September 20th saw hundreds of thousands of people in Australia turn out in a massive climate strike, joining millions around the world. Speeches kicked off at 2pm and the march began around 3ish, with schoolkids supported by a variety of adults, including many businesses that signed on to the strike under Not Business As Usual. There was the usual hilarity from the climate deniers in power over in the Liberal Party, including Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who hilariously opined that “The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought. Polar bears are increasing in number. Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather than at any time in human history.” This is a ridiculous statement in many ways, if only because there’s no logical connection between Kelly’s polar bear index, drought, and climate change. Polar bears are quickly losing their traditional habitat thanks to receding ice from climate change, bringing them into increasing conflict with people. And given that several extreme weather events happened recently — including the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, among others — and are happening more frequently… actually, why are we even trying to logic people like Kelly? You know he’s wrong. Trust the science.
That being said, the bitter reality of having a government of climate deniers in power has played out over a host of frustrating developments, from the ongoing Adani matter and the fracking nearby to the weird matter of the controversial Great Barrier Reef fund. It’s frustrating to see the two major political parties in this country agree that coal is still necessary:
And even as Swan says Labor must risk an unpopular policy, he defends Senator Penny Wong’s response to pleas from Pacific Island nations: No, she told them, an ALP federal government would not ban new coal mines.
“Coal is not the only issue in town,” Swan told ABC radio on Thursday. While we did need a rapid transition from fossil fuels, he said: “The truth is Australia produces about 4 per cent of the world’s thermal coal. If we’re going to reduce emissions in Australia, 19 per cent of our emissions come out of the transport sector.”
Talking down the impact of Australia’s coal will not put Labor on the right side of history. Australia’s domestic and export fossil fuel emissions now account for 5 per cent of global emissions but current coal, gas and oil developments could increase that to 12 to 17 per cent by 2030, according to study by Climate Analytics.
Frustrations aside, we’ve got to do something about climate change, right?
Beyond Straws and Veganism
Boycotting plastic straws and going vegan will not save the planet. 70% of the world’s greenhouse emissions generated since 1988 have come from just 100 companies:
ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.
While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.
There are some things you can do about that. Voting in government representatives who aren’t beholden to fossil fuel interests is a good start. Switching your energy purchase to green power companies, like Powershop’s Green Power packages, can help — and get your friends and family to switch too. Fly less: flying is probably your biggest contributor to your personal carbon footprint. Buy less fast fashion, use more public transport. Buy fewer disposables and fewer plastics. Install solar panels, if you have a roof that you own. And sure, eating less meat probably helps. These gestures are small, though, compared to what companies do and what governments decide. Pressure your governments to commit to a zero-emissions target. If they won’t, organise and protest, vote them out. Support an environmental charity. Even small things help.
There’s probably going to be another climate strike near you soon. Consider attending it.
Climate Change and Advertising
Australia’s advertising industry could take a stand and lead the world, says David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the author of The Coal Truth (UWA Publishing, June 2018).
“Fossil fuel use is the number one driver of global warming. Any business that supplies the coal, oil and gas industry with commercial services is implicated in driving the climate emergency,” he says.
“The time has come for the advertising industry to say ‘enough’. Any advertising firm that takes work from the coal, oil or gas sectors is doing PR for the greatest threat to life on earth.
“Instead, the advertising industry in Australia could take a stand and lead the world, using all the skills of public communication to help shift us on a path to wise stewardship of our shared home.”
According to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, 64% of consumers buy on belief. As environmental consciousness grows, brands — and agencies — that commit to a greener, more renewable future will emerge at the head of the pack. It isn’t just about biodegradable packaging or having a carbon offset. It’s not just about having the right kind of messaging. It’s also about committing to green initiatives, be it charities or getting involved at a political level. With many governments in the world either gridlocked at a policy level, beholden to fossil fuel interests, or just plain denying the truth, companies and people getting ahead on their own might be the best way forward. Good luck to us all.