Climate action is moving at a glacial pace
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;
Story

Climate action is moving at a glacial pace

Stories/589 , Issues/Environment
3rd Oct 2019
Climate action is moving at a glacial pace

On 20 September 2019, a day 2.3 degrees Celsius warmer than its 2018 equivalent, in a month that is, to date, 0.7 degrees warmer than its 2018 equivalent, and in a year that is already averaging temperatures 0.37 degrees warmer than 2018, hundreds of thousands of Australia's put their personal lives on hold to participate in a global climate strike. Despite being home to almost 900,000 square kilometres of national parks and an array of natural wonders, Australia is ranked 4 in global rankings of the highest polluting countries per capita (ranking 17 overall). And it's no wonder - the Australian government has ignored the pressing climate crisis by dismissing the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming, announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund and continuing to subsidise fossil fuel extraction.

The Australian constituent of the Global Climate Strike was our largest protest since 2003, which saw approximately 500,000 people protest against Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. Its goals were three-fold. Firstly, no new coal, oil or gas projects. Secondly, 100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030. Thirdly, funding for "a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities."

I was one of approximately 300,000 Australians who took to the streets of their cities and towns to protest climate inaction. I should have, in fact, been at home studying for a uni exam (and simultaneously resting a broken ankle). However, I could not pass up the opportunity for collective activism. At the same time, I'm angry and skeptical, and I believe I have every right to be. In May 2019, the Labor government offered Australians an ambitious climate change policy. This was rejected by voters in the form of a win for Scott Morrison's Liberal Party whose policy priorities clearly stipulated economic growth, job creation and border security over climate action. In fact, climate action wasn't even on their agenda - less than a month after the election the Adani mine was approved. My fear is that the reality of today's protests is more of a 'feel-good', symbolic movement rather than one that brings about practical change. 

A young protester at the 2019 Climate Strike.

Human-induced climate change is not a new phenomenon. In 2008, the average annual maximum daytime temperature at Observatory Hill was 22.1 degrees, 0.4 degrees above the historical annual average, and the 16th consecutive year with above-average annual maximum temperatures. These statistics are publicly available on the Bureau of Meteorology's website. Fast forward to 2018 and the annual maximum daytime temperature at Observatory Hill was 23.4 degrees. This is an increase of 1.3 degrees in a mere 10 years.

As a landscape photographer, I've always been passionate about the environment. I have a zero-tolerance to plastics and opt-out of getting a much-needed takeaway coffee if I've forgotten my keep cup. Yet the reality of climate change only really hit me when I was in Iceland in 2016 witnessing large chunks of the Vatnajökull glacier drift out to sea. Despite being one of the world's greenest countries and at the forefront of eco-friendly program initiatives including a heavy dependence on its geothermal landscape to produce electricity, even Iceland is not immune from the impacts of climate change. In 2014, the country bid farewell to its first glacier, Okjokull, lost to climate change, and the ceremony and plaque installation were held in August 2019.

Australia's Paris Agreement target was CO2 emissions 14-17% below its 2005 recorded emissions by 2030. However, according to 'Climate Action Tracker', Australia is headed for an increase of 8% above 2005 CO2 emissions, which will far outpace its current 'insufficient' 2030 target. What will it take to make the current climate emergency a political concern in Australia? The case of 'jobs and growth' is getting much harder to make on cost-benefit grounds, given the cost of climate [in]action.

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