Yesterday a young Canberran woman sat in front of Parliament House and set fire to an empty pram in a silent act of climate protest.
The chilling images summarised the emotions many of us felt as the UN declared a ‘code red’ for humanity. The rallying cry followed a new climate report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
As the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, summarised so well: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
Climate change will impact us all, but we know that women and children will be the hardest hit.
When natural disasters strike, they hit poor communities first and worst. And since women make up an estimated 70 percent of those living below the poverty line, they are most likely to bear the heaviest burdens.
The consequences of failing to turn things around can be utterly overwhelming to think about. It’s why you’re probably used to hearing phrases like “we’re all screwed, anyway” and “there’s nothing I can do about it” tumbling out of the mouths of your friends, loved ones, and colleagues.
But the reality is that there are huge reasons for hope and as Australians, there’s an awful lot that we can each do over the coming critical few years.
There are reasons to feel optimistic. Here are a few signs that suggest limiting warming to 1.5 degrees (the maximum temperature required to avert climate catastrophe) can be done.
- People everywhere, including in Australia, want action. In 2020, the largest-ever global survey on climate change, The Peoples’ Climate Vote, found that 64% of people consider the climate crisis to be a “global emergency”.
- Australians are now linking extreme weather events to climate change and the need for action. In fact, 82% of Australians think climate change will lead to more bushfires.
- Business and finance are also on board. International finance (including super funds like Verve) and insurers are progressively abandoning coal. While investment in climate solutions is garnering increasing interest.
- Globally we’re seeing more ambitious targets than ever being set. At President Biden’s recent climate summit, the US committed to a 50-52% cut in greenhouse gas emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. The UK promised a 78% emissions reduction by 2035, while the EU pledged to cut emissions 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels. And Japan committed to a 46% cut by 2030 on 2013 emissions.
- International coordination has never been stronger. For example, carbon border taxes are now being mooted which may drag heavy polluters like Australia forward one way or another.
The research shows us that climate change makes people feel powerless and that the lagging inaction by our leaders in Australia only makes this worse. But remember that this is exactly how the big polluters, fossil fuel companies, and climate deniers want us to feel. If we feel hopeless we’re less likely to take real action.
- Protest! There’s a reason governments crackdown on rallies and protests. They build and show power. Gathering with others, online or in-person, can also help to improve your mental health in times of crisis. Find a local climate group and stay connected to learn about gatherings near you.
- Write a letter to your local State and Federal MP. Ask them what they’re doing to address the huge challenges listed in the IPCC report. Their job is to represent you so they need to hear from local voters – like you – to show there’s a political upside to transforming Australia to 100% renewables. Here’s a guide.
- Join a climate change organisation or donate to one if campaigning isn’t your thing. You can find a list of organisations here. Some of these may be active in your local area or you can donate to Groundswell Giving to direct your giving towards effective climate action.
- Consider divesting your money away from fossil fuels towards a super fund, investment fund, and/or bank that doesn’t invest in coal, gas, or oil.
- Understand your personal impact and switch to renewables. Consider how you use energy, what energy sources you could change to renewable, where you’re still consuming plastic and how your food is produced.
- Educate yourself on climate issues so that you can start meaningful conversations with those around you. Here’s a guide on how to have a good conversation.
- Listen to First Nations voices. Join or donate to First Nations organisations. You can check out SEED Mob as one organisation doing great things.
- Throw yourself into nature and remind yourself of the beautiful world of our mother. Remind yourself why she is worth protecting and use the power of the trees, the rivers, and the beaches to take action.
If the current rate of global warming continues, our climate will reach between 2.1 and 3.9 degrees warmer by 2100. Put simply: current civilisations would struggle to function at that level. We can’t afford to throw our arms in the air, in these critical few years it’s time to channel our fear into rage and then into action.