My kids and I attended the People’s Climate rally on the weekend, joining thousands of people in Brisbane and hundreds of thousands around the world to demand action on climate change. Marching through the streets with a two- and a four-year old, a dodgy pram and three cardboard signs is tricky, but it was well worth the effort. I’m not embarrassed to say I was almost in tears at some points, feeling hopeful that the movement is gaining traction and we might actually get somewhere in time.
The signs we made for the kids said “Coal is not my future” and a discussion on Facebook over the weekend has prompted me to explain the meaning of this here today.
Whaddya mean “no coal”?
As you know, climate change is already happening: we’re in our 354th consecutive month of above-average global temperatures (compared to last century), sea levels have risen, ice caps have shrunk and extreme weather events are now more likely than ever before. We are dangerously close to what scientists call “tipping points”, which will push us into out-of-control climate change.
Phew, scary stuff, right?
BUT it is widely believed that we can still reign in the beast and fall short of these tipping points, but it’s going to take massive, collaborative global action. Remember when we all decided a hole in the ozone layer was a bad thing and the whole world stopped pumping out the chemicals causing it? Similar deal, only the thing we need to stop doing is so fundamentally ingrained in our economy that it’s going to less comfortable than switching to roll-on deodorant.
Digging up coal, drilling for oil and sucking out natural gas then burning all of the above for energy is one of the leading contributors to climate change—it also happens to be one we can do something about. By switching to renewables – solar, wind, thermo etc – we can stop pushing out the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. This has been happening and renewables make up an impressive chunk of the world’s energy need, but the move away from coal, oil, gas needs to happen faster, much faster – hence the People’s Climate rally and the emergency summit called by Bahn Ki Moon that starts today in New York.
But I don’t want to go back to the dark ages!
When I say coal is not my kids’ future, I don’t mean tomorrow. I’m thinking a little more long-term than that (but way less long-term than our government). Yes my lights are powered by coal every evening and yes I put petrol in my car. I’m asking the government, industry and powers-that-be to make it so I don’t have to do these things.
So what do I want?
- Committed and sustained investment in improving renewable energy
- The decision to phase out coal plants
- No more coal mines – spend the money on renewables
- Support for homeowners making the switch to renewables
- The development of infrastructure that helps us move over to electric cars
- Improvements in public transport instead of more roads
The switch to a renewable-energy economy doesn’t have to be painful, other countries are doing a great job of it and, for the average citizen, life goes on as normal. Being an optimist, I have a pretty rosy view of my kids’ future – one where people share more than they own, are connected to their food source and have cheap, reliable energy powered by the sun, wind and sea. Coal (and gas and oil) is simply not in the picture.
What’s your vision for a cleaner, greener Australia?