The Silence of a Nation

So if you didn’t know, there’s been this pretty big event happening over the last week or so in a place called Katowice, Poland - The UN Climate Talks (COP24). There’s been some pretty heated discussion about climate change (excuse the pun). It’s no surprise that countries which support the use of oil (and all the fossil fuels which are bad for us) are Russia, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and of course the USA. Some people call them ‘the four oil allies’. I like to call them ‘deluded’.

Imagine this – being one of only four countries at the UN Climate Talks which doesn’t support the Intergovernment Panel’s report on climate change (IPCC 1.5)? There are 193 countries in the UN by the way. BUT, imagine this scenario – your country which prides itself on having unbelievable nature and a vast array of incredible environments, but also struggling with the effects of climate change, doesn’t speak out against the four delusional countries. Welcome to AUSTRALIA.

Pretty much every other country at COP24 had something to say in defence of the IPCC 1.5.

I suppose I should really tell you a bit about the Report.
Basically, we need to reduce global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. I mean, that’s a pretty big ask. This is to basically make sure the climate doesn’t increase by 1.5 degrees, which is actually less than the 2 degrees change suggested in the Paris Climate agreement back in 2015.
You would like to think that, reflective of the THOUSANDS OF REPORTS which provide clear evidence that climate change is real; these delusional governments might have taken some sort of note – apparently not. In political terms, Australia has been deemed to be just as bad. The silence at COP24 shows support for the oil allies.

Now, I’m not going to get too carried away and say that if everybody supported the Report then the world would hit that 45% reduction in emissions.
“Why the negativity?” I hear you cry?
Well unfortunately, the world wasn’t hitting its target of limiting to only a 2 degree rise, so it’s pretty worrying if we have to restrict it to 1.5!

Obviously you know the damaging effects of climate change because
A. it’s been in the news for several years now and if you haven’t seen it then what do you do in your free time?!
And B. I touched (literally skimmed the surface) upon the effects in my previous blog ‘The Youth of Today’ and obviously you’ve all read that…

Amongst the negativity, however, there is a slight chance of hope (I think).
More and more countries are putting penalties on the release of carbon use and emissions which end up in our atmosphere. There’s around 1500 penalties and laws apparently, according to the London School of Economics and Political Science. That’s pretty good considering there was only 72 20 years ago. They mainly consist of things like renewable energy targets and carbon pricing (which we know didn’t end well in Australia – see my ‘Students and Sustainability’ blog, but I’m sure you have already).

Unfortunately for the Australian public, the silence of the nation at the Climate Talks isn’t the only undesirable news. In the quarterly update from the Department of Environment and Energy, emissions have risen by 1.3%. You might not think that is a big deal, but when land-use, land-use change and forestry aren’t involved in these calculations, it’s a record high. It doesn’t necessarily help Australia’s profile with the Adani Mine in Queensland still planned to go ahead, supposedly before Christmas.

Yes, technically Australia didn’t oppose the IPCC1.5, but it is certainly concerning that as a nation we seem to be taking a backwards step towards creating a sustainable and viable future for our environment.

It’s a confusing time for most people. On one hand, 7/8 states have banned single-use plastic bags (come on NSW, you’re letting the side down). This has reportedly helped Australia to reduce usage of the single-use plastic bags by 80% (or so they say). I’m going to take a moment to say ‘bravo’ to those retailers which have ‘banned the plastic’, as they’ve certainly contributed to this apparent reduction.  But plastic and waste is one thing, and climate change is a whole different matter.

The other hand shows a reluctance to keep pressing and support our supposed ‘environmental allies’ to bring a sustainable future. As I KEEP ON MENTIONING, Australia will be hit pretty hard, with all these wildfires and storms and so on …. Yep, you’ve heard it all before. BUT, and this is a huuuuuuuuuuuge BUT. We won’t DISAPPEAR as a nation (see the next paragraph). As far as the economy goes, we will be pretty screwed spending millions of dollars to try and rebuild homes and business with a large part of the money spent on reacting to the environmental hazards a changing climate will bring, like helicopters spreading water across a wildfire. Note how I said we are REACTING and not being PRO-ACTIVE. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent.

Tuvalu and Kiribati. Two Pacific Islands North East of our Queensland coastline. They are literally DISAPPEARING. Sinking into the water as if they’re a Hippo making its way to bathe. Why is this the case? Well, in simple terms:

Atmosphere warms > Ice Melts > Sea Levels Rise > Low lying Islands are drowned

So if we’re not going to act for ourselves, you know, the magnificent environment we have around us, let’s try and help out our neighbours, yeah? (As well as the thousands of other negative effects).

Like many people, I hope that Australia isn’t making an environmental U-turn. To me it seems recent events within the country are making the public question its commitments to providing a sustainable future. The emerging bans on single-use plastic across the country shows that there are some people in important decision-making jobs that do care about our environment, and that is honestly brilliant. BUT, we cannot stop there. The world is becoming ever more fragile.

Cleaning Up our Climate along with the many waste initiatives and campaigns HAS to be the focus for the next few years, otherwise we risk not only our environment, but also the livelihoods of our societies and the success of our economy.

Oliver Emanuel

Youth Project Officer

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