What does Climate Change mean to me?
Hurricanes, cyclones, hail storms, droughts, heatwaves, dry thunderstorms, and wildfires. I feel a spur of apprehension when writing these words as I am reminded of the devastating impacts of the events that are occurring due to the global crisis of climate change.
The 2019 Australian Bushfires were a pivotal moment in my perception of climate change. The impact of climate change is expressed through these bushfires that reaped devastation to our families, our communities, our biodiversity, and to our nation. The initial fear of the walls of fire that only nightmares should be made of, and the ongoing devastation that was seen long after the fires were extinguished. The families left homeless or suffering due to the loss of their loved ones. The brave Firies who barely slept, working around the clock to save lives, homes, and wildlife. The images of torment left behind when the fires had passed. The desperation of our unofficial emblem, the Koala, with tufts of burnt fur and skin, burnt pads on their feet, and so weak and thirsty that they’re clutching for life. It is this devastation and distress that has instilled a sadness in my heart which is provoked at the mention of these bushfires.
Then there was the overwhelming support of our extended community, and the heartfelt assistance sent from every side of the globe to carry the affected Australians through one of the most devastating natural disaster events of our time. Our neighboring allies New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu sent financial assistance, and brave troops to help fight the fires. Funds were raised for disaster relief from places all over the globe. It is this collaborative effort in support of our nation that leaves me with the hope that COP26 will do the same, but this time, in support of our planet. As Mia Mottley, the Barbados Prime Minister pleaded at the COP26 summit, we must “Try harder”.
The 2019 Australian bushfires should have been a major factor influencing our politicians when making commitments during COP26. The absence of the Australian pledge to phase out coal, and reduce methane emissions was instead a cop-out from our leaders. The lack of our government’s commitment to curbing rising global temperatures, resulting in a reduction of similar catastrophic events to that of the 2019 bushfires, has been met with disappointment and betrayal amongst many global citizens.
Climate anxiety has been a weight on mine, and many of my peer’s shoulders, and as we know, this weight is becoming ever more pronounced as time moves forward. As an environmental science student, a large portion of my course content focuses on sustainability and climate change. I have had many discussions based on these topics in my courses at Griffith University, and within the Common Purpose Global Citizenship Program, an extra-curricular program held in collaboration with Griffith University and a number of Universities in the Asia-Pacific region. I was asked to co-present at the QS Apple 2021 virtual event alongside Veena Haran, the Asia-Pacific Director at Common Purpose Student Experiences, where I expressed my feelings towards the importance that virtual mobility and sustainable practices be adopted and emphasised within universities worldwide. From these conversations, it is obvious that myself and my peers are very concerned about the future of our planet, and that we are not alone in feeling concern, disappointment, anxiety, and apprehension.
In collaboration with five other universities, a global survey funded by non-profit organisation Avaaz and led by Bath University, England, studied 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 over ten countries to identify the emotional impact of climate change on our youth, the future leaders of the planet. The emotional toll described in this survey can be extended to that felt by myself and my peers.
- Almost 60% of young people said they felt very worried or extremely worried.
- Over 45% said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.
- Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening.
- 56% say they think humanity is doomed.
- Two-thirds described that they feel sad, afraid and anxious, whilst many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame, but also, and importantly, many felt hope.
For me, the most devastating bottom line of climate change is that it is our naivety, ignorance, disrespect, and disregard of this beautiful planet and its innocent organisms, which have caused the damage that we so desperately need to undo.
COP26 has shown the world that we are taking steps to progress to a more sustainable future in order to mitigate the changing climate. Nevertheless, we must continue to speak up for climate justice and make a call to action. Put a halt to green-washing and lobbyists, and ensure our governments and industry leaders actively take onus of these so far non-binding pledges whilst removing the “Blah blah”, as Greta Thunberg so passionately described it. This must be done by defining the key terms used in these pledges, and committing them to climate legislation.
With many countries pledging a 30% decrease in methane emissions in the next decade, and many others agreeing to the phase-out of coal power, it is important to be optimistic of our future but to proceed with caution that these pledges become more than just their signatory’s words. Some of the countries who contribute largely to deforestation such as Australia, Brazil, and Indonesia have pledged to halt and reverse deforestation, yet the uncertainty of commitment to this pledge displayed by the Indonesian Environmental Minister is an example as to why we should be cautious that these pledges are still just words. The cross-cultural collaboration, and support exhibited by COP26 must continue for progress in developing countries. All nations must contribute to the transformative action presented by COP26 and be held accountable, otherwise the pledges at this summit will become more words silently left in the past.
So, what does climate change mean to me? Put simply, it means staying up to date with sustainable knowledge and adapting my lifestyle. It means educating my peers and the wider community to reduce their footprint. It means encouraging governments and industry leaders to adopt emission reduction commitments in order to save our mother Earth in the hope to provide a more sustainable and positive future for ourselves and generations to come.
Fortunately, through my degree and my community, I am learning to manage the emotions provoked by climate change by understanding its influences and the mitigation and adaptation techniques necessary to lead our planet away from this road of anthropological destruction. With an increase in education, and the inspiration of leaders for climate justice, such as David Attenborough, Johan Rockstrom, and Greta Thunberg, it is still possible to work together to allow our motivation and dedication to overcome our fear and anxiety of what is to come.
By Bachelor of Science student, Shannon Langford.