Delia’s ‘inconvenient truth’ on climate change was honest, scary, but weird

Political leaders cannot just tell people to ‘panic’ in the face of irreversible climate change: they must offer the truth of the radical solution the planet and society needs

Acting like the house is burning down
Acting like the house is burning down

It looked like PN leader Adrian Delia had gone off-script as he growled about the impending disaster of irreversible climate change. 

Saturday evening saw the PN’s MEP candidates making their standard address to the party’s younger members in a livestreamed discussion to bring out the young vote. At the time of writing, I have found no record of the livestream that aired on Facebook [On 15 May, an edited video was published on Adrian Delia's Facebook page]

Right before Delia’s speech, the young audience had been patiently listening to MEP candidates ply their aspirational rhetoric. It was business-as-usual, with candidates like Peter Agius, at ease with his young audience, speaking about the future and on hope, and the importance of the European project.

This was perhaps the first time that climate change had featured so extensively, and passionately, in the speech of a Maltese political leader, occupying not just the entirety of his speech, but delivered with the ominous timbre of the wide-eyed, millenarian soothsayer. 

Woe is us, the end is nigh, repent for the permafrost’s melt is at hand, and ‘penitenziagide’. Not what Delia said of course. But boy did he send the shivers down the spines of his ’grammable Christian-democrats.

From beginning to end, Delia’s baritone growling on climate change implored his audience to “wake up” and get panicking about what scientists have been warning us for decades now. 

All true. But for a speech that gave no clear PN policy on how to radically change the way we live or how the government can alter the course of the economy’s incompatibility with planetary sustainability, Delia sounded like he had been given the shocking news for the first time ever by Richard Attenborough himself. 

It is uncustomary for party leaders not to impart a message of hope or aspiration, or solutions to problems. Delia’s speech was instead bookended referencing his grandfather’s time in World War II in the fight against Nazi-fascism; and then hailing the climate change activist Greta Thunberg, heralding the existential threat to humanity posed by planetary heating; and finally invited his audience to ‘panic’. 

“Our generation had it all... it had liberty and wealth. And what is happening now... this generation is destroying the environment, the world. We wanted more power, more wealth, more everything... and we’ll lose everything.” 

Again, no truer words spoken.

Acknowledging his own anger, Delia called on the audience to accept history’s present appointment with humanity like the town-crier with the inconvenient truth personally entrusted to him. “Wake up!” he intoned. “Panic!” he said, borrowing from Thunberg’s address to MEPs, inveighing against the generation that had sent the world to its ruinous future, and asking the new generation to take up the fight for the environment. 

But the inconvenient truth about climate change is not just our inevitable destiny. 

It is how we must deal with it if we are to make human life bearable in the next decades. And this is what neither Adrian Delia, nor Joseph Muscat, may be ready to talk about. 

In her powerful book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein is clear about the fact that humanity has no choice but to ditch its fossil fuel-driven global economy for a local model powered by renewable energy. That means overhauling the entire global economy. No mean feat. 

If Delia is serious about climate change, his call to arms cannot be “panic”. It must be a call to justice: making the profiteers pay for their pollution; demanding radical solutions that will deliver cleaner transport; pivot away from the model of economic growth that demands more construction and more roads; pledge basic living standards for everyone, Maltese and foreign, whose jobs will be lost to the radical transition to clean energy. 

And that means Delia has to decide. Has he seen far enough into the future to convert the PN to the Green New Deal the planet, and Malta needs, or is he going to waste the electorate’s time with identity scares against foreigners and abortion bogey-men? 

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