What you (really) need to know about climate change in Australia

Amanda McKenzie is the CEO of the Climate Council. The independent organisation provides authoritative climate change info to the Australian public (aka a bloody important role, given that some of our outspoken politicians still dispute the science around climate change.)
By Mia Abrahams

What can people do to encourage politicians to take climate change seriously? What other actions can we take to help combat climate change?
Help spread the word! The more of us who know the facts and can challenge misinformation, the more our political decision makers will listen. We have some great resources available on our website to share with friends and colleagues…

If you want to get even more active, get in contact with your local member of parliament and tell them why action on climate change is so important to you and your family. The more they hear from all of us on this issue, the more likely they are to act.

The problem of climate change often feels enormous and overwhelming. What do you do to stay motivated in the face of such a complex problem? How do you stay positive?
We are always positive about the future when we see so many people here and across the world who do really care about this issue and are prepared to stand up and take action for change.

Already we are seeing many state and local governments moving and stepping up to support renewable energy. Last year almost all states and territories increased their renewable energy policy and program support, with four state and territories aiming higher than the national 20% renewable energy target by 2020.

What’s your sense of the climate change conversation in Australia now? Are climate change sceptics still a significant amount of Australians, or has the media inflated the “debate”?
A poll released earlier this year shows the steady increase in Australians understanding of the cause of climate change [60% of people believe “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”], and that concern is at record levels (Lowy report). People are seeing the impacts, like damage to the Great Barrier Reef (extreme ocean temperatures have caused back-to-back bleaching on 1500km of the Reef, causing significant damage). There is no debate in the community about climate change. Most people think it is a problem and want to get on with doing something about it.

How do you “reach across the aisle”, so to speak, in the climate change conversation?
At the Climate Council we see every day that giving people the facts and showing them the impacts of climate change is a really powerful way to change opinion and reach a wider audience. That’s why we continue our work, to give as many people access to the science in the most digestible way possible.

What do you believe will be the effect, in Australia, of the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement [an international treaty on climate change] in June?
Out of nearly 200 countries only three have rejected the Paris Climate Agreement. Nicaragua, because it didn’t go far enough. Syria, which is in civil war. And, now, the US. No other countries show signs of backtracking from their commitments.

No matter how ideologically driven Trump is, he cannot stop the global tidal wave of investment in clean energy. Trump can’t beat economics. Renewables are cheaper than new coal and continue to drop in cost. The future is renewable power regardless of the US isolating itself from global action. 

California, the 8th largest economy in the world, is leading the way, with Governor Jerry Brown emphasising that the State will not let Trump’s decision harm their progress on clean energy.

The US is one of the world’s largest polluters. It is abundantly clear that it is in Australia’s national interest that global pollution be reduced… and the US failing to do its part should be condemned by the Australian government.

Images: Unsplash and Twitter. Digital design: Grace Jennings-Edquist