Sketch of our route towards carbon safety. First stop: #StoryChange

The main message of this blogpost can be distilled to something like: As long as the narrative about the climate action movement is that it is a minority of activists shouting from the fringe of society, we waste precious time if we think we can demand the level of change-making that the climate emergency requires. Society as a whole has not yet given its elected leaders the clear mandate to do what is necessary.

We are social animals and we tend to do what the others do, so first of all the story, the societal narrative, needs to change. Once that has happened, a new breed of politicians will rise to the occasion with the knowledge that they have the mandate to do what is necessary.


The question is no longer: ‘How do we solve the climate crisis?’  We have the solutions we need, they are within reach. And new improved or smarter ones keep cropping up.

The question is no longer: ‘How do we create consensus?’  Consensus around that we need to step up ambitions and speed with solving the crisis is already here. The general public in Australia fully acknowledges that climate change is an existential threat that requires big changes in our society.

The big question right now is: ‘How do we change the story?’ – and not only change it, but change it quickly. Because as long as the public narrative hasn’t changed – about how things used to be and used to work – we won’t see the collective confidence around taking the action which is required.

There is still a big practical question of What to do? and Who is going to do it? in a lot of people’s mind: “What can I do that will actually help solve this problem? Isn’t this our government’s job?”

The classic response goes, “Climate change? Not my problem! If it really is such a problem as the scientists and activists say, then it’s obviously only a government that will be able to take any meaningful action on it. My little drop in the ocean would’t change anything. As long as our politicians aren’t worried, why should we be?”

Even so, apparently there are lots of people – like, almost 20 of the 24 million Australians – who do worry about what the climate-disrupted future will hold for us and our children. 20 million Australians who have spotted those dark clouds that are building up in the horizon, in some locations right above us where we live in the shape of various natural disasters. But these many millions of Australians still can’t seem to find the motivation to actually do much about it at a personal level. The majority wait for our government to show the way, which no one can blame them for, really, because in a normal world, isn’t that why we have a government?

And with several conflicting narratives circling around, the general confusion and complexity becomes yet another excuse for delaying decisions and procrastinating, while one year after the other goes by.


Complete governmental failure
If the Paris Agreement to keep average warming on the planet below an extra 2°C was supposed to be our global rescue plan, we are in serious trouble.

First of all, in Tony Seba’s words, an academic from Stanford University: “2°C is not a target. Zero emissions is a target. We cannot control 2°C, but we can control zero carbon.”

Secondly, this global agreement is based on voluntary commitments by individual governments. So like in Australia, officially the federal government claims to be “committed to taking strong domestic and international action on climate change,” but in reality it’s committed to nothing but keeping the flames in the coal and gas industry burning. As far as our carbon emissions are concerned, we are going backwards, when really we should all be in the process of rushing the decarbonisation process through as if our lives depended on it.

The problem isn’t that we don’t have a zero emissions plan. We have many. There are plans, reports, books, films, organisations and as many opinions… Each of them offer solutions that could be important bricks in the puzzle, but none of them are supported by everyone. None of them have a societal narrative backing them up. So they are easy for politicians to politely look at and then ignore.

We are yet to see the grand plan and the big picture of how all the bricks could fit together in the complex puzzle-frame that our democracy is – and yet to see who it will be to successfully and hopefully relatively soon be able to turn that grand plan into legislation in parliament.

» Beyond Zero Emissions:
The Zero Carbon Australia Plan

» ATA – 22 November 2017:
100 per cent renewable energy by 2030

» University of Technology Sydney:
100% Renewable Energy for Australia – Decarbonising Australia’s Energy Sector Within One Generation


Rethink and reassess
So, what to do? That’s something we’ve been talking and thinking about recently at Centre for Climate Safety in Geelong. In the last couple of months, as we rounded our 200th podcast in December, we have been in a process of to some extent rethink and reassess how we best make use of the time and resources we each personally invest into dealing with the climate crisis.

Entering a new year can be a good time to take a helicopter view of the landscape, the narratives and the strategies that surround us, which we otherwise tend to become blind to after a while. The main purpose of this blogpost is to open a conversation among ourselves and our partners about some of these ‘blind spots’ and to encourage further brainstorming about the directions of our work.


This blogpost is part of a longer  CLIMATIC ROOT TREATMENT  series which seeks to uncover and understand the deeper roots of our society’s problems with taking appropriate action on the climate emergency.  




    Content on this page

    Introduction
        Seven starting points
        Connectivity
        Consensus

    Three competing stories
        1. The ‘carbon freedom’ narrative
        2. The ‘doom and gloom’ narrative
        3. The pro-fossil anti-alarmist narrative
        The new narrative

    Two unique Australian assets
    Observations
    Today and tomorrow scenarios
    Human psychology: Our rabbit response
    Human psychology: Our patterns

    To-do list for creating our new narrative: What we need
        Changing the name of the game?
        Using the dirty e-word in climate campaigning: ‘emergency’
        Asking for answers

    APPENDIX I: More information and inspiration
    Concept of a ‘People’s Climate Parliament’
    About the author of this blogpost
    Our warming planet
    Earth Optimism

    APPENDIX II: Calls for a new narrative
    Daniel Christian Wahl: “Humanity needs a ‘new story’”
    Climate Outreach: “Broadening the story of climate change”
    Alex Steffen: ‘The Last Decade’ – a raw manifesto for the new climate movement
    Cleo Wade: “Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care”



Introduction

Meet our new friend: the carbon carer
The American author Richard Buckminster Fuller once said that, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

At Centre for Climate Safety, we started this new year of 2018 with a couple of observations. One of them was that in a country like Australia, where employees and leaders of the fossil fuel industry literally has moved into the federal government, it feels like we are wasting our time trying to influence them to act on reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. They are saying lots of words but take no appropriate action, for whatever reasons – some are protecting the fossil fuel industry’s economic interests, and have their own private and yet undisclosed reasons for doing that, or they just don’t believe they have the mandate from their voters to do anything radical or something that costs money in this area. In Labor’s case, everyone in that party would have a clear memory of how they lost government to Tony Abbott and the Coalition in the 2013 federal election where Abbott promised voters he would ‘scrap the carbon tax’.

Meanwhile, the Australian carbon emissions keep rising – not falling, as the should, considering Australia’s ratification of the global Paris Climate Agreement.

So we started talking about a strategy where we would shift focus and attention away from the various actors on the political arena in Australia, just for the meantime, and instead place it on the citizen, putting the human being, the Australian individual, in the centre.

Australia is already a nation of sensible, climate-caring citizens – ‘climate carers’: people who care about what the climate science is telling us and its predictions about where we are heading, and who want to do something about it.

“Climate change will damage natural systems, yes, but it will also be an economic drain, a cause of migration and conflict, and driver of social inequality. Anyone who cares about any of that ought to care about climate change — even if they have no particular love for nature and don’t recycle. There ought to be a word for people who care about climate change that does not commit them to all the cultural and ideological presuppositions of environmentalism,” David Roberts noted in Vox, suggesting the concept of ‘climate hawks’. We think ‘climate carer is better because it implies a positive attitude and community connectivity as well.

What could speed up the process would be if we were able to enhance the Australians’ connectivity and our possibilities to help and support one another, so that – together, and once our numbers have grown, and the level of confidence has as well – we will see the story change. Eventually we would then be able to push for the implementation of a firm set of carbon safety laws in this country, in accordance with what is happening in the rest of the world, including what is happening right now in New Zealand, one of our closest neighbours.

We have been contemplating whether we should aim at knitting the ‘climate’-word out of the equation entirely, so we also started a test whether we could call them carbon carers, but that’s another story. More about rhetorics further down.

The strategy of many existing climate action groups and NGOs, which Centre for Climate Safety has been assisting, is to campaign hard to try and influence our current federal government – be it groups in the anti-fracking movement, the divestment movement, the #StopAdani movement, the climate emergency groups, the cyclist movement, and so on. When one of Australia’s largest NGOs, ACF, asked their almost half a million members in a survey what strategies to prioritise, people replied that the highest priority should be to: “advocate directly to politicians and key decision makers.”

Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project recently wrote in their newsletter: “Here’s how you can take action: 1. Contact your leaders about the climate crisis.”

Other campaigns are built around a petition which is eventually delivered to politicians X amount of signatures, but always in the thousands or hundred thousands, never in the millions – and never crossing that 12 million line that would mean a majority in Australia.

The single-issue campaigns and groups have been good at unifying individuals and serve a valid purpose of representing and helping those few per cent of the population who are already busy decarbonising their lives and who are ready to stand up for a range of related issues. At times – in particular at state level – single-issue campaigns have been successful in convincing politicians to change the laws, as it happened in Victoria when, after a year-long campaigning process of documenting that 85-95 per cent of the population is against onshore gas drilling, ‘fracking’, the Labor government eventually listened and implemented a permanent ban on this.

We don’t suggest our new strategy to be an alternative to this important work, rather it is a supplement. With say 10 per cent of Australians who are already on board, and 10 per cent who will never come on board, we want to touch base and engage with the climate-caring but yet passive majority that can be found among the 80 per cent in the middle of the spectrum: The Australian man or woman who so far hasn’t been ready to engage with any of the suggestions offered by the climate action community – whether it is because they don’t want to be seen as ‘protestors’, they are not convinced that single issue campaigns are going to have much effect, or that any efforts that Australia could deliver would have any effect at the global issue, or just because they can’t see themselves ever voting for those minority parties that promote these issues.

New partners
We have an ambitious yet hopefully still realistic plan to do this in partnership with innovative, international organisations, such as the Danish company Connec which currently is developing a new and exciting model for people helping people to be set up both in Denmark and Australia. It’s a model which enables people to have conversations with each other in a simple way on a trustable online video platform. (More below).

We also work with Kelsa Media, a Danish media production company that has been successfully been creating short, funny cartoon videos using humour to create awareness about serious topics – and with a group of people working with the Swedish People’s Climate Parliament.

First we need to raise funds and mobilise support for each of the projects.


Seven starting points
In brief, these are some of the things we are currently looking at and beginning to mobilise for:

• We want to assist the consensus-building and knowledge-sharing – the caring or worrying about carbon-reduction – at a personal level and across the commonly stereotyped trenches and borderlines – to help connect the silent majority of climate carers with the passionate minority of zero carbon fighters, to connect the youth with the elderly, the weak with the strong, the newbie with the expert, the clean energy activist with the fossil fuel worker, the left with the right. We will help spearhead a national outreach project with the aim of mobilising connecting more than 12 million Australians around the zero carbon agenda.

• We consider it unrealistic for that to happen unless we begin to see the mainstream media and our public broadcasters rise to their responsibilities and charters and get on board with the program, proactively focusing on producing and bringing ‘the new story’ across to their audiences, helping people with the big ‘how’: how do we quickest and best get to zero carbon? There are so many positive stories about climate caring that rarely make it to the mainstream news. Just to mention a few recent examples: Global clean energy investments increased last year, reaching over US$333 billion, and according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency clean energy sources will be cost competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, Ford Motor is doubling its electric vehicle spending to US$11 billion amid a wave of automaker electrification announcements to the tune of $90 billion and growing… The list is inexhaustible. There is also a constant stream of dreadful, violent stories about the climate breakdown, which are much too rarely presented properly in the context of how we need to respond to them. We need a new wave of solutions-based reporting that shows the way.

• We make an effort to continuously reinvent and renew the language we use – and to help popularise the ‘new grand story’ with the use of humour, song, rap and music, cartoon videos, colourful booklets, club gatherings around films and books… in short: pop culture and down-on-earth, face-to-face community-friendly communication.

• Initially in the background, we want to help incubate an Australian zero carbon ‘flag-bearer’. A charismatic and experienced thought-leader or politician who is ready and able to take the kind of leadership for Australia in wake of a climate emergency as Churchill was able to do it 80 years ago when he lead the people of the United Kingdom into war against Nazi occupation and agression. A person who is getting prepared to – and has the capacity to – become our prime minister once the story has changed, the zero carbon movement has gone mainstream and there is a momentum for running and winning a federal election.

• To build a support-base for that and to help get the numbers we will eventually need, we will assist with establishing an Australian equivalent of the Swedish People’s Climate Parliament, targeting grassroot and professional NGOs as well as the businesses and government bodies.

• Together with a network of climate advocacy groups we will assist with the creation of a high-level think-and-do tank of some of this nation’s finest thinkers and doers to guide the process, brew up a plan people have confidence in, as well as help with making media and broadcasters understand the issues and good ways to present them.

• We don’t think we have anything to lose by thinking big. If our work is to make any sense, small and scattered campaign-wins won’t do. As Winston Churchill brilliantly formulated it in a different age but likewise dark and life-threatening situation: “It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best’. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”


Deep breath! There is more… but for now, “watch this space”, as they say, because we haven’t even started the fundraising yet. First we have to finish the brainstorming where we are throwing these ideas for peer-review among partners and supporters.

We invite you to join us on the journey, or tell us why you never would: The comment field is open for your input below.




Connectivity
Climate change is a global issue. However, the solution starts right here in our local community. It starts with the drop in the ocean: you and me and a few friends in the neighbourhood when we each make that little decision to ‘be the change’ – which in this context means: to strive towards living a carbon neutral life style and to put our vote accordingly at the next elections.

Increasing our sense of connectedness is important in that process. We begin to reduce our own carbon footprint and talk with our friends and colleagues about it when we know this is also what the majority around us is doing as well, and because we understand and can see the benefits others gain from doing it. It is how our human brains work: We do what others do.

Feeling – and being – connected to many other good, caring and loving people in our community and around the entire planet who are into doing the same thing is something that empowers us to gradually make more and bolder changes. In the house, in how we move around, in our food choices, in our lives in general.

The morning we wake up and realise that what at first seemed to be nothing but a drop in the ocean, has become the ocean, then we truly have become the solution. Because when the majority speaks and when the entire narrative in society changes, our elected leaders listen. Laws change.

That’s how democracy has always worked. And whether driven by the market or by regulation, that is when the energy companies, for instance, will begin to clean up their act and stop polluting the air. As the matter of fact, this has already started to happen. We’ll come back to that with examples.


Consensus
Close to every fourth Australian is a Victorian. According to a survey where Wallis Market and Social Research interviewed 3,333 Victorians, nine out of ten of them think state and local government, businesses and industry – all sectors – should be taking action on climate change. Eight out of ten even said they would be proud to live in a state that is leading the way on climate change. Similarly, eight out of ten said they are supportive of the state government’s goal to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, starting with a target of generating 40 per cent of the state’s electricity with clean, renewable energy sources by 2025.

So wait a minute! If we acknowledge this research, then our starting point for action is that we already have a clear consensus in Victoria about eliminating our carbon pollution. Why don’t we feel that way, then?

Because what we don’t have is consensus around the current narrative in the public space. The story we take in from media all the time and hear from journalists, commentators and politicians – is one of confusion and doubt, of unclarity, disagreements… and consequently with zigzagging course and bad decisions. The exact same is reflected and amplified in social media.

We are being told that people don’t care. That Australia is a country of climate deniers and greedy fossil fuel barons. But, as resent research shows evidence for again and again, this is actually not the case.

The scientific community has been warning us for decades and decades about the deadly and destructive effects of our air pollution. Eight out of ten Victorians asked in the survey say they know all this very well. And they observe the changes in the eco-systems and weather patterns we are beginning to see around us. The dire predictions scientists started telling us about at annual UN Climate Summits 25 years ago, are now playing out in real life and affecting our lives. Even killing people. Not only people in remote countries. People in our own neighbourhoods.

The preconditions for rolling out the zero carbon society of the future are all in place and ready to roll out, only that is not the story we are being told by media. So right now, our job first and foremost is to change that narrative, because that is a precondition for creating a political shift in the federal parliament, following the zero carbon lawmaking-leadership we see in countries like New Zealand and Sweden.

Before digging into how we will do that, let’s identify some of the different narratives that compete for attention and dominance in the Australian society today. In relation to the climate crisis, there are three dominant ones:


Photo by Kristi McCluer


» More about this photo



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Three competing stories


1. The ‘carbon freedom’ narrative
At Centre for Climate Safety and The Sustainable Hour, we have been part of building a specific narrative over the last four years.

All around the planet, activists and volunteers have joined the struggle to get our society weaned off its fossil fuels addiction. If you ask them, they will explain to you that have entered the “fight for climate action” in the hope to “save the planet”.

They fight. They fight for their children. Or grand children. They fight for freedom, safety and justice. Freedom from carbon pollution, addiction, greed and corruption. Safety from the dangerous climatic effects of it. Justice for those who become victims, whether it be victims of extreme weather events or of transitional employment issues.

They will also tell you that the only reason our governments are allowing this climate-wrecking air pollution to continue, unregulated, is that they have been bought by vested interests. And they will quote some of the movement’s latest victories.


Like recently, when the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced that the city is going to sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming: “It’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient,” he said earlier this month.

The city at the same time announced its plans to divest US $189 billion of pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years in what they say will be “among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date”. It means they will be selling all the city’s stocks and bonds in fossil fuels projects, valued at around $5 billion dollars.

This is the ‘carbon freedom’ narrative – a battle is taking place between the evil and greedy dark forces of the oil, coal, gas and cow meat industry, the ‘fossil fools’, on one side, and the clean energy-loving, climatarian, divesting eco-heroes on the other.

The climate activists perceive themselves as freedom fighters, warriors and liberators, who are in a battle, if not at war – a ‘War on Carbon Pollution’ – with the world’s carbon barons and fossil mafia. They blame the fossil fuel industry for cynically using a tactic of making people believe that the threat of climate change is a hoax only to drag out society’s transition away from the product they are making big profits from.







2. The ‘doom and gloom’ narrative
But there is also another story coming up to the surface. Over the 26 years between 1990 to 2016, fossil fuels’ share of the global energy mix has fallen… how much do you think? Well, two per cent: from 88 per cent to 86 per cent. Two per cent! Measured in tonnes, however, the total amount of coal, oil and gas burned has been increasing every single year since 1990, apart from the financial crisis year of 2008.

If you are a climate activist, all meters, graphs and reports tell the same story of defeat and failure: Carbon emissions are on the rise, both nationally in Australia and globally. Our warming planet has entered “unchartered territory at frightening speed,” warns even the World Meteorological Organization. Humanity is playing with fire – literally – and most people understand what tends to happen with a fire if it is not quickly dealt with: it spreads and gets out of control.

What the graphs are shouting at us is that the numerous efforts of the UN climate talks that started 23 years ago, and the global climate action movement that started ten years ago have so far been terribly inadequate. This is reality. We have possibly already passed some of those tipping points that could trigger so-called feedback loops where ice and tundra is melting, which then further increases the levels of greenhouse gases, causing even more warming, and so on.

In the climate action campaigning community, talking about feedback loops and tipping points – as the Melbourne-based author and climate activist David Spratt does – is perceived as a ‘doom and gloom’ narrative.

This narrative suddenly received an unexpected level of international attention when New York Magazine in July 2017 published an article titled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, based on private interviews with unnamed scientists who voiced their deeper concerns about catastrophic events and eroding conditions humanity is going to face unless a concerted global response to reduce greenhouse gases is launched immediately. The article went viral and became the most read article in New York Magazine’s history.

On this blog, we reported on it on 10 July: ‘Coining the phrase of climate change’

‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ story received immediate criticism from the climate change community as ‘climate disaster porn’, saying that the author, David Wallace-Wells, was being far too pessimistic and that he was only trying to scare people. Others responded that ‘Our aversion to doom and gloom is dooming us’. Ever since there has been an ongoing debate within the climate action movement about whether or not to be ringing the emergency alarm and using fear strategically to create rapid change.

» Reuters – 18 January 2018:
Concern over climate change linked to depression, anxiety: study
“Depression and anxiety afflict Americans who are concerned with the fate of the environment, according to a study of the mental health effects of climate change.”


Addressing the question of whether extreme fear helps or harms efforts to fight climate change, the results of a new study in the journal Global Environmental Change – ‘Differentiating environmental concern in the context of psychological adaptation to climate change.’ – paints a nuanced and rather surprising picture, suggesting that the motivation to act against climate change isn’t really about fear per se but instead depends on psychological coping strategies that help people deal with their environmental worries.

The researchers found that people who worried more about the environment also reported more depressive symptoms. But they didn’t necessarily engage in more environmentally friendly behaviors. Instead, people who engaged in psychological coping strategies to deal with their environmental worries had the most environmentally friendly habits.
Sabrina V. Helm et al., Global Environmental Change, January 2018.

» Anthropocene Magazine – 23 January 2018:
Effective response to climate change depends on hope, not fear






Theunis Wessels mowing his lawn in Alberta, Canada while a tornado spins in the background. Photo by Cecilia Wessels

3. The pro-fossil anti-alarmist narrative
These two narratives are countered by a third narrative where the climate activists are labelled with expressions such as ‘alarmists’, ‘greenies’, ‘radical environmentalists’, ‘treehuggers’ and ‘eco-terrorists’.

This third narrative has its roots in the fossil fuel industry’s lobby groups and supporters, including the Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, the Institute of Public Affairs and media commentators such as the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, radio host Alan Jones and editors of The Australian.

Overseas, it has been advertised on street billboards by fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobile, and promoted by many U.S. Republican senators, the Heartland Institute, the Koch brothers, Björn Lomborg, and numerous others – all very busy spreading the message that we don’t have a problem with our climate, it’s all a big hoax and the scientists are corrupt – or that climate change is not man-made, and that in any case we shouldn’t worry about it. Anyone who says so is an ‘alarmist’.

In this narrative, coal is good for humanity because it gets people out of poverty, whereas renewables are expensive, unreliable – even ‘utterly offensive’ as a member of the Australian government famously deemed wind turbines to be a couple of years ago.

The anti-alarmist narrative moved from being a fringe voice right into the centre of Australian politics when Tony Abbott was elected as Australia’s prime minister in 2013, and four years later into world politics when Donald Trump was voted in as the president of the United States.

Today, it is carried forward and promoted by Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who decided to jump straight from the doom and gloom narrative over to the anti-alarmist narrative in order to secure backbench support for his position as prime minister. He calls himself a ‘realist’, though not much that he is saying about the future of coal is very realistic at all.

Turnbull has stated that coal will be providing energy and income to the Australians for a very long time, and that those who say otherwise are ‘delusional’. His deputy prime minister Barnaby Joice, leader of the Nationals, expressed it somewhat more poetically when he stated that, “If you’re going to live with the butterflies, you’re going to die with the butterflies.”

Members of One Nation are even more outspoken, like when former senator Malcolm Roberts claimed in his submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the Paris Agreement that “There is no empirical evidence presented anywhere in the world proving carbon dioxide from human activity affects global climate or evidence that its production needs to be cut.”

As long as most of the country’s electricity is produced with fossil fuels, the people who work in the fossil fuel industry have a perception of themselves as the good guys who keep the wheels of society running and the economy going, while the ‘butterfly-dreamers’, the ‘hippies’ and ‘greenies’, if they had their way, would force us all to move “back to the cages” as hunters and gatherers.

I wrote at length about this narrative in the blogpost titled Let’s meet and greet our local climate sceptics with confidence – and a smile, and about its history on www.climatesafety.info/history


The new narrative
To create a new, fourth narrative and speed up the process of building a zero carbon society, we already have what it takes:

Firstly, we can make use of the simple democratic principle that our society’s decision-making process is built on – the overall acceptance that those policy-makers who have support from the majority of the population, get to decide how we should run things.

The rule of law can be quite easily changed, when a majority in the general population and its elected leaders think it is time to change it. Establishing a fee on carbon pollution, for example, can be done in a civilised, orderly and peaceful manner, when the majority wants it to be done and understands the reasoning behind it.

On the question of zero carbon action, we already have the majority, as mentioned in the beginning. So the door is open. The only question is how quickly or slowly we will get through the process of entering that door to the carbonfree society. 10 years? 30 years? 50 years?

The fossil fuel companies are counting on 50. The scientists are telling us we need to do it in 10 or less, and then even start going carbon negative – which means drawing some of all the carbon we pumped the atmosphere with down again. We need to get back to the carbon-levels in the atmosphere as they were before we started burning so much coal, oil and gas.

We are not alone. The Australian Conservation Foundation, one of the country’s leading environmental organisations, also points to the importance of changing the story:

“Today, the stories we see and hear – in media, our news feeds and conversation – are justifying destruction and making us feel hopeless. Our job is to change the story – from destruction, greed and corruption to hope, connection and creativity. We are already doing this and will continue to tell compelling stories of solutions that inspire people to connect and take action.”
~ Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO at the Australian Conservation Foundation

The reality of the ecological breakdown we humans are causing is that it contains both horror and hope. Terrible destruction and death. Great courage, innovation and human entrepreneurship. Reasons for despair and grief, but also for joy and quality of life. Our new story must be able to deal constructively and confidently with it all.

We are balancing on an existential storyline that fits well with the last line from T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘Little Gidding’: “The fire and the rose are one.”




Consensus-building across conventional trench lines
What all research shows is that a robust movement for the zero carbon story, and the zero carbon society, is built fastest with positive messaging of care, love for life and for each other, communicated by spoken word, in song, poetry, music, pop culture and mobile phone ‘climojis’, using the technologies and the communication means of our time.

As long as most of us are still using oil, coal and gas in our daily lives, a ‘War on Carbon Pollution’ isn’t one that can be won – not with weapons or by blowing up infrastructure, not with rallys and occupation, and not even with words.

It can only be won by building up a new reality of where everything functions without the use of coal, oil or gas.

If we are to extinguish the flames of the global climate emergency and get the rogue fossil arsonists under control as quickly as possible, it would be speeding up the process if the climate action community would drop its stereotypes of the ‘dark forces’, come up from the trenches and shake hands with those people ‘on the other side’ who are willing to do their bit – and already fully engaged in – reducing emissions in our society.

For instance, when companies like Shell, BHP, AGL and Volvo are making investments to clean up their business, this is an important part of the new narrative.

“It is very simple: We are overloading the atmosphere with heat-trapping gas and the rest is details.”
Andy Vesey, CEO of Australia’s leading energy provider AGL Energy – speaking at an investor briefing in Sydney in December 2017

In particular in former British colonies like the United States, Canada and Australia, where there are lots of fossil fuels in the ground, we have so far failed to create consensus across the barriers and trenches between the fossil fuel camp and the climate action camp. To handle an issue as huge as climate change, it will require successfully establishing a new narrative which is meaningful to both camps. This is no longer about a conflict or about “winning the war against the evil fossil mafia”, but about making a basic call for stability, for proper management of our resources and for long-term environmental and economical sustainability – and turning this into the leading, election-defining voice in our society.

The Swedes are among the world leaders in this respect. They have established consensus both among citizens and across the parliament, and now they are working on the new narrative, and developing a model for how to move a nation forward and visualise, contextualise and create popular engagement around various climate change and sustainability related issues. This year, an event called the People’s Climate Parliament is organised in Sweden, gathering the climate action movement around this. We reported on that in The Sustainable Hour – and we believe the Australian movement can learn from this, possibly even copy-paste the idea to Australia.


“If there were some set of events that acted as a drumbeat and pushed us to either pay attention to climate change or actively ignore it, then I think we’d see a lot more public conversation about climate.”
Jeremy Deaton

» Nexus Media – 9 January 2018:
Why Are There No Good Movies About Climate Change?
“You have to invent a compelling story. It’s all about story.”



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Why communications is increasingly central to addressing climate change

“Our collective decision-making is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the climate change story.”

“Governments in democratic nations will not run significantly ‘ahead’ of where they perceive public opinion to be. Decisions about how to adapt and adjust to a changing climate are fundamentally linked to the way in which people understand the problem of climate change (and who they see as having the responsibility for dealing with it). What ordinary people think about climate change – and their perception of what it means for their lives – really matters. Our collective decision-making is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the climate change story.”
~ Jamie Clarke, Executive Director, Climate Outreach, 11 January 2018



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Two unique Australian assets

This is our starting point: We already have majority in society of potential carbon carers. Australia is also a country that has 1.7 million solar-happy owners of panels on their roof, and they represent a massive story-telling force in themselves. Australia is very close to that social tipping point where where we see getting solar on the roof as something we’ll all have to get as well, because the narrative goes that “that’s what everybody else is doing nowadays.”

The Victorian Take2 pledge is a state government initiative, which initiated the survey of 3,333 Victorians and found that 71 per cent of them say they are interested in installing solar energy battery storage systems, while 74 per cent – three out of four Victorians – are interested in generating their own household’s energy.

35 municipalities are supporting Take2, and this initiative is yet another good example of how far we already are when it comes awareness and readiness at individual and business level, as well as within local government.

Out of the 3,333 Victorians asked, 78 per cent supports the state’s 2050 zero carbon emissions target.


For a municipality-level toolbox, we might have another asset to build our platform on: Darebin Climate Emergency Plan.

What is missing in the zero carbon landscape at the moment are packages that offer doable solutions as well as provide common ground for an entire community to work together. Not just pledges and good intentions. Credible solutions that has a measurable effect on the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Tangible actions with a price tag on.

As long as such ‘solution packages’ are not provided by our leaders or authorities, most people will keep it at the level where some may have liked a page on Facebook but will conveniently choose to ignore anything that costs money, because the normal logic goes: “What difference will it make anyway?”

After a year-long proces, Darebin City Council created its initial Climate Emergency Plan in 2017, and the process was in itself a good example of how complicated it is to come up with a master plan that makes sense at a community level.

We can’t just say “Do this, and refrain from that, and additionally, invest 1% of your income over a five year period, and then you can lean back, satisfied that you have done your bit, because when so and so many of us have done exactly that, we will have solved the problem.”

But what if we turned this problem upside down, and said: “Darebin has actually come up with an excellent first attempt here. This gives us something to work with! We have hundreds of other municipalities in this country who can now look at this and see if they will make a copy-paste, or see if they can come up with their own plan which is even better.” – ?

We think the Darebin Climate Emergency Plan deserves to be explored and promoted intensely.

» Download the Darebin Climate Emergency Plan



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“Solar-powered ecocide is still ecocide.”
~ Ben Pennings, 13 January 2018



Observations


The question of speed
The global community, Australia included, will eventually step up to the challenge and respond to the carbon crisis – there appears to be absolutely no doubt about that. As illustrated below, the process has kicked off in 2017. The only question is: will we do it fast enough? Will we do it before the planet’s ecosystems have already reached irreversible tipping points, triggering chain-reactions and spirals of devastation and death around us? The carbon crisis is a matter of speed. Winning slowly is the same as losing, as authors Bill McKibben and Alex Steffen have formulated it. Unfortunately, we are already decades behind where we should be if we had wanted to avoid this problem. As of now, the world’s coral reefs are disintegrating, and the planet’s soon eight billion people’s burning of fossil fuels is still on the rise.

“Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. We cannot afford to pursue past strategies, aimed at limited gains towards distant goals. In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways, means defeat. It guarantees defeat.”
~ Alex Steffen, writer



The question of scale and scope
As it has turned out, climate change is now the biggest and most wicked problem humanity has ever been confronted with. What that means is that if we are not overly ambitious and ‘aiming for the stars’, we might as well not bother at all. Again, with Winston Churchill words, we have got to succeed in doing what is necessary. As we are seeing at the moment, doing our bit and ‘being the change’ the best we can doesn’t reduce carbon pollution to the extent that is necessary, the graphs are going the wrong way everywhere. Begging our politicians to act hasn’t helped either. As long as the carbon fighters are a minority, and the disengaged, laggards and sceptics are a majority, while the arsonists are in power, we will never be able to solve the problem. With climate change, there are only two roads ahead: Either we build that majority movement for strict carbon control and a national climate emergency plan. Or we lean back and wait for the age of so much more dying to kick in.

“Paying attention to politics is arguably a poor choice for your attention. Climate change is going to be solved by scientists and technologists, not by politicians negotiating for ten years to bring carbon emissions back to the levels of five years ago.”
~ Thomas David Kehoe, 19 May 2017



The realisation of what comes first
FIRST we have to get broad and visible popular consensus and understanding of the issue and the solution. THEN we will see an immediate response from the corporate sector, and we will be able to demand from our elected leaders to get proper legislation in place that protects our common atmosphere from pollution. Politicians who refuse to listen, will simply be replaced at the next election. Easy!

Why? In a democratic society, change usually happens in a specific order. During the last decade, climate activists have been advocating for political action in a perceived “green”, “leftie” and “protesting” space. In countries which, like Australia, have a powerful fossil fuel industry, the legislative and juridical system has generally had no problem whatsoever with wiping off the protesters’ demands, labelling the climate-concerned citizens as “extremists”, “eco-terrorists” and “alarmists” on the fringe. Petitions and rallies, meetings, even law-suits, streams of letters to the editors and tweets and hashtags – all have been ignored, so far at no cost that can be measured in loss of votes.

Obviously, if a large majority of citizens had been demanding a shift away from fossil fuels and therefore had voted in only those politicians who promised them to make this shift happen, then we would have made the shift towards climate safety already. But people have refrained from calling on things like a price on carbon, a ban on all new fossil fuel projects, or the removal of all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, because they have been made to believe that this would be hurting our economy – as a society and also at the individual level.

We lack understanding of how the problem caused by rising carbon emissions can be solved. Whether it can be solved at all. We feel powerless, fearful and sad when we hear about more devastation around us – dying coral reefs, ferocious fires, flooding, mudslides, hurricanes, draughts… – but the picture is messy and complex, and it is mined with lies and false news, so our response has primarily been to close our eyes and push it away.

We don’t want to hear about it because we don’t see how we, or the world, should be able to deal with it. We can’t see a solution. Or rather: no one has yet managed to present a solution that sounded convincing, credible and doable and which was therefore backed up by a roaring majority of supporters.

The order of things
Here is a timeline of how these things have occurred – and are going to occur – as we move towards zero carbon and beyond, with the ‘story change’-pointer positioned midways:

Climate science warnings →
Science education + First signs of climate breakdown →
Advocacy for action + campaigning + rallying →
Broad consensus about the need for action →
[we are around here now in Australia]
Connectivity + Climate caring → Decarbonisation knowledge-sharing → Individual decarbonisation →
Popular value shift + Story change
Business and trade decarbonisation →
New political arena with zero carbon-advocating majority players →
New decarbonisation laws: Carbon control, carbon extraction ban, zero carbon Marchall plan →
Cross-sector decarbonisation in society → Zero carbon
Carbon-negative society → Carbon safety


“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian religious leader (1182–1226)

Leadership is a great task and might seem impossible, but it starts somewhere – somewhere small and ordinary.


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Today and tomorrow scenarios
Quickly sketched, the carbon battle field, using the ‘carbon freedom’ rhetoric, could be described as looking something like this:

Lawmakers are not listening to the ‘carbon freedom fighters’ or the ‘carbon reduction doers’. They are not helping those activists, citizens, companies, innovators and entrepreneurs, many of whom on their own initiative and money have started the journey towards zero carbon production and living before everyone else. They don’t listen, because these groups are perceived as the fringe, a minority movement in society. And becasue the lawmaking process has been thoroughly blocked by the fossil fuel industry, making sure that nothing is changed that would lower their profits or threaten their business model.

Meanwhile, media and the majority of the population remain relatively disengaged and passive as everyone’s waiting to see who is going to take the next big step, whether prices will drop, or what other new and groundbreaking technology will suddenly be introduced.

It is a scenario of procrastination that obviously will change over time. But how fast?

Here’s another simple sketch attempting to illustrate how a new story could potentially change the outlook:



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Human psychology: Our rabbit response

The carbon crisis begins in the social psychological human space: our lack of trust. We ask ourselves: “What good will it do if I make a transition to zero carbon, when others don’t?” – and that thought paralyses us.

“Why should I reduce my carbon emissions when I cannot impact others to follow my example, and when my change, which is tiny in the bigger picture, leads to a significant economic loss for me?”

This fear- and failure-based excuse for inaction, based on that “someone else will have to make the first move,” can be compared to the rabbit that freezes in the sharp night headlights of the approaching car as it hopes not to be noticed. According to evolution and how things normally work in a forest, freezing may have been a smart strategy when a large predator approaches. But in front of a car, freezing all of a sudden is a very stupid response with potentially deadly outcome.

The unprecedented threat of a climate emergency which approaches humanity now, is such a wicked challenge because it calls for an unprecedented reaction. Our evolutionary behaviour, our survival instinct as individuals, and our trust in that continuation of “business as usual” is probably our best option, is no different from the rabbit that freezes in the headlights: Our genes have not at all had any need or reason to program our brains to be able to respond to a global climate threat. So… not surprisingly, most people don’t. Instead we freeze. We ignore the threat and go on with our lives the best we can.

As we are already seeing the first signs of – with extreme weather events and catastrophes around the globe – this is actually a really stupid rabbit-response with a potentially deadly outcome.

We have allowed the climate emergency to get out of hand as a result of how our old-fashioned brains work – because of humanity’s rabbit-like social and psychological response to the issue. Consequently, this crisis also needs, before anything, to be solved in that space.

We have a psychological pattern here we need to be able to address.

Climate change needs to come out of being perceived and labelled as a “green” and “treehugging” concern, and it has to come out of the political “left-wing”, “hippie” and “butterfly-living” box. It has to move into a space which is about responsible and loving care – about establishing relations and a flow of conversations between people, where knowledge and tips about zero-carbon solutions and smarter ways of doing things is shared freely from one who cares to another one who is in need or in doubt.

As a way to enable that, the issue in question needs to leave the fixated “climate change” box itself. The advocacy work for change needs a reboot with refreshing new words and new narratives. As long the science sceptics keep saying, “The climate has always changed,” the word has passed its expire date. Because what we really mean to be talking abut is about something which is dear to most of us: how we care about each other, our safety and the future prosperity in our community.

Ian Dunlop, a former fossil fuel executive, put it this way in a presentation he gave in Adelaide in November 2017 at a ‘No More Bad Investments’ forum:

“We are not going to get political leadership on this, given the corrosive nature of the debate. The main parties will never lead on climate change. So really, community, business and media must fill this political leadership vacuum. As a community, and individually, we must now initiate emergency action.”

Ian Dunlop is a former chair of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Human psychology: Our patterns

Let’s for a moment zoom in on a few observations in the social-psychological space.

a) We do what others do
When all my neighbours and the mayor are doing it, of course I will be doing it too. I may not be paying much attention to what you say, but I am very likely to take inspiration from what you do. That is how it works. Scientific studies confirm this. CSIRO did a study on which kin dof impact different kind of messaging has when it comes to what we do with bath room towels in hotel rooms, once we have used them. The figures showed that if you put up a sign writing: “Please help save the planet! If you put the towel back in its place during your stay, it will reduce the impact on the environment,” only a small minority – just a couple out of ten – will follow the advice. But if instead you write: “In our hotel, guests tend to put the towel back in its place during their stay, because in this hotel we care abut the environment,” nine out of ten will follow the advice. We do what others do.

b) We don’t trust our politicians
As the matter of fact many of us are sick and tired of them. Their internal power battles and mudslinging makes them incapable of making the kind of radical decisions that an emergency of this scale would require of them. So we barely listen to them. Who defines the way we think, act and vote are those who are in control of “the story”, the narrative, of the time, and they are not politicians. For those below 40 years of age, they have moved away from the politicians’ one-way communication system, the radio and tv. The stories that drive us and guide us are instead thriving on platforms like Youtube and Facebook in an interactive communication with their fans and friends, in games and in fiction films.

c) We don’t trust the climate action movement either
Or rather: we are not convinced that the solutions proposed by climate activist groups will have any real impact on the situation. So we sit back and look the other way, distancing ourselves from the background noise coming from climate action rallies and occupied offices. Also, we are economical creatures. Trained to consider cost versus benefit. If the urgency for action and investments isn’t absolutely obvious and right in front of our noses, we will only act on something when we feel it makes logical and economical sense to us. ‘Climate change’ is a blurred and abstract concept to many people. We must be convinced our action is going to make a real impact, make a real difference, before we will get our hands up of the pocket and act. If we are given a choice, we will always preference working with those actions and stories that carry the hope that we will eventually succeed on our mission. Again, along with Winston Churchill’s statement, if we don’t believe we will succeed in doing what is necessary to reduce the climate breakdown, why even bother trying?

d) The climate movement doesn’t even trust itself
Australia has hundreds of NGOs working on each their own set of climate action agendas and strategies. Whereas the divestment movement and the anti-fracking movement both have been relatively successful, they target different segments in society and will have little or nothing to do with each other. The community of campaigning groups is often competing rather than collaborating about attention and support. The #StopAdani movement is one of the few that has managed to gather a broad cross-over of organisations and therefore represents a larger number of individuals. But as a whole, the Australian climate movement is fragmented, disconnected, points in a myriad of directions and at many different type of solutions.

These are some of the human, social and psychological preconditions that we recognise and acknowledge. This is what we have to work with.


“Environmentalists (…) differ on broad strategy, on policies, and on individual regulatory and siting decisions. It’s a fractious, diverse community. This post is not meant to stereotype or bash environmentalists, only to draw attention to the tensions between climate and other problems.”
~ David Roberts

» Vox – 27 January 2018:
Reckoning with climate change will demand ugly tradeoffs from environmentalists — and everyone else
“Being a climate hawk is not easy for anyone.”





To-do list


Creating our new narrative: What we need

So how do we move forward? By identifying what we need, and by getting organised.

Here is an unfinished list of some of what we need to develop and keep elaborating, enhancing and improve:

• A brief Zero Carbon Get-Started list
Getting solar on your own roof, if you don’t already have it, could probably be listed high on a tangible five-point list that highlights what our primary action points should be in order to kick our individual zero carbon journeys off. There are lots of lists floating around, but we will develop and shortlist the best and most climate-safety efficient suggestions by speaking with a range of experts from around the world.


• Visualising and testing the list
A list in writing is not enough, though. We also need to see how it is done. In order to do something ourselves, it always helps a lot to have seen how someone else did it. What that means is we need to carry out the list’s action points ourselves. At the same time, we will produce audio and video about it, where we talk about our personal progress and challenges as we proceed, while encouraging others to do the same.


• Local film and book clubs
Under the title ‘Fire and the Rose’, we develop a template for how to set up and run a local film and/or book club. How? By running one, and by networking with others who are in the process of starting one, or already have.


• A carbon freedom manifesto
Politically, what we demand is freedom from air pollution, knowing that individual actions will never take us where we need to go. While we build the carbon freedom majority movement, we also develop a simple and powerful manifesto that clarifies what we are hoping to change, once we have gained control of our democracy. Most ‘carbon freedom manifestos’ that have been suggested so far around the world, contain two or three of these fundamental political demands:

1) Carbon control
The real cost of carbon pollution must be paid by those who burn the fuels and emit the carbon. Polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases has huge impacts on our society and it simply can’t be free to do that any longer. We advocate for a big fee on carbon, and that a big chunk of the money collected is distributed to citizens, enabling them to transition at an individual level as well.

2) Ban carbon extraction
Coal, gas and oil must stay in the ground. All public investment in new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure must end immediately. Ban all new fossil fuel projects.

3) Zero carbon Marchall plan
Instead, assist those companies and their employees that are transitioning to renewables. Invest in renewables and carbon drawdown . Introduce a massive ‘Marchall-plan-like’ zero carbon plan where public subsidies and private investments are directed to the developing, producing and enhancing of renewable energy generation and storage as well as energy saving, development of new and enhanced technology and natural carbon sequestering techniques.

4) Value shift
These initiatives are based on a sense of our shared humanity and the societal consensus around securing the well-being of our planet’s eco-systems. From here on, we are building our society on the basis of environmental sustainability – the One Planet Living principles – and on quality of life rather than material possessions.




• Changing the numbers: Video cartoons with humour
Having control over the story is more powerful than anything, money from donors or lobbyists could provide. Story-telling works well on video, – documentary, fiction, cartoon – on radio and podcast, and on illustrative paper-print in the shape of a magazine or a series of small publications as well.

On social media, numbers are king. To reach ‘critical mass’ we diligently work on expanding our network of volunteers and supporters. We can’t take control of the mainstream story about the carbon crisis, but we can make a concerted effort to try and influence it, and get others to help us with doing that.

Getting the numbers up means getting organised. It requires that we are able to successfully catch a lot of peoples’ attention. To that end, we will produce a series of short and humorous video cartoons. Using humour is a great way to get a message across – in a similar manner as www.humouragainsthacking.com uses humour to explain about how to create IT-security awareness in corporations.


• People helping people: Platform for ‘carbon care’
Video, radio, magazine – all good, but nothing makes as much impact as the face-to-face conversation, the personal dialogue. The Danish company connec is in the process of launching a new IT-platform for help, nicknamed “the Uber for Help”, to help solve problems with loneliness. A system which offers free of charge one-on-one conversations between climate carers and solution experts, or between a person in despair and a person who is ready to listen and help.

Imagine you open an app on your phone, tablet or computer which gives you just a few buttons to choose from:

• Weather
• From soil to table
• Energy and technology
• Existential concerns

What you get when you click on a button is not yet another page, you get a person. A live person, who speaks your language and who is ready to talk with you about personal issues, technical and practical questions, or simply if you’d like an uplifting chat with someone you trust.

connec’s ‘Online Befriender’ app is a simplified video conference tool, operating on skype technology in the background, which is set up in a model with an army of several hundred trained volunteers to have meaningful conversations with lonely people.

To prevent loneliness amongst elderly citizens, and compliment the services of councils in aged and disability care which actively promotes social inclusion, connec’s ambition is to increase the quality of life of seniors and vulnerable citizens, thus giving them the courage and the desire to participate in activities, communities and bringing their own competencies into play.

The project’s approach is that the ‘seniors’ meet 24/7 with other people in meaningful dialogue. The project is being developed, among other things, by disrupting, reconsidering, digitising and further developing the best elements of popular existing Danish ‘Visitor Concepts’ as well as from the award-winning ‘Learning Online’. 

connec works with University of Copenhagen, and is initiating collaboration with two universities in Melbourne as well. 

» You can read more about the project on www.healthyaging.ku.dk

We think the same model can be used to have meaningful conversations about zero carbon, one planet living and climate disruption. The volunteers will in this case be passionate and engaged residents who are either solution-builders themselves or students who would like to help and learn as they go.

Apart from the training and screening, the main skill needed to become a volunteer is the desire to want to help, and to be ready to have a chat with others about it for around 4-5 hours a month.



• Well-known Australian and American cultural leaders speaking up
We want to engage community leaders as ‘ambassadors’ for the project, and we want to engage with media personalities, artists and sports heroes, who have the full trust of their respective audiences. Media: Think Waleed Aly from The Project on Channel 10. Artists: Think Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil and Missy Higgins. Actors: Think Leonardo diCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. Sports heroes: who knows a sports hero who advocates for reducing our carbon emissions?


• High-level zero carbon leadership incubator
We will keep searching for a charismatic person who has parliamentarian leadership experience, who is already well-known in the public and who has spent time on understanding the issues in the carbon crisis. It could be a person like the independent candidate Rob Oakeshott, who was part of the parliamentarian group that designed Australia’s first carbon fee, or it could be former Western Australia premier Carmen Lawrence – both of whom we have been talking with in The Sustainable Hour about the topic. It could also be other well-known former politicians or business leaders.

‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man with a plan’

“As prime minister during the Second World War, Churchill proved the truth of the maxim ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. An avowed hater of the tyrannical Nazi regime (which had overrun neighbouring France in May 1940), Churchill, through his force of character and will, galvanised the British people into believing that they could win the war and that what seemed like the darkest hour of the Blitz bombing of London in 1940–41 was actually nation’s finest hour.”
~ ‘British Politics For Dummies’ by Julian Knight and Michael Pattison<

» CNN – 15 January 2018:
Dear President Trump: Churchill would have been a climate leader



• Zero Carbon Taskforce of advisers and experts
To help incubate Australia’s first Zero Carbon leader, we will create a high-level Australian Zero Carbon Taskforce – or ‘Think-and-Do-Tank’ – for knowledge-sharing and inspiration on the topics, bringing in inspirational zero carbon champions via skype as well, such as New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinta Ardern.

• International expert advice and suggestions
We will invite some of the brightest, thought-leading and most successful story-tellers in the world to join us on this quest. We are thinking: Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and David Suzuki for a start.



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Changing the name of the game?

‘Carelessness crisis’? ‘Carbon crisis’? Maybe we could begin with calling it something else than ‘climate change’?

The meaning of ‘climate change’ is often understood as something in the direction of that it means a dangerous destabilisation of global and local climate patterns. Further down on this page, you’ll find a section about what we have recently learned from science and research about this problem we have become used to calling something with ‘climate’ – like, ‘climate change’, ‘climate emergency’, or ‘climate breakdown’ – and occasionally: ‘global warming’.

We are on the look-out for new expressions for this phenomena and topic, but for very different reasons than Trump, who is seeking to censor the expression in the hope that his administration and the American people will then forget about it.

The reason we think we should find a new word for what we are talking about is that as much as this wicked problem has to do with weather patterns and temperatures, it first of all has to do with that we, humans on Earth, are polluting the atmosphere above us as if it was an open sewer, and that this has to do with our industry-controlled political system which not only permits it to happen, but even supports and subsidises it – disregarding all the consequences which we have known and been warned about just as long as the pollution-crime has been taking place.

These so-called ‘natural disasters’ we see on the news literally every day are less and less ‘natural’. Their increased brutality and frequency is caused by the carelessness of our leaders and CEOs. What we are confronted with should rather be termed an ‘air pollution crisis’, a human-caused greenhouse gas crisis. It is time we turn the camera linse towards ourselves.

Another example: why do people so often talk about ‘Saving the planet’? If anything, this is about our destruction of the ecosystems on the only planet we have to live on. Dying plants and animals, famine, death. Consequently, it is about our own well-being and safety, as much as this is about whether we really care about our planet’s eco-systems and their well-being.

It is a carelessness crisis. We respond to the crisis because we care about each other, about our children and grandchildren, about life on this planet – Pope Francis calls it ‘The Creation’. It is about what we leave behind us to those who come after us.

Using the dirty e-word in climate campaigning: ‘emergency’

A short reflection on whether to use a disaster narrative – and the positive social impact this can have. There’s been a lot of discussion among climate action campaigners about whether to talk about climate change as an emergency, which it is, or whether to deliberately refrain from doing it, because the ‘emergency’ word is believed to scare people and put them off. In an article on wired.com, Adam Rogers refers to this understanding of what happens when we mention the ‘emergency’ word:

“In 1957 Charles Fritz and Harry Williams, the research associate and technical director, respectively, of the National Academy of Sciences’ Disaster Studies Committee, wrote a paper that sparked the field of disaster sociology. Their findings were counterintuitive then, and somehow remain so. People in disasters, they said, don’t loot and riot. They help each other. “The net result of most disasters is a dramatic increase in social solidarity among the affected populace during the emergency and immediate post-emergency periods,” they wrote. “The sharing of a common threat to survival and the common suffering produced by the disaster tend to produce a breakdown of pre-existing social distinctions and a great outpouring of love, generosity, and altruism.” In a disaster, we help each other. The trick is recognising the disaster.”

The biggest challenges in life brings out the best in people, as they rise to face the adversity.

While we keep being on the look-out for a new and better way to express the human origin and essence of the problem we currently call ‘climate change’ or ‘climate emergency’, in lack of better ideas, let’s cut that particular discussion short for now and just term it a ‘carbon crisis’. As mentioned, there’s more about the science and the facts below on this page.

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Asking for answers

Sounds too ambitious? We think that when a mining company like BHP can say it, then so can we: “Think Big!” We don’t want to talk about what is currently politically possible, we want to think the impossible. We only want to talk about the ‘doing what is necessary’.

Climate change is a global issue. What one person, one organisation, one city, or even one country does, will not solve this issue, unless we have every other country out there on board as well. Australians are not stupid. They are not going to invest time, efforts or money into something that won’t make a difference anyway. What this means in a climate campagning context is that if we are not ambitious, if we are not saying it as it is, and if we don’t have a recipe for a solution that will actually make a difference, we will keep failing.

“Only those who set goals beyond what is obviously achievable make a real difference in this world.” 
~ Alan Rabinowitz, conservationist 

Anyway, we are obviously not big. We are tiny. To move forward, we will just start small, and grow. That is the attitude we have had though four years of broadcasting The Sustainable Hour, and now we have around 10,000 different visitors on our podcast-blog every month. There are plenty of lightweight short-term goals to be won first, and they are actually straight-forward and easy to begin pushing for.

For instance, for a start, we will begin asking for advice and keep asking questions in our weekly radio show, The Sustainable Hour, and in a new youtube-channel we plan to open in 2018:


Question:
“What would you call ‘climate change’, if we asked you to call it something else, something new?”

It’s time to refresh our language in order to shake off some of the most time-consuming discussions about climate change, which are leading to nowhere. Would we be able to invent and gain traction for an entirely new name to replace terms such as ‘Climate’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Global Warming’?

Doing this would be for very different reasons than why Trump wants to censor the words ‘climate change’ in his administration.

The problem we are talking about here, climate change, has it starting point in the air – the atmosphere, the sky. It has to do with changes in the climate, but really, it has more to do with corporations lack of will to stop polluting the air, their resistance against paying a fee for their pollution, and with their control over governments to have it their way.

Pope Francis termed it ‘sinful’ but so far ‘the moral story’ hasn’t impressed anyone in power. Emissions keep rising.

Let’s take a look at what we mean when we talk about climate change:

1) Climate change has a human element, it’s man-made and it’s air-borne.

2) Climate change causes catastrophic changes in the biosphere and ecosystems. For instance when big parts of the Great Barrier Reef dies, and when entire species of plants and animals go extinct.

We’ve heard these bio-stories over and over by now. If we are to solve the problem, we have to focus more on the ‘who’ and less on the ‘what’. More on the ‘how to solve it’ than on the ‘why it is happening’. Its time to end the talk-fest and get on with practical work with decarbonising.

3) Climate change has a crucial time factor: We need a new focus on timing and speed, on the race that we’re in. Climate is something that changes slowly. But humanity now needs to make changes very quickly. With renewables costing less than fossil fuels, the end for burning coal, gas and oil is inevitable. But will we slash the emissions fast enough?

So what should we call this?

Time for an extensive, global brainstorm here, maybe?

British author George Monbiot calls it ‘The Climate Breakdown’.
American climate campaigner Al Gore call’s it ‘The Climate Crisis’.
In Australia and the US, petitions and organisations are talking about ‘The Climate Emergency’.

But what if we’d like to cut the ‘climate’-word out of it?

James Hansen talks about a ‘Planetary Emergency’. In the 1930s, the U.S. talked about its ‘Great Depression’, and author Paul Gilding talks about ‘The Great Disruption’. Others talk about ‘The Great Transition’, ‘The Ecological Age’, ‘The Green Revolution’.

An NPR report found that scientists have begun censoring themselves and omitting climate change from summaries of their research, using alternative phrases like ‘Extreme weather’ instead. According to The Guardian, Trump’s government wants to use ‘Weather extremes’ as an euphemism for climate change. » More on this

Should we simply start replacing ‘Climate’ with ‘Carbon’ in our campaigning work, as we’ve to some extent have done it on this page, and talk about ‘The Carbon Liberation’ and ‘The Carbon Crisis’?

Should we accordingly rather talk about ‘Carbon carers’ than ‘Climate carers’? Ultimately, would such a shift then mean we need to rename the name of this blog and our centre to ‘Centre for Carbon Safety’?

We certainly should stop using the misguided expression ‘carbon tax’ and instead begin be talking about, for instance, ‘carbon control’ and ‘carbon regulation’. Or something else that doesn’t imply that we are being ripped off by a government.

And now that we are at it: How about we start talking about free infinite power instead of “renewable energy” that the fossil fuel lobby groups helped by the federal government has managed to create a very negative narrative around as “utterly offensive” and “unreliable”?





Question:
“How do we get climate change reporting and analysis to be taken seriously on our daily tv news channels?”

We will keep adding pressure on our news broadcasters until the day arises when they finally begin to deliver daily two-four minute coverage and analysis of extreme weather events, new climate action initiatives, discoveries and findings in science and about the state of the planet, and so on, just like we see daily ‘Weather’ and ‘Finance’ segments on any mainstream and public news show.

Considering the nature and seriousness of the topic, and the urgent need for education on the topic among the general population, this role as educator ought to be a natural for any public broadcaster to take on. Sadly, it is not – and that is only because of the controversy and spin which vested interests in the fossil fuel industry have managed to create around the topic.

This spin is increasingly being challenged in court, as we see with the new court case in New York, and – in case the outcome is similar to that of the tobacco industry, which ended up having to pay over $200 billion for its lying about the science – the outcome of these court cases could have a strong impact on this.

Initially we seek to have a talk and an interview with Waleed Aly from The Project about this, and – as we have done for a couple of years now – we will keep lobbying for the ABC to produce a ‘Zero Carbon’ series in a similar style as their successful ‘War on Waste’ series, only of course on a bigger budget, more ambitious and far-reaching.


Our geographical starting point
Our point of referral is Melbourne and Geelong, where we work and broadcast our podcast from, but we also travel over land to meet inspirational change-makers of our region and state, and the stories we tell will have global interest.


Technical platform
To become independent video producers, we will purchase a couple of iPads with the right software, microphones and stands, and that will be our hardware tools and editing suite. Simple as that.



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APPENDIX I

More information and inspiration


Concept of a ‘People’s Climate Parliament’

In Sweden, KlimatRiksdagen – the People’s Climate Parliament – is a mechanism that helps generate ideas, engagement and dedicated commitment among people from a diverse range of grassroot organisations, companies and government bodies.

At the event KlimatRiksdagen 2018, Swedish policy and law changes will be evaluated.

“The idea of a climate parliament came from Annika Elmqvist. The children’s author organised an event at the Nature Conservation Association one and a half years before the 2014 election in Sweden because she was annoyed by the so-called hopelessness in politics.”

We think the Australian climate action community together with companies and government bodies could benefit from using this Swedish model to have a broad and deep discussion about how best to move forward as a country – the outcome of which can then later be brought on to Parliament.

» Home page in Swedish language: www.klimatriksdagen.se

» Facebook page: www.facebook.com/klimatriksdagen


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“Sometimes you have to learn to live with really discomforting truths to move past that in ways that have real deep meaning for yourself as an individual and as a citizen”

The first step: consciousness

“The hardest thing about change is the first step, which is consciousness to make change. And then the question is how do you make real change? I think that if you think in a systemic way, the kinds of solutions that we need—need to occur on a philosophical level first and foremost. And then on a economic, governmental, regulatory level. Those will only feel like deprivation otherwise.”
~ Marina Zurkow, professor, media artist, climate change emoji-maker

Newsweek spoke with professor Zurkow to understand the inspiration behind the fusion of tech, art and climate change in the set of Emoji-style icons:

» Newsweek – 12 January 2018:
Feel like the world is ending? Climate Change Emoji are here to help


“Popular culture has the capacity to connect audiences to difficult issues wordlessly, emotionally and with humor, as grave as the issues may be. We believe that as climate change enters into common language (including recognizable forms like emoji), the environmental justice movement’s issues of concern are reinforced.

The Climoji are designed to distill some of the causes and effects of climate change into tiny, potent icons. As emoji, these conversational tools enter the digital social space where online and smartphone users might encounter them with the same regularity as smiley faces and high-heeled shoes.”

» www.climoji.org

» The Verge – 15 January 2018:
What kind of emoji do you need to talk about climate change?




“What’s missing is the ambition”

» InsideClimateNews – 2 January 2018:
It’s Not Too Late: A Climate Change New Year’s Resolution
“The technology exists to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and avoid the worst of climate change, scientists say. What’s missing is the ambition.”



Mik Aidt in the Otway Forest near Geelong

About the author of this blogpost

Mik Aidt is director of Centre for Climate Safety. He lived most of his life in Denmark, arrived with his family in Australia in 2013 and became an Australian citizen in 2017. He is 55 years old, and has three young children together with his Australian wife.

As a 17-year-old high school student, Mik wrote songs for a musical titled ‘The Destruction’, and got more than 100 students of his school involved as actors, band and choir, peaking with a three-day multimedia event that turned the entire school upside down and received national media coverage. The theme of the musical, as the title suggests, was about how our environmental carelessness would destroy our world. The story did not have a happy ending.

Mik is a changemaker and a creative rethinker, who has a track record to prove it. Almost 25 years ago, he was campaigning to make people understand that something new called The Internet was underway which would soon transform their lives and their jobs. 15 years ago it was about a low-carbohydrate diet that turned the ‘food pyramid’ upside down and eventually moved from being seen as controversial to getting the official blue-stamp as the way we should eat. 10 years ago, it was about giving immigrant artists an appropriate platform of governmental recognition and support.

The last five years, it has been all about sustainability and climate change, centred around local activities in Geelong region, co-hosting the weekly radio show and podcast The Sustainable Hour and working in the committee of Geelong Sustainability.

As a festival organiser, DJ and musician, Mik has always been a bit of a bridge-builder between people, bringing groups of different backgrounds together and establishing new and unusual networks.

Sometimes he’ll take the role as the DJ at a festival or party, and his guests will be filling the dance floor. At other times, he is the conference organiser welcoming attendees to breathe in new inspiration while challenging their thinking and aspirations with speakers and panel debates that call for change.







Our warming planet


Notes about what we have recently learned from science and research about the carbon emissions problem


“It is time that people, and more crucially our entire species, to accept the fact that climate change is the single most important threat to humanity’s survival.
~ Richard Gale and Dr. Gary Null, Centre for Research on Globalization, 5 January 2018


“In terms of both likelihood and impact, extreme world weather events are the number one concern, according to a global survey released by the World Economic Forum: “Among the most pressing environmental challenges facing us are extreme weather events and temperatures; accelerating biodiversity loss; pollution of air, soil and water; failures of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and transition risks as we move to a low-carbon future,” the authors wrote. The report is based on the perceived risks from nearly 1,000 experts from around the world…”
~ Sydney Pereira, Newsweek

» Newsweek – 17 January 2018:
Human existence threatened more by extreme weather, not weapons of mass destruction, global experts warn

“In one vast, terrifying web, the report shows that environmental changes are linked to societal risks. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, for example, are linked to the spread of infectious diseases and food crises. That’s the part of the report the authors seem to be most concerned about: the interconnectedness of all of these issues. “When risk cascades through a complex system, the danger is not of incremental damage but of ‘runaway collapse,’” the report says.”
~ Kate Yoder, Grist, 19 January 2018


“So much more dying is coming.”
~ David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, 9 July 2017


The ‘Carbon Dragon’ is being poked

“We’re on a trajectory to an unmanageable heating scenario, and we need to get off it. We’re fucked at a certain point, right? It just becomes unmanageable. The climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place.”
~ Dr Jason Fox


Record-breaking year, again

“The year 2017 was a record-breaking year for extreme weather and environmental catastrophes since records started to be kept in the 19th century. The Arctic experienced temperatures up to 21°C (70°F) above normal. Many countries were baked in unusual heatwaves killing thousands. Incidents of droughts, extreme typhoons in the Pacific and hurricanes in the Atlantic, flash floods, and wildfires erupted daily in international news headlines. As recent as 2014, the World Meteorological Organization, following an analysis of NASA satellite footage of carbon dioxide movement around the planet, concluded that our warming planet has entered “unchartered territory at frightening speed,” wrote Richard Gale and Dr. Gary Null from Centre for Research on Globalization on 5 January 2018.

If anyone held any doubt that climate change is unreal, a fiction or fantasy, 2017 should have been wake up call to the most obstinate denialist. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere rose at record speed. Currently it is at its highest level in 800,000 years. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is at 408.55 ppm at the Mauna Loa Observatory and keeps growing at a rate of over 2 ppm per year. With more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history having been emitted in just the past three decades, we really can’t blame anyone else but ourselves for this mess. It is happening on our watch.

Catastrophic images from extreme weather events around the world are on the news every day. But the connection between these events and our unregulated carbon pollution is extremely rarely mentioned, and mainstream media’s ‘climate blindness’ is passed on to the viewers and listeners.

The problem for the newsmakers and meteorologists with making a direct link between each weather catastrophe and climate change has been that it has a tendency to drown in complicated climate statistics. But this situation is changing, as climate researchers have now developed credible methods to be able to attribute how much of an extreme weather event is related to the growing concentration of greenhouse gases. Scientific American reported on this:

» Scientific American – 2 January 2018:
Scientists Can Now Blame Individual Natural Disasters on Climate Change
“Extreme event attribution is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of climate science.” It is not only a matter of scientific advancement but a public obligation, states Met Office scientist.





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We see it – and we are ready to act

People actually don’t seem to need experts’ or weather reporters’ guidance in order to be getting the bigger picture: these extreme weather events indicate to most people that the global overheating already is having major consequences. People get it. According to the survey where 3,333 interviews were conducted across metro and regional Victoria, 91 per cent think humans are contributing to climate change, and 78 per cent say the issue needs urgent action now. 79 per cent would be proud to live in a state that is leading the way on climate change, and eight out of ten Victorians are willing to act on climate change and believe their actions can make a difference.

What we are seeing on our tv-screens in 2018 is exactly what we were told back in the 1980s would happen if we didn’t begin to regulate and lower our carbon emissions.

Not only didn’t we lower them. Historically, humanity has never pumped as many greenhouse gases up in the atmosphere as we did in 2017. 36.8 gigaton of CO2, according to the Global Carbon Project , which studies the integrated picture of the carbon cycle and other interacting biogeochemical cycles, including human dimensions and their interactions and feedbacks.

In the United States, the so-called FIRE complex — finance, insurance, and real estate — knows exactly what 2017 cost them. Natural and human-made disasters: $306 billion and 11,000 lives. And they will be calculating more of the same in 2018.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, researchers have discovered remnants of the 1918 flu that infected as many as 500 million and killed as many as 100 million — about 5 per cent of the world’s population and almost six times as many as had died in the world war for which the pandemic served as a kind of gruesome capstone.



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15,000 scientists’ warning to humanity

In November 2017, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries re-issued a warning from 1992: ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice’.

Mankind must take immediate action to reverse the effects of climate change, deforestation and species extinction before it’s too late, the scientists warned in a paper which captured the environmental trends over the last 25 years, showed realistic concern, and suggested a few examples of possible remedies. An excerpt:

“Sustainability transitions come about in diverse ways, and all require civil-society pressure and evidence-based advocacy, political leadership, and a solid understanding of policy instruments, markets, and other drivers. Examples of diverse and effective steps humanity can take to transition to sustainability include the following (not in order of importance or urgency):” (…)

• reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure

• promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods

• increasing outdoor nature education for children, as well as the overall engagement of society in the appreciation of nature

• divesting of monetary investments and purchases to encourage positive environmental change

• devising and promoting new green technologies and massively adopting renewable energy sources while phasing out subsidies to energy production through fossil fuels

• revising our economy to reduce wealth inequality and ensure that prices, taxation, and incentive systems take into account the real costs which consumption patterns impose on our environment
(…)

“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”

» Read the article

» Read more about climate science and history on www.climatesafety.info/history



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Trends over time for environmental issues identified in the 1992 scientists’ warning to humanity. The years before and after the 1992 scientists’ warning are shown as gray and black lines, respectively. Panel (a) shows emissions
of halogen source gases, which deplete stratospheric ozone, assuming a constant natural emission rate of 0.11 Mt CFC- 11-equivalent per year. In panel (c), marine catch has been going down since the mid-1990s, but at the same time, fishing effort has been going up (supplemental file S1). The vertebrate abundance index in panel (f) has been adjusted for taxonomic and geographic bias but incorporates relatively little data from developing countries, where there are the fewest studies; between 1970 and 2012, vertebrates declined by 58 percent, with freshwater, marine, and terrestrial populations declining by 81, 36, and 35 percent, respectively (file S1). Five-year means are shown in panel (h). In panel (i), ruminant livestock consist of domestic cattle, sheep, goats, and buffaloes. Note that y-axes do not start at zero, and it is important to inspect the data range when interpreting each graph. Percentage change, since 1992, for the variables in each panel are as follows: (a) –68.1%; (b) –26.1%; (c) –6.4%; (d) +75.3%; (e) –2.8%; (f) –28.9%; (g) +62.1%; (h) +167.6%; and (i) humans: +35.5%, ruminant livestock: +20.5%. Additional descriptions of the variables and trends, as well as sources for figure 1, are included in file S1.



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The world heats up – more than we are told

According to NASA’s calculations, global mean surface temperature today has increased by an average of 0.99°C.

There is a detail there that tends to get overlooked, and that is that when we talk about global temperature-rises, NASA and the UN Climate Panel, IPCC, are not using the same baselines.

NASA’s climate experts have decided to use the 30-year period between 1951 and 1980 as the temperature baseline for their calculations. It would show a more accurate picture of the temperature rise if they had chosen to compare today’s global temperature with a baseline from, say, a hundred years earlier, going back to pre-industrial times when humanity’s massive burning of coal, oil and gas had not yet taken off. That is not an option, though, because temperatures weren’t measured consistently and globally back in those days.

IPCC uses the norm for 1880–1900 as its baseline. The world was on average 0.3°C colder in 1880–1900 than it was in 1950–1980. So there is an inaccuracy, a confusion or a slur of 0.3°C when we talk about where we are at today.

Average global temperatures reached a scary peak in February 2016 because of the El Nino phenomena. NASA said the average global temperature in February 2016 was 1.35°C above the baseline, but it was actually 1.65°C warmer than the norm for 1880–1900.

» NASA:
Global Temperature



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Manuevering without knowing what’s next

Climate scientists are currently working hard to come up with answers to what the climate will look like when the average global temperature passes the 1.5°C mark, which is likely to happen already within the next decade or two. But frankly, so far most of it is guessing, and each team of scientists come out with differentiating scenarios.

“As global temperatures rise, will extreme weather events get even more extreme or more frequent? Or both? And to which extent will we be able to we adapt to this?” asked the the Danish climate researcher and activist Per Henriksen wrote on Facebook. He thinks the biggest and still unanswered questions the extreme weather events of 2017 raise, are: “How fast and how much will we be able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? Will it be possible for mankind to significantly reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions by 2030? Will it happen by 2040? Or 2050? And will that be soon enough?”

Whether a few days are very hot, very cold or very wet is obviously not what matters – though Trump wants us to think so. It is crucial that we keep our eyes on the bigger picture. It’s the longer trends that matter.

We can’t keep zigzagging our way forward as Australia is doing it at the moment – where progress made in one area gets eliminated by bigger setbacks in other areas. Today Australia’s carbon emissions are on the rise, when they should be falling. Just a few years ago, when the country has implemented a price on air pollution, it was falling consistently.

We have to stick our course without knowing exactly what we can expect. These are challenging waters to manuever in. The International Energy Agency projects that under a business-as-usual scenario — catastrophic for the climate — global energy demand will increase by 43 percent in the next 25 years. At the same time, if we are to have any hope of meeting the Paris goals of stopping the temperature rise below 2°C warming by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade.

“This year we should eliminate public subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, and treat climate change with the urgency required.”
~ Jim


“Australian summer in fierce form”

“A section of highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne started to melt. Bats fell dead from the trees, struck down by the heat.
On the northern Great Barrier Reef, 99 per cent of baby green sea turtles, a species whose sex is determined by temperature, were found to be female.

In outer suburban Sydney, the heat hit 47.3°C (117°F) before a cool change knocked it down – to the relative cool of just 43.6°C in a neighbouring suburb the following day.

Scenes from a sci-fi novel depicting a scorched future? No, just the first days of 2018 in Australia, where summer is in fierce form.”
~ Adam Morton

» BBC News – 13 January 2018:
How Australia’s extreme heat might be here to stay


Dealing with the heat

Some Australians tend to get a little touchy when the temperatures go up, as this article in Geelong Advertiser on 18 January 2018 illustrated. But while people whinge about their heat suffering experiences, not a single one of them seem to make the connection to how their own carbon emissions have an effect on the country’s heat wave patterns.

VLine runs some of the most polluting old trains that should have been replaced decades ago, because they represent both a health risk and a risk to our climate. But they haven’t. As the temperatures rise – according to CSIRO, Melbourne can expect 26 ‘very hot’ days over 35°C per year in 2070, up from nine in 2014 – why aren’t people expressing their concern about that?

It’s of course easier to let some steam out on VLine for not coping with the heat – but how much will that help anyone in the long run? It is fuelling a counterproductive narrative that only makes people angry and frustrated. It has passed its expiry date.





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Extraordinary times

“There is a scientific consensus that we need to take immediate action if we are to avoid catastrophic climate effects on the future of humankind, the diversity of life and the entire planet. Already hundreds of thousands of people die every year due to climate change-related extreme weather events and millions lose their homes, go hungry or are forced to migrate. Ecosystems everywhere, and the biosphere as a whole, are reaching dangerous tipping points. The prolonged impact of an industrial growth society addicted to fossil fuels and the rapid extraction of non-renewable resources is pushing against planetary boundaries.”
~ Daniel Christian Wahl, educator and author of ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures

» IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:
Climate Change 2007 – Projections of Future Changes in Climate

» Reuters – 11 January 2018:
Warming set to breach Paris accord’s toughest limit by mid century: draft
“Global warming is on track to breach the toughest limit set in the Paris climate agreement by the middle of this century unless governments make unprecedented economic shifts from fossil fuels, a draft U.N. report said.”

» The Japan Times – 12 January 2018:
Warming set to breach Paris accord’s toughest limit by middle of century, draft report says

» The Quint – 11 January 2018:
Summers Could Last 8 Months By 2070 If Global Warming Continues
“The world is getting not only hotter but also more humid. Prolonged heat-wave conditions – in other words, a summer lasting up to eight months – could be the new norm by the 2070s”

» Sydney Morning Herald – 7 January 2018:
Penrith swelters while Florida freezes: climate disruption is to blame
“Terms like “global warming” and the mental images they trigger can be misleading when people attempt to understand what is happening to the climate. A far better term is “climate disruption”, which captures the real nature of the vast array of changes, many of them abrupt and unexpected, that are occurring.”

» Grist – 9 January 2018:
We just got our disaster bill and it was $306 billion

» Global Research – 5 January 2018:
Climate Change: Saving the Planet, Saving Ourselves

» Futurism – 1 January 2018:
Climate Change Places a Major Economic Burden on Future Generations

» ABC Science – 11 January 2018:
Forget Paris: Australia needs to stop pretending we’re tackling climate change
“As the Bureau of Meteorology confirms another record-breaking year for temperatures in Australia, we should expect a sense of urgency to be creeping into Australia’s climate policy. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite.”



» Fortune – 14 November 2017:
NASA Photos Show Antarctic Ice Loss In ‘Irreversible Decline,’ Say Researchers



» NASA – 4 August 2017:
IceBridge – Aircraft, Instruments, Satellite

“Solar-powered ecocide is still ecocide”

“Our dominant culture of over-consumption, expensive thrills and massive waste must be challenged and changed. ‘Civilised’ humans have turned their only home into a garbage dump, created an ecological debt that cannot just be written off. Solar-powered ecocide is still ecocide.

Living beyond our means hasn’t made us any happier. If needless consumer products gave us the happiness promised in their ads we wouldn’t ‘need’ to buy any more of them. Few people are immune to the constant lies of advertisers and politicians advocating for faceless corporations.

Every kid that gets cancer, every cyclone, and every useless nick knack contributes to ‘economic growth’. Progress must be measured differently – through wellbeing, social equality and harmony. Despite advertising being embedded in our culture, people value health, relationships, and recreation more than extra possessions.” (…)

“Ultimately, humans need to embrace a world view closer to that of traditional peoples, give up the delusion that somehow the laws of nature do not apply to us. We will die out if we destroy the ecosystems we rely on to feed ourselves.

It’s simply not enough for governments to stop bad projects, or to power our destructive economic system differently. We have to build better ways to structure and govern our communities, learn from other cultures and create new ways of doing things.”
~ Ben Pennings, 13 January 2018



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Coral Reef Watch:

Remove CO2 from the atmosphere

Research shows that even 1.5°C of average warming could spell disaster for much of the world’s coral. The global proportion of coral being hit by bleaching per year has increased from 8% in the 1980s to 31% in 2016.

“Coral reefs as we know them may well vanish in the lifetime of the youngest of us,” says Prof Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the Institute for Sustainable Development.

“Even 1.5°C warming will cause irreparable harm to coral reefs in many parts of the world. This is why we must redouble our efforts to limit climate change by reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, not just reducing emissions,” says Dr Mark Eakin, coordinator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch programme: “One possible line of action to improve the survival chances of coral could be to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.”

» CarbonBrief – 4 January 2018:
Severe coral reef bleaching now ‘five times more frequent’ than 40 years ago



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Earth Optimism


Boom! This is what climate safety leadership looks like:



2017:

US$160.8 billion invested in solar

Global clean energy investments increased last year to their second highest level since records began, reaching US$333.5 billion.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest figures show China continues to dominate clean energy investments, with a record $132.6 billion, or 40 percent of the global total. The US came in second, with $56.9 billion in investments. Of the renewable energy sources, solar received the highest share of investments, at $160.8 billion.

» Clean Technica – 17 January 2018:
54 Gigawatt Chinese Solar Boom Drives Global Clean Energy Investment To New Highs, Overshadowing Australian & Mexican Momentum



2020:

Clean energy cheaper than fossils by 2020

All clean energy sources will be cost competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Some sources have already seen a precipitous drop in costs. For example, the average costs of utility-scale solar PV dropped 73 percent between 2010 and 2017. IRENA’s findings  mirror statements made by Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, who stated that the agency expects most renewable energy will not need any subsidies to compete with traditional sources of energy by 2020. In 2017, almost half of utility-scale capacity installed in the U.S. came from renewable energy.

» Greentech Media – 16 January 2018:
IRENA: Global Renewable Energy Prices Will Be Competitive With Fossil Fuels by 2020




“We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them.”
~ Ford Motor Co.

2022:

Ford invests US$11 billion in EVs by 2022

Ford Motor Co. will double its electric vehicle spending to $11 billion by 2022, amid a growing wave of company investments in the industry.

Globally, automakers now spend $90 billion on electric vehicles, with recent announcements including $19 billion in the U.S., $21 billion in China, and $52 billion in Germany. Leading automakers are planning to bring dozens of new electric and hybrid vehicles onto the market over the next five years — many of them slated for China — which is ratcheting up its electric vehicle quotas. Automakers are also responding to regulators in Europe and California, which are cracking down on carbon emissions.

» Reuters – 15 January 2018:
Global carmakers to invest at least $90 billion in electric vehicles




Shell invests US$200 million in solar developer

Shell is investing US$200 million in U.S. solar developer Silicon Ranch, acquiring a 44 percent stake in the company.

Shell has 880 megawatts of solar power either already built, contracted or under construction. The move is part of Shell’s global New Energies portfolio. Silicon Ranch does not expect major disruptions as a result of the current Section 201 solar trade case, since a large portion of its modules would not be included in the potential solar tariffs.

» PV-magazine – 16 January 2018:
Shell to acquire 44% stake in US solar developer Silicon Ranch




USA:

Offshore wind to power over 17 million homes

After years of delays, the U.S. offshore wind industry is starting to pick up steam.

Over 25 projects totalling 24 gigawatts – or enough to power over 17 million homes – are currently being planned, mainly off the coasts of the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. Several factors are driving this development, including reductions in offshore wind costs, state-led action on offshore development and European manufacturers locating facilities in the U.S. The Trump administration has come out in support of the growing industry.

» Yale Environment 360 – 11 January 2018:
After an uncertain start US offshore wind is powering up




California replaces gas with batteries and renewables

California’s grid regulator ordered the state’s biggest utility to replace natural gas with batteries and non-fossil fuels to meet peak energy demand.

The move will help California reach its goal to get half its power from wind and solar by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many natural gas plants, such as those being replaced by the order, sit idle for most of the year and have become uneconomical to run as an onslaught of cheap renewables drives down the price of wholesale electricity. A number of other states have also recently come down on natural gas plants.

» Bloomberg – 11 January 2018:
A New Era of Batteries Spells Trouble for Gas in America


The above energy news were published in Climate Nexus’ newsletter

» Stay connected with Climate Nexus on www.facebook.com/ClimateNexus



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Chinese decarbonisation leadership

In China, Shenzhen’s transport commission said on 27 December 2017 that it had transitioned its 16,359 buses to all-electric models. The city’s 17,000 taxis are next. 63% of them are already electric.

China has announced plans to plant new forests covering an area roughly the size of Ireland in 2018 as it aims to increase forest coverage to 23 percent of its total landmass by the end of the decade.

» Reuters – 5 January 2018:
China to create new forests covering area size of Ireland: China Daily



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Going… going… gone!

Phasing out the fossils, toxics and other badies

The world is phasing out fossil fuels, old polluting vehicles, plastic products, toxic substances, nuclear power, biofuel, incandescent light bulbs, ozone depleting substances, waste imports, second hand clothes, and ivory trade. These are either gradual phase outs or immediate bans.

So, who exactly is phasing out what?

» Read more on anujasawant.com



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“Turn 10 million entrepreneurs and engineers into planetary stewards

“Our goal is to turn 10 million entrepreneurs and engineers and others working in the tech sector into planetary stewards. Whatever these great minds are working on, the stability and resilience of our climate for future generations must be the compass course.”

“The rationale is simple: in the next three decades, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, will transform everyone’s lives. At the moment the compass direction for this transformation is unclear. We need to ensure this transformation is towards a prosperous and resilient zero-carbon future.”
~ Johan Rockström, Executive Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre

» World Economic Forum – 19 January 2018:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution can lead us to a zero-carbon future – if we act now



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“Rest, song, and wine await us”

“By 2050 we’ll be on the way to reconciling nimble, decentralized clean energy with a grid that provides affordable, reliable, and universal access to electricity. We’ll have socialized investment, breaking Wall Street’s power. We’ll have put price signals to work for democratic planning, organized countless workers, and eased the burden of labor.

As a bonus, we’ll be building landscapes — in cities, suburbs, and the countryside — where time-rich workers will roam and recline.

We’ll camp at the edges of re-wilded, carbon-sucking forests; we’ll hike through valleys with ridges topped by wind turbines built by local cooperatives; we’ll lay our towels on flood-softening sand dunes to drink iced rum mixed with garden-grown mint; we’ll trip over pumpkins and lick raspberry-stained fingertips in brambly fields salvaged by permaculture; we’ll ride Ferris Wheels built of materials the 20th century never heard of, breathing sweet air that forgot it was once laced with mercury and soot. We’ll slip in and out of cities on solar-panel-covered roads in electric buses, carrying electric toothbrushes and vibrators to usher in the night.

One last stimulus to stop runaway climate change and break free from capital: rest, song, and wine await us.”
~ Daniel Aldana Cohen

» Utne – 11 January 2018:
The Last Stimulus
“We shouldn’t ask whether we must get out of capitalism so that humans can survive. We must ask how and when.”




APPENDIX II

Calls for a new narrative



“Humanity needs a ‘new story’”

“Humanity is coming of age and needs a ‘new story’ that is powerful and meaningful enough to galvanize global collaboration and guide a collective response to the converging crises we are facing. Transformational responses at a personal and collective level take place when we question deeply ingrained ways of being and seeing and in the process begin to reinvent ourselves. In doing so we also change how we participate in shaping culture through our interaction with the world around us.

From a long-term perspective, as a relatively young species on this planet we are collectively undergoing a maturation process which requires us to redefine how we understand our relationship to the rest of life on Earth — facing the choices of either collapse or profound transformation. The basic story we are telling about humanity — who we are, what we are here for and where we are going — no longer serves us as a functional moral compass.

Just as teenagers coming of age must learn not to just demand from family and society but to contribute meaningfully, humanity can no longer continue to draw down the natural capital stores of the Earth. We have to learn to live within the limits of the Earth’s bioproductive capacity and use current solar income instead of ancient sunlight (stored in the Earth’s crust as oil, gas, and coal) to provide our energy.”
~ Daniel Christian Wahl

» Medium – 13 January 2018:
[We are] a young species growing up



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Climate Outreach:

Broadening the story of climate change

In the United Kingdom, the organisation Climate Outreach works with partners across the globe, including international bodies such as the IPCC and World Bank, universities from Canada to Austria, and campaign groups such as WWF and Greenpeace. Executive Director Jamie Clarke posted a blogpost on www.climateoutreach.org on 11 January 2018 where he, among other things, wrote about the climate change story:

“Looking ahead, there are a key set of priorities for climate change engagement which we’ll be working on as an organisation:

• Broadening the story of climate change
As most of us know, climate change is not just an environmental issue – it is a health issue, an economic issue, a heritage issue. But placing it in a ‘green box’ has made it difficult for many people to prioritise it. In fact there are few aspects of what people care about that aren’t impacted by climate change.

Connecting to wider issues has been a key focus of our work. We look at how communities can best understand the impacts on their lives and communities – an increasingly important issue as communities around the world suffer the horrendous impacts of our changing climate.

A critical new area for us is the under-told story of climate change and health, a universal concern. We’re currently exploring with organisations including the World Health Organisation the most effective ways to highlight the connection between health and climate change.

Similarly we are broadening the visual story of climate change through our Climate Visuals project. It’s been amazing to see the enthusiasm this project has generated around the world. We’re looking forward to expanding our library of images and partnering with global image partners to shift the way climate change is perceived.


• Raising new climate change voices
The messenger is often as important as the message. We continue to focus on working with ‘unusual suspects’ to raise the voices of those who wouldn’t traditionally be seen as climate change advocates.

With 84% of the world’s population identifying itself as belonging to a faith, we’re proud to continue our long running work with faith communities and are currently working on a global project to drive behaviour change in faith communities.

Meanwhile we are continuing our acclaimed work with centre-right communities and hope to be partnering with both Canadian and German national organisations this year to help empower these communities to support and speak out on climate change issues. In the same fashion, we’ll also be expanding our work with young people as well as people forced to migrate because of the impacts of climate change, ensuring that their voices are heard.

The rise of so-called populist movements across the globe and the backlash against ‘liberal elites’ also provides a key consideration for climate engagement which has been characterised by detractors as not an issue for ‘normal working people’. In this context there is even more need to better understand the ways of empowering wider populations to speak out.


• Widening the reach of public engagement activities around the world
Over the last two years we’ve seen very active and visible global climate change initiatives and movements across society which are gathering momentum (in part thanks to the brazen efforts of Donald Trump to undo scientific understanding and low carbon policies).

Many of these activities, whether government outreach or new advocacy campaigns, are wanting to reach beyond the usual suspects, acknowledging that effective public engagement is vital in achieving long-term success.

We’re increasingly partnering with these groups to ensure their campaigns – on air quality, sustainable behaviour or renewable energy, to name a few – are effective at engaging wider audiences. A key consideration for our work is also to ensure that such projects take the long term view and include the main driver for these activities (climate change) appropriately in their outreach.


• Supporting climate scientists
Scientists have and will continue to be key climate change messengers, but many have struggled to communicate effectively with wider audiences and to deal with skeptics.

We have been working with many scientific organisations, helping scientists improve their communication skills. We are particularly proud to be supporting Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists communicate their work – watch out for our handbook shortly!”

» Read more on www.climateoutreach.org



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“Achieving planetary health will require a renaissance in how we define our place in the world. A new narrative will reject the one streaming into our homes — that happiness comes from relentlessly acquiring more things — and embrace what we know: that what truly makes us happy is time spent with those we love, connection to place and community, feeling connected to something greater than ourselves, taking care of each other.”
~ Dr Samuel S. Myers, director of the Planetary Health Alliance at Harvard University in the United States



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“Everything we love is at risk, unless we build a faster, more disruptive and more visionary climate movement, now.”
~ Alex Steffen

‘The Last Decade’ – a raw manifesto for the new climate movement

“Everything is moving rapidly now, except for our thinking.

It’s no big mystery why our thinking is so outdated. For more than two decades, many people tried to sell climate action — especially here in America — by arguing that it wouldn’t really demand much change, at all. Small steps, we were told, could add up to big impacts. Innovation would whisk away the most polluting parts of our lives, leaving us with green SUVs, McMansions and big box stores. Abstract and distant mechanisms — like cap-and-trade schemes — could do the remaining heavy lifting, and we’d barely even know they were working. Saving the planet might not be exactly easy — this argument went — but it could be slow, gradual, a barely noticeable transition.

It was a nice idea. The problem is, it wasn’t true, even then. There once was a time when steady incremental actions could have staved off planetary catastrophe. That hasn’t been the case, though, since at least the mid-1990s. As the years have passed this vision of slow climate action without large scale transformation has gone from unworkable to a downright dangerous delusion, part of the crisis itself.

The destruction of planetary stability is not some ancient curse. Instead, it’s the momentum of choices made by people who are largely still alive. The world we were born into was made unsustainably. Between roughly 1990 and now, half of all greenhouse gasses humanity has ever emitted were poured into the sky. Go back to the end of World War Two, and the percentage rises past 85%. Now, even as the natural world is spiraling into wider (and wilder) chaos, the energy, transportation, manufacturing and agricultural systems we built in the years since World War Two are still revving at doomsday machine velocities. There’s some evidence climate emissions have leveled off, but they’re still so dire that every year that goes by forecloses some of humanity’s options. Business as usual leads directly, quickly, inexorably to total catastrophe. It cannot go on, and what cannot go on, comes to an end.

To stay within two degrees, we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% a decade, while launching a massive commitment to ecological conservation and reforestation.

The world we were born into is coming to an end. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it’s not coming to an end fast enough.”
~ Alex Steffen, The Last Decade – a raw manifesto for the new climate movement

Alex Steffen is a planetary futurist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. His 2012 book ‘Carbon Zero: Imagining cities that can save the planet’ is an exploration of the kinds of design, technological and policy innovations that can transform our cities into low-carbon engines of prosperity. From 2003 to 2010, Alex ran the pioneering sustainability and social innovation project Worldchanging.com, and edited two best-selling ‘Worldchanging’ books.

» Alex Steffen’s home page: www.alexsteffen.com
Twitter account | Free weekly newsletter






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TED Talk:

“Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care”

“The world will say to you, “We need to heal the planet.” Start by saying, “No, thank you. I don’t need a plastic bag.” Recycle, reuse. Start by picking up one piece of trash on your block.

The world will say to you, “There are too many problems.” Do not be afraid to be a part of the solutions. Start by discussing the issues. We cannot overcome what we ignore. The more we talk about things, the more we see that the issues are connected because we are connected.

The world will say to you, “What are you going to do?” Do not be afraid to say, “I know I can’t do everything, but I can do something.” Walk into more rooms saying, “I’m here to help.” Become intimate with generosity. Give what you can give, and do what you can do. Give dollars, give cents, give your time, give your love, give your heart, give your spirit.”
~ Cleo Wade, artist and poet

» TED Talks – November 2017:
Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care



 [CLIMATIC ROOT TREATMENT]  is a series of blogposts seeking to uncover and understand the deeper roots of society’s problems with taking appropriate action on the climate emergency, and to explore the advantages we could see once the action sets in.




One comment

  1. Dear Mik,
    Lots of respect AGAIN from here – I have skimmed through your long and utmost important writing.
    You hold the Earth between your hands and close to your heart, keeping your thinking clear while letting new ideas sprout …
    I wish I could be in two places at the same time and grab my camera consistently to follow your doings …
    More another day, Mik, for now just a giant hug from across our beautiful globe,
    Helle Toft Jensen / filmmaker, Spor Media / Denmark

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