Recent changes on the global political stage have led some to preach the apocalypse of the climate fight. Trump embodies the hard political shift to the right which we’re seeing around the world in many parts of Europe and Asia. It’s easy to be an environmental pessimist with leaders like Trump at the helm especially when our climate woes seem worse than ever. This could be the conclusion drawn from watching Before The Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio’s recently released doco on the state of global climate change and action. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so. This work tracks Leo’s journey from climate activist to climate realist as he explores the damage man has already done to our environment.
I’m an environmental realist like Leo. And it’s an easy time to be one with global temps rising to 1.38 degrees above 19th century levels this year. This is dangerously close to the 2 degrees of warming stipulated in the Paris agreement.
But part of being an environmental realist is recalling that the world is not linear. This is true in life as well but it’s important to remember. No one could have foreseen that in 1914 the assassination of an Austro-Hungarian Archduke could have sparked a world war whose repercussions are still felt a century later. And whilst war is undeniably a horrific accident of human nature it spurs organisation and action in epic proportion. To exemplify, in 1944, the USA made more planes than Japan did during the whole of WW2. The political and civilian goals aligned to bring the people together towards a common goal.
We need this same sort of ambitious effort in battling climate change. That is why the Paris agreement had so much promise. We environmental realists looked to our world leaders to act in non-linear proportion. To spur a war-like effort to change our economies from one of high carbon to one of low. The economist are mostly in consensus – we need a unilateral carbon tax to account for all negative environmental externalities. Given the current political climate and despite many countries, including Australia, having ratified the Paris agreement, I think it highly unlikely this change will come from our leaders in the timeframe we need.
And this means only one thing. The revolution must start at the bottom. All people: young, old, male, female or gender neutral must rise up and change the world in a collective way. “Gah, that’s never going to happen!” I hear you say. Many said the same about a Trump Whitehouse yet here we are.
Cheap blows a-side, these sorts of revolutions are not unheard of. Remember the French revolution – it built what is today one of the great examples of democracy and it was led by the people. We need the same sort of uprising for the climate and in the world of Facebook and Twitter it’s easier than ever to get your message out there and be heard.
I don’t for a minute believe we can do this alone. We do need visionary leadership. Obama got part way there. Turnbull tried and hit roadblocks. Merkel has done great things. But who’s next? Wherever you are, think before you go to the polling booth (but please, do go!). What else can you do? Maybe it’s as simple as raising the issue with your family.
The mission I’ve given myself is two-fold: To empower others to make the changes we need to realise a more sustainable future and to enable low-cost clean energy for all. To achieve the former (and remembering that life isn’t linear) I started this blog to document my efforts and learnings in living more sustainably. To achieve the latter, I founded Nexergy, a company developing a local energy trading platform which aims to bring energy equity and enable sustainable energy access for all to thrive.
Thus, environmental realism has led me to believe the revolution starts with the individual. Where are you going to start?