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Australian climate strike sees record turnout of over 300,000 supporters

Rich Bowden

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Australia Climate Strike in Sydney

Organizers of Australia’s School Strike for Climate have estimated over 300,000 students and supporters gathered on Friday to protest the government’s inaction on climate change. The strikes, which shut down city centers, were timed to occur before a key UN climate summit in New York next week. Part of the global movement, the Australian crowds were around double those of the March 2019 protests.

Australia climate strike sets the standard

Swedish student and climate activist Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the school strike for climate movement, tweeted that Australia was setting the standard for the massive worldwide protests.

“Incredible pictures as Australia’s gathering for the #climatestrike. This is the huge crowd building up in Sydney. Australia is setting the standard! Its bedtime in New York…so please share as many pictures as you can as the strikes move across Asia to Europe and Africa!”

Students who had left classes on the day to attend the strike were joined by thousands of people in support of the strike’s aims. Organizers claimed strikers were joined by 2,500 businesses including Atlassian, Canva, Domain and Intrepid, over 30 Australian unions and churches including the Anglican Church and Uniting Church.

The Australian school strike for climate has focused on putting pressure on the federal government in three main areas:

  • 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”.

Adani coal mine focus for action

Many of the Australian protests were directed at the proposed giant Adani coal mine in the Galilee basin in Queensland, Australia. Fifteen-year-old Harriet O’Shea Carre, one of the original organizers of the Australian climate protests, took her protest to AIG, who have agreed to provide insurance for the Indian coal giant. 

“Alongside hundreds of thousands of young people across Australia, I have been raising my voice and taking to the streets to stop the construction of Adani’s massive coal mine,” she said. “As children, we are going to be living in this hot world far longer than the adults who are making these decisions for us, like the executives at AIG, and we know that our future cannot be one that is powered by coal and other fossil fuels.”

Australian PM elects to not attend UN climate summit

Despite the support shown by Australians for action on climate change, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has elected not to attend the UN climate summit. This despite meeting US President Donald Trump and senior officials nearby as part of a state visit. Mr Morrison’s decision has been criticised by many Australians. They say it shows the conservative government’s support of fossil fuel projects in the country and “do-nothing” approach to the climate emergency.

However, Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley hit back at climate protestors claiming the federal government was already concerned about the climate crisis and was taking appropriate action. 

“I can assure everyone that our attention is already there,” she said in a statement. “We are taking real and coordinated global action on climate change while ensuring our economy remains strong.”

Millions strike worldwide

The climate strikes, which had started in the Asia Pacific and ended in New York — where the UN climate summit will be held —  attracted an estimated four million people worldwide. Held in more than 150 countries, the protests are being described as the world’s largest-ever climate protest. 

Recent figures have shown a rise in emissions despite a dire warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we have less than a decade to act if we are to have any hope of keeping global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Protestors hope their actions will help influence decision-makers attending the summit to act on this information.

Advocacy

World War Zero: Leonardo DiCaprio, John Kerry, And Others Start Climate Coalition

Haider Sarwar

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John Kerry starts World War Zero, a new climate coalition

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and others, have started a climate coalition called World War Zero to combat climate change. By spreading the word, Kerry’s team hopes to add to the momentum of the climate activism movement. Along with Greta Thunberg’s push for action, World War Zero intends to inform people around the country about the devastating effects of climate change.

What The World War Zero Coalition Entails

Under President Trump’s administration, the US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord in a year. Of course, most Americans aren’t happy with the decision. Still, the Trump administration plans to leave the accord.

Trump claims that “The Paris accord will undermine the economy.” The withdrawal, however, will undermine the effects of climate change.

Desiring to better inform individuals, John Kerry and his partners hope to create more initiative for climate activism.

With big names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bill Clinton, the coalition aims to “Mobilize an army of people who are going to demand action now on climate change sufficient to meet the challenge.”

Specifically, members of the union will travel to many places to spread the word about climate change. From traveling to swing states before the 2020 elections to military bases, individuals can learn about climate issues.

Moreover, representatives of the coalition can advertise their personal opinion on the topic.

Why The Work Matters

In an interview with the New York Times, Kerry stated that the World War Zero coalition isn’t attempting to propose a specific plan. There are people who believe in many different plans in this coalition.

While free to advertise these proposals, the World War Zero coalition shares a universal goal: to simply inform the public. Katie Eder, a member of the coalition, stated that “collaboration is key to our survival.”

Furthermore, people may create a unified understanding of the detriments of climate change by hearing the many different proposals.

In a bleak report by the UN, the richest countries in the world aren’t doing enough to lower carbon emissions. Another report also illustrates that global emissions today are extraordinarily off track from achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

By using the “World War” rhetoric, Kerry hopes to display the global risk that climate change poses to everyone.

There Needs To Be An Attitude Shift

A change in attitude towards climate change is imperative. Companies and politicians are constantly making promises. However, in the end, only action will truly make a difference.

Like John Kerry’s World War Zero coalition, the spread of information is among the most important methods of initiating action. Along with the movement started by Greta Thunberg, Kerry’s coalition proves that the momentum for change is building up.

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Most Australians Want Businesses To Be Fully Powered By Renewables, Poll Finds

Rich Bowden

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Renewables

A whopping 68.5 percent of respondents urged Australian businesses to source power entirely from renewables, according to a uComms poll. Moreover, the poll also found that 78.9 percent of people wanted businesses to use more solar and wind energy. Additionally, some 65.7 percent said they would be more likely to buy products or services from companies that do so. It is safe to say that the poll is a signal.

Australians Want More Action On Climate Change And Pivot Towards Renewables

The poll finds Australians want the business community to do more to integrate renewables into their energy mix.

“This poll clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of Australians want businesses and corporations to step up and take action on climate change,” Lindsay Soutar, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, says in a media statement.

He was quick to point out Australia’s over-reliance on the fossil fuel industry. Consequently, he believes the issue is something the business community needs to address.

“The biggest driver of climate change in Australia is coal, which is still burned to make a large amount of our electricity.

“As some of Australia’s biggest users of electricity, businesses and corporations have an obligation to clean up their act and make the move to 100% renewable energy,” he added.  

Businesses Respond To Call For Renewables

There are many examples of Australian businesses that are already committing to change towards a renewable energy future. One is the banking and investment firm Macquarie Group. The company recently announced it has joined a new sustainability initiative.

It is the RE100 initiative, which encourages influential businesses to source their entire energy supply from renewables.

“Macquarie will seek to develop projects to supply the green energy for its new Sydney headquarters and Melbourne office,” said the bank in a recent media release. “Macquarie has been carbon neutral in sourcing its energy supply since 2010 through the purchase of carbon credits.”

“The commitment from Macquarie Group means that it now joins the ‘Big Four’ Australian banks in agreeing to source all of their electricity consumption from renewable sources under the RE100 initiative.”

Macquarie Continues To Support Fossil Fuel Investments

However, while Macquerie’s public pledge to source 100 percent of its energy from renewables has been applauded, others remain skeptical. Even some of Macquerie’s own shareholders question Macquarie’s continued investment in fossil fuels.

Market Forces reported that Macquarie’s shareholders have grilled the company over its financial backing of oil, gas and coal projects. After all, why would it do so after announcing a global risk scenario analysis on climate change?

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Al Gore Calls Climate Change The “Single Biggest Investment Opportunity In History”

Maddie Blaauw

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Al Gore

At a recent event in San Francisco, former Vice President Al Gore spoke about the economic benefits of dealing with climate change now, rather than putting it off or trying to avoid it altogether. According to Gore, one way to motivate people to fund research for and invest in new solutions to climate change is the shift the way we are looking at the problem. For some, the monetary motivation of framing climate change as “the single biggest investment opportunity in history” may help them get behind the cause. 

How big does Al Gore estimate the solution of this problem to be? To put things in perspective, he claimed that “the sustainability revolution has the magnitude of the agricultural and industrial revolutions but the speed of the digital revolution.”

Al Gore’s Involvement In Climate Activism

Al Gore is not a newcomer to climate activism. Though his activism began when he was a politician, one of Gore’s more famous pushes for climate action was his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, released in 2006.

Now, Al Gore gives frequent talks all over the country. He also puts on a climate awareness event called “24 hours of reality”. This year’s event just occurred on this past Wednesday and Thursday. 

So, What Is The Payoff?

It’s difficult to quantify the exact payoff of resolving the climate crisis. However, it is not too difficult to imagine the losses that would occur if current emissions and pollution rates continue. 

The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that the global economy would undoubtably shrink. Current estimates hover around 3% in the next 30 years if climate change goes untreated.

One of Trump’s main reasons for retreating from the Paris Agreement is because of claimed economic burden. He also lifted or loosened innumerable environmental regulations, using this same reasoning.

However, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in August, the growth per capita could decrease by 10.5% by the end of the century without climate change action starting now.

A Problem Too Costly To Ignore

Letting the problem of global warming sit for the next 81 years could also have direct costs to nations across the world as we attempt to deal with repercussions. The most costly and evident now include dealing with natural disasters and increased premature death.

Other concerns include lost property on coasts due to rising sea levels and lost wages due to heat waves.

Specifically in the United States, The Fourth National Climate Assessment predicted some dire impacts by the end of the century. Some of the highest costs would come from heat-related deaths at an estimated $141 billion.

Another is lost wages in outdoor industries due to heat waves at $155 billion, and lost coastal property at $118 billion. 

A Look Forward

The biggest reasons for fighting climate change shouldn’t be purely economical. Instead, they should be rooted in the ethical obligation of maintaining the planet for ourselves and our posterity. However, different arguments can spur more action and persuade a larger audience to fight for change.

Thus, looking at climate change from an economic perspective might help to foster changes to prevent tragedy.

If we deal with climate change effectively and with a strong commitment, then we can reap the benefits. If we let the problem sit and grow worse, then we will pay the price.

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