Hello, my name is Isabelle Truman and until very recently I didn’t know enough about climate change.
It feels embarrassing and wrong to write a sentence like that, especially given I am an animal-obsessed, vegetarian, journalist who carries a Keep Cup everywhere, who avoids plastic at all costs and who always votes for the party with the most environmental initiatives. I do all of this because I know we need to, but why we need to was something that I wasn’t all too clear on until recently, until Australia started burning to the ground.
Part of the reason I hadn’t delved headfirst into finding out everything the is to know about climate change and what we can do to stop it is that the mountain felt too big. I felt like it was too far gone. It felt too embarrassing to say ‘Wait, what is actually happening?!’ in the years leading up to 2020. So I’d sit there and continue to watch Greta Thunberg speak, knowing that as soon as she started with facts and figures, mentioning CO2 emissions and gigatons, everything would get a bit blurred around the edges.
But when a new decade starts in flames, enough is enough. We have now lost one billion animals, 25 people have died, 2,000 homes have been destroyed and 10 million acres of land. But the scariest part of all? The devastation we’re seeing is just a taste of what’s to come if we don’t take action immediately.
So in a bid to find out exactly what’s going on in a way that I could really understand, I went straight to an expert who agreed to answer every question I had, no matter how big, small or silly. On the most recent episode of the podcast I co-host, After Work Drinks, scientist and climate change expert, Professor Nerilie Abram from the Research School of Earth Sciences, explained in laymen’s terms exactly what climate change is, how it caused the current bushfire crisis, the government’s part in all of this (big, HUGE), and how we can each help. You can listen to the episode here.
Right now, Australia needs donations to help rebuild what we’ve lost. But more than that, Australia needs us all to take accountability and put effort into really learning about what’s happening around us.
Because of humans, the Earth’s temperature is currently rising at a faster rate than ever before – five times faster than ever before, to be exact. To prevent irreversible damage – droughts, floods, entire species becoming extinct and the coral reef being wiped out – we need to stop the global temperature from getting above a further 1.5 degrees.
That number might not seem like much, but think of it like this: Australia has risen by just one degree since 1910 and that small rise was the reason the country had severe drought, the reason rainfall patterns changed and the reason we’re battling the worst bushfires in the country’s history. Just imagine if a disaster like this was more than doubled in severity.
To stop climate change and global warming, we need to drastically cut back on our CO2 emissions. For us as individuals, that means using public transport (or better yet, biking and walking) over using cars, taking less flights – or if you do fly, offsetting your carbon emissions (a roundtrip from Sydney to Melbourne costs just an added $13), educating ourselves when it comes to our meat intake and being more conscious consumers by shopping secondhand and looking for sustainable brands who used recycled materials.
But perhaps the most important thing we can do is demand that our government takes immediate action to lessen its fossil fuel emissions. Australia is the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil carbon, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. The country’s coal and gas exports total over 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Australia is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to impacting global warming.
What’s even more shocking is that instead of addressing this by trying to work out a solution, Australia is continuing to ramp up its fossil fuel production, mostly for export. With 53 coal mines new proposed, the government plans to double Australia’s existing production by 2030.
That’s right: while the rest of the world is working towards cutting fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030, moving away from oil, coal and gas, Australia is working to open 53 new coal mines by that same deadline. In fact, Scott Morrison didn’t even bother to attend the most recent climate summit because his government “has no new climate commitments to announce.”
Put simply by The Guardian: If Australia achieves its planned fossil fuel expansion, the world cannot achieve the climate goals of the Paris agreement.
Put even more simply, the time for burying our heads in the sand is over.
We’re looking for someone to point blame at and Scott Morrison is an incredibly easy target right now, but we must remember that the government is not there by accident. They were voted into power by us, by the country of Australia. The most important thing that we can all do right now is let them know that we are awake and want to protect our home.
Thankfully, some of the hard work has been done for us.
Over the weekend, Anna Richards went viral after Celeste Barber, comedian and local hero, shared her Instagram video with 6.6 million people. In the clip, Richards, who worked in parliament for four years, explains that MPs cannot ignore a mobilised electorate of voters – “they want and need your vote and they are an elected representative to represent you, the constituent, in parliament” – and that the best way to get them to listen is to send or email a letter urging for action to be taken.
After you’ve done that, attend a march. There are protests happening all over Australia this weekend, find the one closest to you below.
Then share what you’ve learned and what you are doing, alongside all of those heartbreaking koala photos.
It’s important that we don’t forget how these bushfires started. We need to take them as a warning, we need to act now while there’s still time.