informing, connecting, activating, actioning

(Renewable) Power to the People

Shifting from Debate & Despair to Determination & Solutions

Article by: Sandy McCathie. Sandy is a Sustainability Advisor (ecoSAVVY), a Climate Reality Leader and North Queensland Community Ambassador for Earth Hour Action. Sandy has two children and has lived in Townsville for 12 years. Sandy can be contacted on

The people of the world have a problem. It’s called Global Warming (Climate Change). It is real and it is happening now.

Emissions of carbon dioxide, predominantly from the burning of fossil fuels (wood, coal, oil and gas) are warming the planet. It is affecting our climate, our ecosystems and us, and it will affect almost every aspect of our lives and of those who come after us. 

Right now, individuals, businesses and community organisations are stepping up and being heard saying loudly ‘We want climate action and policy that will support us in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables.’ Can you or a group you’re involved with step up too?

The fossil fuel industry has a problem too. If the people of the earth want to have an 80% chance of stabilising the temperature of the planet, by 2050, the world can only burn 20% of the world’s existing coal, oil and gas reserves (Carbon Tracker, Unburnable Carbon, 2011). There is an urgent need to transition from fossil fuels to renewables (solar, wind, and clean energy technologies).

Transitioning to renewables means that those who are heavily invested in the businesses of mining, refining and marketing of coal, oil and gas, and who have provided us with the fossil fuels we’ve depended upon to power and develop the world, have a lot at stake.

The fossil fuel industry is protecting their interests vigorously. The powerful climate change denial lobby has been effective in putting the case of keeping the status quo and protecting the interests of those benefiting from the extraction and sale of fossil fuels. "Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat.“(R. Brulle, 2014, Climatic Change, Vol. 122, Iss. 4).

Which leads to our collective problem. According to the CSIRO’s latest annual survey (2014) of Australian attitudes to climate change, whilst 81% of Australians believe climate change is happening, only 47% believe that humans are significantly contributing to it. 39% still believe it’s a natural fluctuation in the earth’s temperature, and 13% either believe climate change is not happening or have no idea whether it’s happening or not.

For large numbers in our communities, our leaders included, there is both not an understanding that we are the main cause and significantly, no urgency.  All of us have a responsibility to become informed about the harsh realities of not acting on climate change/global warming, and for those who are informed, right now particularly is the time to be seen, heard and in action.

North and Far North Queenslanders are already experiencing the impacts of global warming, e.g stronger cyclones, heavier downpours/flooding, warmer oceans, drought. And, as we continuously respond to the new parameters for life on earth and the further impacts from additional warming, climate change is going to make achieving improvements in all of the aspects of our life that are important to us (our wellbeing, our natural environment, our food, our physical and psychological health, our education and information systems, community connectedness, safety, peace, stability, please add your own…) so much harder. Why? Because we’ll be increasingly diverting resources into disaster recovery (both physical for example infrastructure and human, for example the psychological effects from trauma and losses), into protecting ourselves from extreme weather events, from bushfires, from water and food shortages, from new health risks, from climate refugees and from political instability.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

According to the Climate Council (Australia’s crowd funded climate change research and advisory organisation) this is the critical decade for actions and solutions. Australia’s communities and leaders must accept that the transition to renewables is inevitable and we must continue Australia’s progress to limit its carbon emissions and support the world in travelling that path also.

The challenge, should we wish to accept it, is to achieve global carbon neutrality by 2050. Clearly this sounds extreme, but only because we haven’t imagined it fully, and haven’t been discussing it in the mainstream public realm; haven’t been fully giving it the attention and resources it so urgently requires.

Collectively, leaders included, the majority of Australians must accept that we are experiencing the end of the age of fossil fuels and the age of renewables has begun. For North Queenslanders there’s so much at stake, not least our lifestyle, jobs, our ecosystems, tourism, fisheries and our reef.

So what can you do….there is actually a lot. Pick one strategy that appeals to you, think when and how you’ll do it, and follow it through….

I like to remember a quote from Anna Rose, National Manager for Earth Hour: ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something’. 

So what can you do? Get more informed; become involved in active community groups; take personal action at home or work to adopt energy efficiency measures and incorporate renewable energy; talk about the importance of acting to limit global warming; join the divestment movement; correct incorrect information; raise awareness amongst your family, friends, social and work groups; lend support for stronger climate policy in Australia and internationally – sign petitions, participate in the Global Day of Climate Action on September 21; and, in particular right now, support the retention of Australia’s renewable energy target (RET) without it being watered down.

Coming up on the 16-17th September 2014, the annual global online movement, 24 Hours of Reality will be live streamed globally uniting millions in communities all around the world in HOPE for climate action. Last year, I found 24 Hours of Reality transformative viewing. This year, Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project will be presenting 24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope. Watch it alone or with company. But do watch it. It will empower you.

With hope. Power to the people!