REMEMBER Y2K? This was the new millennium bug that we were told threatened to throw the world's computer systems into chaos as we entered the year 2000.
Aircraft could fall from the sky and businesses crash in a global digital catastrophe, we were warned. Panic set in and billions of dollars were spent across the world to head off this impending armageddon.
In this mad rush there was no room for sceptics. The evidence of the looming danger was overwhelming and undeniable, regardless of the fact that it sounded like something out of a science-fiction movie. Action had to be taken and no price was too high.
Well, the tsunami turned out to be nothing more than a ripple in a pond, if that.
Does all this have a familiar ring to it? Of course. It is the same type of argument that is being foisted on us by the Rudd government over global warming and its threat to the future of civilisation as we know it.
Think about it. The blame for any disaster caused by the fanciful Y2K bug had to rest with mankind's development of digital technology. And mankind is back in the blame game, this time responsible for global warming.
Remember, it was not so long ago that we were confronted with the unnerving prospect of being fried like eggs on a hotplate as a result of a widening hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere.
The hole is apparently still there, although it has stopped expanding and has, in fact, started shrinking. Coincidentally, it is now playing second fiddle to global warming in the climate change debate.
But just as we were told to disregard any suggestion that a hole in the ozone layer could be, in large part anyway, caused by Earth's natural evolution, so we must accept that global warming cannot be attributed to any natural changes in the planet's climactic cycle. No. It is all our fault.
The reason the government has taken this view is not hard to fathom. After all, there is a certain political impotence in accepting that global warming could be part of a naturally occurring phenomenon.
Addressing parliament last week on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Greg Combet, assisting Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, made it quite clear that the government would have no truck with this. "For practical purposes we can be sure that human activities are responsible for global warming," he said.
"Publication in newspapers and blogs is no substitute for the careful processes of scientific rigour," Combet added dismissively. But the reality is that these and other public forums are carrying much of the informed debate about this issue, which will have a profound economic impact on the lives of Australians in metropolitan and regional areas of this country.
Combet makes the extraordinary statement that the government will give no credibility to any challenge to its policy on global warming unless it is done through major peer-reviewed scientific journals. This would, of course, remove differing scientific opinion from the public arena. But, in any case, why bother when he makes it clear that the government has already made up its mind, based on thoroughly tested and verified scientific evidence, that human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases are unequivocally responsible for most climate warming and that this warming will continue.
Just in case anyone should accept an alternative view, he trotted out a well-used list of catastrophic consequences flowing from this including a surge in sea levels, bushfires, heatwaves, drought, disease, along with social and geopolitical destabilisation.
This would be the legacy to future generations of Australians unless Kevin Rudd's climate change policy is accepted. But is this just emotive scaremongering?
The fact that we need to be conscious of the dangers of pollution is obvious and is already embraced by industry and the community at large. And just in case, it is vigorously enforced by an ever-rising mountain of regulation.
But what Rudd is now proposing, as he climbs the ladder of international diplomacy on global warming, is a tax not just on pollution but on jobs. Once the harsh reality of this sinks in, together with predicted rises in interest rates and continuing employment stress, Rudd may well find that the climate change true believers are having second thoughts.