Megan Evans from the University of Queensland Climate for Change group has a great update on change they’ve been making over the last few months – including a winning entry in Climate Reality Week, chatting to Climate Skeptics and successfully campaigning their university to sign the Tallories Sustainability Declaration.
I can’t say I make a habit out of attending events promoting climate change skeptism, but there I was, learning about why I really shouldn’t be concerned about climate change. The take home messages were simple: the temperature record is unreliable, the effect of CO2 diminishes in higher concentrations, CO2 is plant food, and after all, it’s the sun anyway. Or in other words, there’s no warming, there can’t be any warming, the warming that isn’t and can’t happen is a good thing, and the warming that isn’t happening is happening because of the sun. Confused? You’re not alone.
If you haven’t heard about the current climate skeptics tour of Australia, then you could probably be forgiven – it seems that the tour has not had quite the impact that the organisers (the Climate Skeptics Party) would have hoped for. It all sounds promising: featuring prominent skeptic and retired television weatherman Anthony Watts (author of WattsUpWithThat.com) plus a range of Australian skeptics and pseudo-scientists, the tour will reach 19 towns in a series of events across the country. Morgan Goodwin reported last week how little media attention the tour has attracted, and unfortunately for Watts, it seems that he doesn’t have the same degree of celebrity appeal that Christopher Monckton enjoyed in his Australian visit last year.
Along with other members of UQ Climate for Change, I went along to the event in Brisbane to find out what it’s really like at a climate skeptics event. It wasn’t really what I expected – attendance was low, and there was ample opportunity to talk to other attendees and discuss points of disagreement in what was an overall friendly and low-key affair. Yes, the presentations by Watts, David Archibald and Bob Carter left a bit to be desired in terms of accuracy, detail, or dare I say facts, but I was glad to have the opportunity to listen to the talks, and to ask questions (my iPhone app definitely came in handy!).
You can read more details about the event here; but I feel like I learnt some important lessons from this experience. Although not without its difficulties, direct engagement with climate skeptics has to occur if we want to move the public discussion beyond is or is it not happening, and towards getting on with the work that is needed to reach a safe climate. And by engaging, I don’t mean having an argument (however tempting it might be in cases where misleading tactics are used), or necessarily waving placards and protesting when climate skeptic tours roll into town – but simply asking questions and talking with those who have different opinions. Young people have good reason to be frustrated by the public confusion that climate skeptics such as Watts insist on generating, but do have an important role to play in countering their effects.
The impact of the youth voice in the climate debate is apparently not something that has escaped the attention of some skeptics, who are now developing programs specifically targeted at young people who more “readily believe” the climate science. In his recent visit to Australia, 350.org founder Bill McKibben recently praised the Australian youth climate movement in Australia, saying that “it’s high time the rest of us got in line behind their leadership”. It might seem easier to think that climate skeptics will simply fade away over time, and we would be better off getting on with the job of working on projects with our local communities, and calling for action at the national and international level. The fact is that all of these things are all important- which is why a large, motivated and active youth climate movement is needed to make the impact necessary to generate the changes that we want to see, and also why it is such an exciting thing to be a part of.
UQ Climate for Change is a small, but dedicated group of students and staff at the University of Queensland who are involved in climate advocacy and awareness projects at UQ, and our members are often involved more broadly through campaigns at state & national levels. As part of the AYCC’s Climate Reality Week this year, we were very grateful to have John Cook from Skeptical Science give a presentation on the reality of climate change, followed by a panel discussion including experts in climate science and environmental law. We also encourage the UQ community to share their own climate reality through banner writing, climate facts sheets and of course, lots of cake (our carbon footprint recipe is a speciality!).
As well as participating in events such as AYCC’s Youth Decide and the 350.org global day of action, a core interest for UQCfC to raise awareness within the UQ community not only about climate change, but more broadly about sustainability. We believe that our Universities, as centres of learning, research and critical thought, have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in environmental management and in research and education for sustainability. We successfully campaigned for UQ to sign the Tallories Declaration – a ten point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy into all aspects of the universities teaching, research, operations and outreach. Our aim is for UQ to have a systemic and co-ordinated ‘Sustainability Plan’ that outlines how to implement these actions. As part of our ongoing work, we recently we made a submission to the first part of the drafting process for a sustainability plan, which focussed on how to integrate sustainability into teaching and learning at UQ.
Climate change and sustainability are issues that affect everyone, no matter what your background, interests or career path – which is why it’s important for everyone to become motivated to act collectively and in their own lives, and to learn about the changes that are needed to reach a safer climate. If you’re not already involved with the AYCC’s activities, or part of a climate action group in your school, university or local community, then now is the time to take part. Everybody has a role to play, no matter how big or small – because the changes that can be made by working collectively with each other are a force to be reckoned with.
Written by Megan Evans from University of Queensland Climate for Change.