Why aren’t we convinced?

While the science of climate change is undeniable it does not mean everyone is convinced. I recently presented at an event with Ian Plimer, a leading climate sceptic, followed this week by lunch with Senator Nick Minchin. Senator Minchin led the opposition to Australia’s emissions trading legislation.

So the question is why? Messrs Plimer and Minchin passionately argue against the evidence.* They equally passionately argue we shouldn’t take action on climate change, even just to insure ourselves against risk.

The insurance argument is compelling. You and I insure our homes against less than a 1% chance of fire destroying the house. So why wouldn’t we take out climate insurance, lower our emissions, generate profits from efficiency and be part of the next green industrial revolution? Ultimately, the direct cost of climate change action is probably 1 to 2 percent of global GDP. For Australians that’s an average of $8 to $16 a week.

This makes logical sense. But as Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism, puts it in an interview with philosopher Ken Wilber, ‘when something is not working we tend to argue harder on the logic’. You’ll hear stories listening to a Plimer presentation. Emotive pleas to prioritise far more important issues from Minchin. And it feels so reassuring not to have to act, not to do things differently.

So what’s the story of climate change action? It’s partly the reason for this blog (and GreenMode). Stories of success, innovation and adaptation – the visionaries and people that are defining the future. It grows from the way it makes us feel and those around us, as much if not more as from the logic of climate science.

* Senator Minchin and Prof Plimer background includes: Four Corners and Minchin; Questions to Minchin at lunch; and, George Monbiot and Ian Plimer.

Climate warming

There’s plenty of evidence linking our human activities climate change. Over the last decade we’re also moving from projections about change to observation of changes.

The most recent example in Australia is the Weather Bureau and CSIRO State of the Climate report.

It finds all of Australia has experienced warming over the past 50 years.

It’s a trend that continues. Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5 ºC by 2030. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2 to 5.0 ºC by 2070.

The picture shows average temperature rises from 1960 to 2009. Source: State of the Climate.

Emissions down – and it pays!

Figures released by the Climate Group show Australian emissions from energy use across four states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria – fell 1.6 per cent over the past three months. These three months of summer often see big jumps in power use. It’s the hottest time of the year, air conditioners are running full bore and this Australian summer was hotter than average.

Cut energy use and you cut your costs. That is a lot of these sorts of changes are profitable. The big picture is if we put some of the profits into generating renewable energy, Australia could cut emissions 35% by 2030 – at no cost! For details on how see the McKinsey Greenhouse Gas cost curves.

But can you really make this change? The picture shows a recent addition at my house – a pergola shading north facing windows. The heat reflective panels (opaque) are for summer. When the sun is lower in winter is will warm the house through the clear panels on the left.

The cost? This was financed with an Australian Government Green Loan. The monthly payments on this loan for summer are approximately equal to the power we saved by not using the air conditioning. The bonus – the north facing rooms in the house are noticeably cooler and, in a couple of years, we’ll be banking the savings!