After what must have been an exhausting couple of weeks spent disparaging climate action through the COP26 meetings in Glasgow, Australia’s conservative media warriors have had to regroup to face off the worst possible kind of threat: a climate activist cricket captain.
Pat Cummins was last week named as the 47th captain of the Australian men’s Test Cricket team. But it was in the days preceding his appointment, when news emerged that the NSW-born fast bowler was being interviewed for the job, that the Murdoch papers sounded the alarm.
“If Cummins is made Australian Test captain, strap in for the game to become active on issues including climate change,” wrote Peter Lalor in The Australian last Wednesday.
“The bowler made his politics clear in a revealing interview with The Weekend Australian magazine last month and has showed his hand with his leadership role in the Cool Down initiative, a climate change initiative that involves 300 fellow athletes.”
The Cool Down initiative also involves former Wallaby captain David Pocock, AFLW player and sports commentator Daisy Pearce, Olympic swimmers Cate and Bronte Campbell, world champion surfer Mick Fanning, and cricket veteran Ian Chappell, among many others.
The movement hopes to use the platforms of these well respected and well recognised sportspeople to back scientific calls for Australia to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030 and reach net zero emissions before 2050.
According to Lalor, the “university-educated” Cummins, also wants solar power installed at cricket clubs and is conscious of the carbon emissions associated with playing and the impact climate change is having on cricket.
“The game has a big footprint – we fly all over the world in jets, we’ve got big stadiums, play under massive lights, the fields use so much valuable water. There’s a lot we can do,” he told the Weekend Australian. “Sport will be affected, but cricket in particular, we are subject to the elements.”
Now that Cummins has got the job, the media eye-rolling about his climate concerns, and debate over whether he should be allowed to have an opinion on anything beyond the pitch, has well and truly begun.
“He is entitled to his views,” opined 3AW Drive host Tom Elliott – who is also university educated, with a Bachelor of Commerce. “But if I was Pat Cummins, I’d be focused on winning The Ashes.
“Sportspeople think that because they’re good at sport, we should listen to them on other issues. And yet the reality is that most of the time we should not.
“And, let’s be honest, if you are an international cricketer getting paid hundreds of thousands – if not millions – to play in India and all sorts of different countries, your carbon footprint is far higher than the average person.
“Cricketers fly around in first class and business class and generate a lot more pollution than the average person because their job, playing professional cricket, requires them to be in all corners of the globe.
“I don’t see how, on one hand, you can earn money flying all around the world at the drop of a hat you can lecture other people about climate change.”
Elliott has form on climate and energy. In 2017, he wished for a “giant, statewide blackout” to halt the rollout of renewables. It seems to be a common wish for conservatives. Energy minister Angus taylor’s wife once hoped for the same thing, saying one was needed to “teach lefties a lesson.”
The Daily Telegraph also weighed in on the subject of Cummins climate views, publishing the opinion of Tim Blair under the headline “Woke or bloke,” which suggests you cannot be both and most certainly not if you’re also a high profile sports person.
So who is qualified to speak on climate?
As former Australian PM Kevin Rudd put it in an open letter to Blair back in 2019, we should probably take our advice on the subject from the “world-class scientists [who] have been studying climate and the environment as their life’s work.”
From the few words he has said on the subject, and the action he has taken in joining The Cool Down initiative, Pat Cummins appears to be taking his advice from climate scientists. And we think that is a great sign of a good leader.