There is no denying the world has moved forward on tackling climate change, with as many as 200 world leaders signing a collective agreement to cut greenhouse gas pollution at the last Paris Climate Convention. However, despite the momentous occasion, climate change policies remain vulnerable in the hands of governing parties. The newly elected US President Trump is already threatening to withdraw from the Paris agreement and rescind the Clean Power Plan, which was a key component of the Obama Administration’s Paris climate agreement, while in Australia, Treasurer Scott Morrison recently attempted a case for the central role that ‘clean coal’ should play in Australia’s energy future.
Although the Federal Government may be climate laggards, state and regional governments, along with many businesses, are moving ahead and making their own commitments to address climate change. South Australia and the ACT have already begun transitioning to low carbon economies by establishing renewable electricity sources and investing in transport systems and waste systems. At the same time, multi-national companies such as Nike, Starbucks and Coca-Cola are also taking steps to protect their brand image, as more and more consumers and investors shift their support toward companies with a stronger environmental performance.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of not-for-profit groups believe the force behind pushing climate change forward starts with the people. One such example is Climate for Change; whose mission is to help create environments for people to have conversations with their peers on climate change – something that is now being recognised by experts as key to building public support for the action needed. The key is to reframe the topic to issues that people can more readily relate to, such as threats to food, water, health and the economy rather than provoke the debate of whether climate change is real.
The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology have previously prepared a report for the Victorian Government highlighting the fact that not only will climate change affect farmers and food crop production, it will also impact other industries such as tourism, with shorter snow seasons and harsher fire conditions, and the state’s transport network, as it becomes increasingly exposed to periodic flooding and heat loading. Hot days and heatwaves would also exacerbate health risks adding pressure on hospitals and emergency services. On an even greater scale, one of the key reason the Chinese Government has recently taken an aggressive approach to expanding renewable energy is the debilitating air pollution that coal-fired power plants generate, regularly causing air quality levels in many Chinese cities to exceed hazardous levels.
Climate change is the largest collective-action problem we face. To effectively deal with this problem, more people are needed to voice their support, raising awareness within the community to keep the pressure on the government. The science is in, and policy makers need to put in place the right legislation to deliver climate change action.
On Earth Day, 22 April, the March for Science will see people across the globe march for evidence-based policies. For more information, visit earthday.org.