17 Jun 2019

Climate Reality Leadership – it’s for all of us

Posted in: Toitū Together

Climate Reality Leadership – it’s for all of us

Last week, four members of our expert team; Sophia White, Ronja Lidenhammar, Kate Ellingham and Bronwyn Cook, were honoured to attend former US Vice President Al Gore’s brainchild The Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps training in Brisbane, Australia.

Climate Reality Leadership Corps

The opportunity was compelling; discussing the latest climate science, hearing from inspirational speakers, learning from expert communicators and connecting with change-makers from across the world. There were over 700 trainees at the event, all with the aim of spreading the word about climate change and inspiring action.

Vice President Gore delivered his famous presentation on the climate crisis and its solutions. The presentation is constantly evolving from his “An Inconvenient Truth” days, and he regularly updates his examples to demonstrate climate change in action. He commented, in reference to examples of extreme flood events, that these are now so common that he can update his slide deck by “googling last week”.

Queensland’s Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science, and Minister for the Arts, The Honourable Leeanne Enoch, represented Queensland’s perspective as the host state, in the midst of their inaugural Climate Week. She called our current decades as, “our speck in time, probably the most important speck in time the entire human race has ever faced”. She urged us to “lean in and lead through” in the face of climate change, adding that cohesion at all levels enables us to do this despite the difficulties we face.

There were compelling stories from a diverse range of speakers. Two School Strike for Climate representatives emphasised their inherent right to shape their future by “refusing to accept climate ignorance”. Pasifika climate warrior, Joseph-Zane Sikulu, urged that “connection at this moment is what the world needs”. Sheree Marris, a marine biologist, drew on her science background to point out that, “if an animal without a brain can work in a collective to make the world’s largest living structure (coral) – then what can we achieve?”

Professor Don Henry, Professor Xuemei Bai, Professor David Karoly and Dr Anne Poelina also painted a frightening picture of what the world would look like at the end of this century if we continue on our current emissions trajectory and the global temperature rises by five degrees or higher. Some places on earth will be uninhabitable, all land and sea ice will melt, and the seas will rise by 100 metres. Most coastal infrastructure (remember that the majority of world’s population live on the coast) will be lost.

Some communities don’t have to wait for the end of the century to see how uninhabitable their home will be. Mayor Fred Gela of the Torres Strait Islands Regional Council (an Australian local authority) highlighted his community’s struggle. The culture and way of life of his island people is being destroyed, as the rising sea level erodes the land, takes it away, exposes burial sites and forces families to face the traumatising task of reburying their dead.

But it was not all bleak, and many experts gave advice as to how to make a difference. Overwhelmingly this was to humanise climate change – tell people’s stories, and make it relatable. We take action when we recognise ourselves, so make sure there is diversity amongst the decision makers at the table. Anna Skarbek, CEO of ClimateWorks Australia, also advised remaining calm and kind when with climate change deniers. Denial can develop from a number of different reasons and it can help to think about why a person might not believe the evidence.

The Investor Group on Climate Change’s CEO, Emma Herd, also talked about the investment community's attitude to climate change. While it is a significant risk for companies, it is also an opportunity to make lasting and meaningful change -  one that business would be crazy to miss out on.

Climate Reality Leadership Corp

Our top three key takeaways from the conference:

  1. Climate change is happening now, and we need to act urgently (we have the need, the tools and the will to do so).
  2. Success will be from working together - collaboration is key (this means drawing skills and knowledge from all communities).
  3. It needs to be a fair and just transition for all.

The three days of training was intense. While it was incredibly confronting, it was overwhelmingly hopeful to realise that we already know the issues, and have to the tools to bend the curve on emissions. The message is for all of us, and Vice President Gore summarised the urgency of the climate crisis with the simple phrase, “we have got to move faster”.

Would your organisation or community like to hear the Climate Crisis presentation?

Our team of Climate Reality Leaders can help, get in touch.