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Alarm bells ringing for climate action

As the debate around climate change continue to intensify over a summer of devastating fires, floods and drought, Marguerite Marshall argues now is the time to take decisive action on the issue and has some suggestions for how readers can help do their part.

Christians understand that new life can spring from devastation. From the despair of Jesus’ death came his resurrection and faith that changed the world.

We’re taught that no matter how horrific circumstances can be, trusting in God and showing love, brings life.

This can help us be strong in the face of Australia’s horrific and unprecedented bushfires. Scientists say that these will worsen as the world’s climate heats up as part of climate change.

Nearly all the world’s climate scientists have warned us of this threat for decades, but leaders influenced by fossil fuel interests, have not responded accordingly.

Now Australia’s devastating bushfires grabbing international attention, are being widely recognised as caused by climate change.

As a foretaste of what is to come this could drive us to despair or we could view it as an opportunity. These bushfires could be the trigger for a safe climate future.

Scientists say that extreme weather will worsen as the world heats up. Already, at a little over one degree hotter than the pre-industrial age, we are experiencing such horrific unprecedented bushfires.  

Yet the UN 2015 Paris climate conference, agreed to keep heating preferably to no more than 1.5 degrees. And at the world’s current rate of greenhouse gas emissions growth, the global temperature is likely to exceed three degrees.

But emissions must start dropping this year, according to Mission 2020 co-founded by the Paris climate conference executive secretary, Christiana Figueres.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says carbon emissions must fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, to “net zero” around 2050.

So do we just ignore this as being too hard to achieve and carry on with our everyday lives: except of course for those who are impacted by devastating bushfires?

Now that it’s clear that civilisation as we know it is threatened unless we change, we are seeing business groups and conservative politicians saying that we must act.

We need to change and quickly. But, how? There is reason to hope this can happen.

A major cause of climate change is the use of coal and other fossil fuels. Most renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels and costs are dropping quickly, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable energy intermittency can be avoided by using a mix of wind, solar and hydro power, batteries and strengthened grids, according to studies such as by the multi award-winning thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions. They also demonstrate how renewable energy could provide more jobs than are in the fossil fuel industry.

People say that Australia is too small to make a difference. However we are one of the world’s top coal exporters and we can make a difference by, for instance, not developing new coal plants like the one that Adani wants to build in Queensland.

In emergencies change can happen quickly such as in World War Two, when the United States changed its war economy to one larger than the enemy in a few years.

Financial and practical rewards can bring speedy action. In the early 1980s a McKinsey study estimated how many mobile phones would be used globally at the turn of the century. They estimated 900 000. Instead before then there were 900 000 new subscribers every three days.  

So these bushfires could be the turning point the world needs for speedy change.

At last communities at large know what is in store for the world and worse, if we don’t act now.

We have the answers.

As Christians we can’t ignore anything that is harming God’s creation, so let us do what we can and make it clear to our leaders that it’s in their interests to act now.

Here are some suggested personal actions to take and encourage your family and friends to also do.

  • Install solar panels, solar hot water service, (check federal and state government financial assistance for solar systems) buy electric vehicle or hybrid electric vehicle, particularly if usually make short trips.
  • Cut meat and dairy consumption as cattle cause around 14 per cent of GHG emissions.
  • Add your voice to calls for all tiers of government to declare climate emergency action including:
    • No new coal, oil or gas projects
    • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
    • Funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities”.

Marguerite Marshall

Marguerite Marshall is a Uniting Church member and a writer who was trained by Al Gore as a climate reality project leader.


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