and the bushfire-focused Four Corners episode which preceded it.
“Hell, it’s a mournful moment for Australia,” he added, labelling Mr Molan’s answers “piss-poor and infuriatingly defensive.”
Others were also highly critical of Mr Molan’s incoherent response including MP Zali Steggall who called it “an insult to Australians who have suffered so much”.
Jim Molan out here denying human-induced climate change on #QandA in front of a packed auditorium full of people who have lost their homes, loved ones... everything.— jackson ryan 🙏 (@dctrjack) February 3, 2020
This episode of #QandA should put our duplicitous, self-serving politicians to shame. Swallow your pride for the sake of this country and listen to what real people care about.— The Cathy Wilcox (@cathywilcox1) February 3, 2020
Tonight's #qanda has proven Australians have run out of patience for climate science deniers.— 💧🔥🐨Bee🐝 (@BelindaJones68) February 3, 2020
They have done enough damage, they refuse to accept evidence & rethink their views. No more.
They have no right to any role in public office. Full stop.
.@JimMolan rightly howled down by the entire audience for saying he is keeping an open mind about whether climate change is man made.— Benjamin Law 羅旭能 (@mrbenjaminlaw) February 3, 2020
Then the quote of the evening after being pressed by @hamishNews:
“I AM NOT RELYING ON EVIDENCE.”
MORE HOWLS. #qanda
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