Climate Inaction Analysis – Part One

Part one of our climate inaction analysis series aired last night, exploring political resistance in the fight for climate change.

I was inspired to invoke conversations around this topic after watching the newest climate documentary, 2040, directed and starred in by Australian Film Maker Damon Gameau.

I sat down with Global Politics and Policy Lecturer, Dr Ian Cook, to discuss political themes not highlighted in the film, but definitely important in moving towards a climate solution.

Set in the present day, the film explores a utopian year 2040, where we use and implemented technologies that are already available to us; meaning the environmental catastrophe is averted and the world is a much nicer place.

This film raised so many good ideas that are unfortunately not receiving as much attention as the dystopian future we’re getting ourselves into.

Getting conversations started on these topics is so important… I for one find myself disengaging with environmental stories because they’re usually too “doom and gloom”.

For starters, it’s not enough to just cease all carbon emissions to zero. We’re over a tipping point and on our way to a point of no return… we not only have to reduce emissions but also sequester carbon; removing excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it.

There are various technologies highlighted in the film, with most still in their infancy. All promising, encouraging and informative.

However, there was a lack of notes on the huge shifts politically and economically to bring many of these solutions to fruition.

Political resistance will be the biggest hurdle worldwide in achieving a carbon deficit environment.

Dr Ian Cook said there’s no doubt in terms of Australia’s capacity to generate renewable energy, we have so many possibilities because we are such a big country.

“We’ve got the heat, we’ve got the sun, we’ve got everything we need to make renewables a reality, but we’re not seeing enough effort on the parts of government to promote that,”

I asked Dr Cook if he thinks we have a lot of political resistance at the moment, to which he replied it’s inertia resistance; an unwillingness to address the problem; it’s too hard, all of which lead to inaction.

What about incentives for electrical vehicles? The big mining, oil and gas companies are the ones who line the politicians’ pockets, so why would they shift away from that?

“I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head in terms of new policies that would affect the interest of oil companies and other extractive industries,”

“They have a massive capacity to influence people to not want to change, and they end up doing a very good job of that,” Dr Cook said.

He continued “Obviously the question just becomes how much pressure is put on the government. If it feels like they’re going to get voted out because they’re not moving on things like electric vehicles, they’ll move…”

“As we were discussing the power of various lobbies, that means for the most part politicians are pretty comfortable with inaction until the voters really rise up,”  he commented.

While Australia’s contributions to the total global emissions is quite small in the grand scheme of things, we need to shift our perspective towards a more localised response.

“We have 20 times the carbon footprint of people in some countries,”

Dr Cook said we have to approach this idea differently, rather than looking at national totals, we’ve got to look at per capita totals and per head.

I believe each country just shifts the blame to another, rather than taking accountability for their own emission contributions.

“People in those countries are saying ‘we don’t produce as a nation the amount of greenhouse gases that other countries produce’, so they don’t see themselves as necessarily a problem under pressure to reduce their production of greenhouse gases,”

“There’s nobody bringing everybody together. We have these events like Paris that are lots of show, but all the analysis are showing not much was done as a result,”

“We’ve got all this showcasing going on, with no real action. Partly because everyone’s looking at everyone else saying ‘you should do more’, ‘it’s mostly you’, ‘until you do something I’m not doing anything’, and they’ll attend these events, but when it comes to their economy and their election, they will run policies that will win office,” Dr Cook explained.

I asked what Dr Cook’s thoughts are on young people getting caught up in expressing their views about climate change because it’s a “trendy” and “cool” issue to be an advocate against.

“Do you think left wing propaganda on social media has fuelled this debate? And has created a habit of sharing their view online and saying ‘that’s my contribution done’?” I asked.

“There’s no doubt that the climate movement has been sort of labelled and tarnished with the view of being a left wing front organisation, and the left has certainly tried to use it… but it’s not,”

“I mean certainly there’s a sense in which posting or tweeting something represents political action, but it doesn’t”

“One of the problems we’re facing is what needs to be done to shift governments is more than tweeting and posting online, and rallying, none of these things are really going to have a lasting impact,” he said.

I believe there are plenty of little things you can do every day to help, but without overarching governmental support, not only to introduce new policies and legislation but to also back technology implementation financially, we won’t get there.

However, do your own research. Find environmental topics that are interesting to you.

“Do more research into the state of the environment; that’s how I started, and the more research I did the more shocked I was… The more clear it was to me that action was required, so just do the research,” Dr Cook stated.

Should we be targeting our climate inaction distaste at local MPs rather than big Canberra that seems impenetrable at this point?

Dr Cook said you’ve got to hit them at every point you can find, it’s not simply a case of there being a best strategy here.

He continued “We’ve got to use every resource we’ve got, hit every spot as hard as we can, that’s young people’s only hope,”

Climate inaction can definitely be overwhelming – could we ever reach a resolved greener future?

“I don’t think so, I’m sorry,”

“I’ve been studying this problem for quite a long time now, all these discussed factors produce political inaction and are very difficult to shift. The problem is so hard to understand and address,”

“I don’t want to be a doomsayer, but to the extent of if we got our acts together tomorrow and started putting pressure on governments, it’s not all over we could slow things down.”

“But at this stage if we’re not acting, then I don’t see any real hope, and I don’t expect any action tomorrow,” Dr Cook concluded.

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