Leadership in a Changing Climate. Does anyone really have the courage to take it on?

In Australia, we struggle to get the climate change discussion past immediate hip-pocket lines. Our public debate isn’t about the sort of future we want. Rather it’s much more around the fear of change and potential pain.

Tonight (Thursday 29 September 2011) some leading voices from South Australia try to step out of the immediate, lead our thoughts to possible futures, engage our hopes and potentials and, help think through the leadership needed to answer this pressing challenge.

This is at a Leadership and Climate Change Forum. Annabel Crabb, it’s moderator, points out we’re living in a modern day tragedy:

On climate change, this nation [Australia] essentially had consensus in 2007; our politicians applied themselves diligently to the situation and four short years later we’ve got a pile of political roadkill, a confused and hostile electorate and two protagonists who nobody likes, shouting themselves hoarse while their offsiders go through each others’ bins…

So how do we get past this? Panelist Senator Penny Wong says:

We have to continue to talk to the Australian people, talk with the Australian people about why action on climate change is important, why we can’t just let this go, why we can’t just say, ‘Let’s leave this for someone else to deal with.’

For panelist David Klingberg some of this is a mix of government and personal leadership:

I resent the government typecasting emitters as polluters; if you want collaboration it is not the right way to go about it. … In some ways I’m providing leadership by supporting what the Commonwealth has done with some modifications, the problem is with the industry there are a lot of people with vested interests.

In these quotes – and the longer articles they come from – there are many paradoxes. Conflicting positions that seemingly defy logic. Niki Vincent from the Leaders Institute of SA (which is organising tonight’s forum along with the Environment Institute) helps us to step through some of these issues.

Climate change is an adaptive problem – not a technical problem. Adaptive problems are tangled, complex, and involve multiple systems. Solving them requires new learning, creativity, innovation and new patterns of behaviour – changes of hearts and minds. Painful adjustments.

Another paradox is we have compelling evidence that action is in our interests. But our society is seemingly cognitively avoiding connecting with this evidence. We would say that we want a better life. But we don’t act to create it at anything like the rate that makes rational sense.

These conflicts and contradictions are inherent to any complex problem. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t solve them even though we will make many mistakes while doing so.

There’s a high powered panel discussing this tonight.
The livestream is here at 6pm Adelaide time and these are the instructions if you need help. Panel is:

  • Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation in the Gillard Labor Government,
  • Andrew Stock, Director, Executive Projects, Origin Energy Ltd
  • David Klingberg, Chairman of Centrex Metals and former chairman of the Premier’s Climate Change Council.
  • The Right Honourable Stephen Yarwood, Lord Mayor of Adelaide
  • Professor Mike Young, Executive Director of the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute
  • David Knox, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Santos Ltd

All facilitated by Annabel Crabb – political commentator and the ABC’s chief online political writer.

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