(Image by Amy Bracks)
Our Code Red for planet earth came with an instruction book for how to turn it around – so let’s get to it.
The latest IPCC report on the state of the global climate didn’t pull any punches with its “Code Red for planet earth”, but there was also a clear message of hope contained within it – if we can get to zero CO2 emissions not only can we prevent some of the worst climate impacts – altered landscapes, heatwaves, extreme weather events – we can also begin to turn the temperature down.
What’s more, the report made it very clear that every tenth of a degree matters. We must do everything possible to make immediate, deep and sustained cuts to greenhouse emissions.
The great news is, this is something that we know how to do. Leaving oil, gas and coal in the ground, we must quickly transition to clean renewable energy.
Many people would have seen this report coming – they’ve been tracking climate science for a decade, maybe two. Perhaps they heard it with weary familiarity. Some will have blocked out the entire discussion, because it’s rather too frightening to think about. Some might feel deep concern, but feel powerless to do anything.
But no one is powerless, and there is much to do. Here are some of the ways in which we can all help:
- Be influencers: talk from the heart to the people you know. You probably know someone, at work or in your family, who’s not on “Team Climate Action” yet. Maybe they mock greenies and dispute the science, or pretend they aren’t interested. When people hear messages from those who are close to them, people they trust, they are more likely to believe them. YOU are powerful in shaping other people’s beliefs around you. Share how worried you are. Admitting that you are worried or frightened could be a great way to tap into someone else who might also be worried, but hasn’t been able to express it, or is trying hard not to think about it.
- Widen your audience: talk to people you don’t know (yet). Many of us attend events about climate change. While there is often great solace in sharing discussions with like-minded people, we know that what’s needed is government action. For governments to act decisively, they need to know that community sentiment is, in the main, on their side. Talking to people from different demographics, interests and electorates is much more likely to make a difference than talking to those who already get it. It’s the reason that we see so many climate organisations reaching into new audiences, such as farmers and vets. So perhaps make your next conversation or presentation to someone who’s never heard it before.
- Emphasise Urgency. Talking about urgency is important. The IPCC report has got your back on this. We are running out of time, and a response to climate change isn’t something that key decision-makers can deal with in 5 or 10 years – it’s something that should be front and centre of their work. It’s time to throw everything at this problem; no matter how fast governments and corporations promise to go, it probably isn’t fast enough. So look impressed, but ask for more!
- Challenge social licence. It’s actually not ok to be working as a fossil fuel lobbyist anymore, advocating for the expansion of the coal or gas industry. People who work in these industries are surrounded by people who reaffirm that their world view is solid – but it’s not. There are likely plenty of nice people who work in these jobs, but it’s time to give them cause to reflect on the role they are playing in your childrens’ future, and in their childrens’ future. The conversations that we have about climate change every day, especially with those from diverse backgrounds, will erode the social licence for fossil fuel industries and those that work in them.
- Be kind to allies. We are all in this together. Best to put all your energy towards convincing those who aren’t convinced rather than disagreeing on finer details with those who are already on board. The climate movement is just that – a movement. It’s large, colourful and varied, and uses a myriad of tactics and discussions to push decision-makers towards action. It will never be everything to anyone, but the one thing it needs to be is bigger. We grow a movement by welcoming it in all its forms. (*Noting that violence is never a healthy part of any positive social change.)
- Come and help. Do you feel powerless and want to do something to help? Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do aside from cutting your own emissions (such as installing solar or riding your bike). But if you’d like to help with the bigger conversation, and you have a spare half a day a fortnight, or even day a week, then volunteer with an organisation like ours. We have community engagement activities ready to go (post COVID lock down) where we can support you, and where you can be part of a community of people who are also passionate about doing something. Please, get in touch.
This IPCC report isn’t our cue to give up; it is our call to action. Action on climate change won’t look the same for everyone: it could be talking to your climate-denialist relative at Christmas or volunteering on a community stall or chatting to work colleagues at morning tea or talking to your local sports club or starting a community garden or revegetating a creek bank.
Not one person or action will solve this problem – the solutions lie in the hundreds of thousands of actions and conversations that happen every day. Acts that might seem small but are, in fact, essential.