Australia – A wolf in sheep’s clothing in the climate change debate? (615 words)

Australia often doesn’t feature in discussions about climate change, however Australia is a wolf in sheep clothing that should be considered.  Australia’s population is 23 million with a GDP of $1.56 trillion, it’s significantly developed and has a rather large population, both criteria which should make it a biggish player in the climate change debate. Australia’s per capita emissions make a case for it being a significant player, overtaking the US in 2009 as the worst emitter of CO2 per capita. Per capita emission can be a little misleading due to issues with population dispersion of emissions, therefore I’ve included a chart with emissions per Kt of countries with similar populations to subvert this issue. It highlights that Australia even with its small population can be producing as much CO2 as countries with twice/ 2.5X Australia’s population.

World Bank Stats on CO2 per capita 2

Figure 1: World Bank – CO2 emissions per metric ton (2005-2010) – Updated with information from Netherlands Environmental Agency

World Bank Stats kt

Figure 2 – World Bank – CO2 emissions per kt of developed countries with similar populations to Australia (2005-2010)

Australia 2014 – The Tony Abbot Administration

Australia’s current view on climate change is that it’s not an issue and action against climate change is pretty non-existent:

1) Current Prime Minister Tony Abbot is in favour of coal, calling it the ‘foundation of our prosperity’ and ‘good for humanity’. He has even advocated it as a resources that should be used by developing nations to increase their prosperity. Tony Abbot is giving the green light for more emissions and effectively ignoring climate change.

2) The Carbon Tax has been abolished and this is likely to cause a 9% rise in emissions from 2013-14 or about 14 million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide. Emissions are also likely to rise due to the failings of hydro and wind power. Coal is being used to bolster supply.

3) Carbon Capture and Storage research budget was slashed as well as other climate change research sectors. Cuts of about half a billion dollars are being made to CCS research, whereas coal industries are continuing to promote the benefits of coal not only to Australians but those overseas. The budget of other climate change research is to shrink from $5.75 billion a year to just $500 million for the next 4 years. This means more emissions for Australia and less research into what to do about it.

4) Tony Abbot is resisting attempts by the EU to donate to the Green Climate fund. This seems unjust as Tony Abbot is allowing Australia to cause more damage to the atmosphere, but is not willing to help countries that are going to be burdened by its effects. One of my previous blog post discusses governments and injustice.

Taking lessons from China – What can Australia do?

China is at the other end of the scale to Australia, blamed consistently for producing too much CO2 and taking no action on climate change. When in actually fact China is actually one of the leaders in climate change action and Australia could learn a few lessons from them.

  • The 12th Five Year Plan – China will have a 16% reduction in energy intensity, increase renewables by 11.4% and reduce carbon intensity by 17%. $52 billion was invested in renewable energy and fuels in 2011 and 1/3 of China’s electricity is now from renewable energy.
  • Pledges have been made to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares – Creating a carbon sink zone.
  • China is aiming to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 45% by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.

To conclude I pose a question to you, did you ever really consider Australia when discussing climate change culprits? Well for me I hadn’t, I’d focussed like most on the big players/culprits, the US and China. The lesson to be learned is don’t forget to check up on the smaller players, you might find more than you were expecting.

Climate Change Communication – How do you get the people of today to care about the people of tomorrow? (721 words)

During last week’s seminar a perplexing question was asked, how do you communicate climate change as a problem that not only affects us now but affects future generations too? How do you get people of today to care about the people of tomorrow? I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days and have realised just how complex this problem is.

There are a few major reasons why it’s so difficult to do:
1) Long timescales – Thinking and caring about the future is on a timescale that people find challenging, the future is too temporally distant for people to comprehend.
2) We are not directly influenced – It’s a problem that will happen to others, in the future, therefore we feel distant from the issue.
3) Climate change is seen as a problem out there/ distant from everyday life. It’s a fleeting thought rather than a nagging issue.

Communication right now:
Using shocking or disturbing tactics is the major way to communicate climate change and the future, images like this are often used.

Blog Post 2 - Dramatic Climate Change image

Sydney from the Movie 2012 – From the Daily Telegraph

However they have been overused. Desensitisation was mentioned in the lecture and I think that’s the truth, we’ve seen it so many times its effect upon us just doesn’t work anymore. We need another approach. But more images of polar bears stranded on ice and cities underwater is just not working anymore.

Ideas I have for communication instead:
To tackle the issues above I’ve been thinking about how I would attempt to communicate climate change, I’ve picked my top three idea to discuss here:

1) Make it Personal – Communication needs to get into people’s lives, make people realise it’s THEIR children and THEIR grandchildren and even THEMSELVES who are going to be affected by climate change. Communication needs to be centred on the individual, Google, Intel and Microsoft are already doing this by using mapping software to show people the effects climate change will have upon their own homes. Stephan Sheppard’s blog helps explain this further.
Similarly the banned Act on CO2 adverts for climate change provide the personal touch needed in communication. It makes people think what ending do I want to this bedtime story, asking people ‘well what do I want for my child’s future?’. This tugs on people’s emotive strings and promotes action.

2) A change of perspective – The perspective often taken to communicate climate change and the future is often adults thinking about what their children will go through. Maybe we need to swap the perspective and get the children talking to the adults about climate change. Get them talking about what they want for their futures and about the world they want to live in. We need to give children a voice as they are the ones that are going to be affected.
We should show how children want to take action to fight climate change and build a better future for themselves. Hopefully this will create upward mobility making parents/adults think that if their children/ the youth want change and are willing to do something to achieve it, adults will want to be a part of that movement too. These two ideas might create empathy and push action to fight climate change forward. The short clip below is helpful in emphasising my point.

3) Increase Visibility – Climate change too many people is invisible, people don’t see how what they do emits particles of CO2 and how that affects the climate budget. It needs to become visible for people to take action and actually understand that what they are doing today is harming the people of the future. These two YouTube videos make the invisible components of climate change visible and put them into layman’s terms that all people can understand. If people can truly understand that what they do affects the climate they will be more likely to take some form of action and this will benefit future generations.

To conclude, I would state that making people care about future generations is complex/difficult and a number of strategies should be used to try and communicate the message. The best method would be to go to the future and collect the evidence, but for now that is impossible. We’re just going to have to keep on trying with the methods we’ve got and hope it’s enough to create action to help the future.

Oh the injustice! – The disparity between the causers and recievers of climate change (663 words)

Governments and action on climate change

Governments seem reluctant to act upon climate change, even after a number of meetings and summits e.g. Copenhagen, action is still not taking place. The news is filled with headlines that suggest action “South Australia commits to 50% renewable energy target by 2050” or others like “Climate summit advances towards Paris deal” but time and time again headlines follow like “Despite the UN climate summit, fossil fuel firms are still in for the long-term”. I’d suggest this happens because governments think, why act when others are simply not going to, they are self-interested. Why let people be free-riders benefiting from your preventative measures e.g. renewable energies, when you could just have that extra power station yourself, which would cost less and give you more energy and money. I believe limited action will take place until governments stop being self-interested and see climate change as a global issue that needs a global solution. I’m not alone in this, Frank Bainimarama (Fiji’s interim prime minister) has similar views, suggesting the global communities will to fight climate change is “receding” and countries are “selfish” by not fighting climate change and allowing pacific nations to “sink below the waves”. I believe governments will only take action on climate change when they have first-hand experience of losing their great nations to the ocean and it’s all too late to take action.

Lack of action – The disparity between those causing climate change and those suffering the effects

The tragedy of the commons paradigm is to blame for this. MEDC countries are willing to put increasing pressure on the climate system as it’s provides them with rewards (more money/energy). However this creates negative effects that occur on a global scale, which are concentrated on those countries less able to cope, who contribute little to CO2 emissions. Figure 1 helps to clarify the above and highlights the high emissions of MEDC countries. Overlay Figure 2 and you realise these countries are not suffering from the effects of their actions and that’s where the injustice occurs. The injustice deeps when you realise that these countries also have to burden to costs of dealing with climate change, which they simply can’t afford and shouldn’t have to pay for.

Co2 emissions

Figure 1 – World Bank – CO2 emissions per capita of countries

MapleCroft - Disparity of climate change (Blog post 1)

Figure 2: MapleCroft – Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2012

Rectifying the situation

Some major polluters are trying to right wrongs by helping vulnerable nations, but I would say this action is both limited and inadequate. The latest attempt is the Green Climate Fund, founded in 2010, it currently contains $1 billion from France and $1 billion from Germany (Figure 3). The funds target is $10-$15 billion, so the current performance is poor. Many of the major polluters have large GDP’s, so between them should be able to muster up $15 billion (Figure 4). It’s being put into force in November so we will see in the current months to come, whether governments are going to take some major action. A flick through the history books makes me doubtful. We’ve had the Adaptation Fund (2001), created during the Kyoto Protocol which only managed to secure $300 million for developing nations, and further evidence suggests that promises during Copenhagen in 2009 to help vulnerable countries were not kept. I also cannot find any map/chart or statistic on climate change aid funding, suggesting if it’s happening it only on a small scale. Therefore, in view of the evidence above, I’m doubtful this fund will be any better than the last and remain sceptical of comments released by America that they will be giving a “major contribution” to the Climate fund in November.

Climate fund stats

Figure 3 – Grist – Chart depicting donations to Green Climate Fund.

GDP of countries 3

Figure 4: World Bank – GDP by country (2010-2014).

To summarise, I would argue that countries action against climate change is inadequate, causing a disparity between those causing climate change and those suffering its effects, and attempts to help rectify this disparity are insufficient. The comment by Graca Machel highlights all the above clearly, “there is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response… the scale is much more than we have achieved.”