‘We’re not about to back down’: how climate experts hold hope despite the IPCC report | Rob Law, Joëlle Gergis, Rebecca Huntley, Joseph Moeono-Kolio, Bill Hare

‘We’re not about to back down’: how climate experts hold hope despite the IPCC report | Rob Law, Joëlle Gergis, Rebecca Huntley, Joseph Moeono-Kolio, Bill Hare


‘Let’s ramp it up’

The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has left many of us feeling despondent and full of despair for the future of the planet. It is often said that action is the antidote to anxiety and despair. The problem for most people though is what action should that be? Recycling, or riding to work can feel futile when at the same time political leaders announce a new coalmine the size of Sydney. Here is why I am still feeling hopeful.

Over the past few years I have witnessed an enormous growth and diversification in the climate movement compared to when I started out in the early 2000s. In the absence of federal leadership, communities around Australia are stepping up to fill the void. More than 100 jurisdictions throughout Australia have declared climate emergencies across metropolitan, regional and rural communities. There are now thousands of different place-based and interest-based communities of climate action.

The powerful groups and individuals that have purposefully slowed climate action for decades have never been so vulnerable. Across the globe we are seeing markets dramatically shift away from fossil fuels and a crumbling of the empires that have built their fortunes on the planet’s demise. This is because regular people continue to find new ways to challenge, whether it’s through the courts, through the boardrooms and AGMs, or through the ballot box.

We can all lift our ambition on what we can do, some of us in small ways, some of us in big ways. We are continually seeing the ripple effect of small actions. This can be the decade that these ripples combine into a tidal wave of change – before the real tidal waves claim us all. Let’s ramp it up.

Rob Law is the CEO of the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance. He is also a co-producer of End Game Media, a podcast dedicated to the climate crisis, and a film composer

‘There is still so much worth saving’

In the aftermath of the release of the latest IPCC report, it’s very easy to feel crushed by a barrage of unbearable realities. But as one of the scientists involved in the report, I want to say that humans have the inherent goodness to turn this around.

Over the past three years, 234 scientist from 66 countries worked around the clock – throughout ongoing waves of a deadly coronavirus pandemic – to complete the most comprehensive report on climate change ever compiled. We all volunteered our time, working thousands of unpaid hours, attending meetings involving brutal time zones, while navigating the demands of our regular jobs and domestic lives during lockdowns.

Why did we do this? The answer is simply because we care. We care deeply about protecting our extraordinary planet and all life on Earth.

Many of us realise that we are the generation that is likely to witness the destabilisation of the Earth’s climate; that the people alive today will determine the fate of humanity.

Being part of a group of scientists, from every corner of the world, working together to trying to avert disaster at this critical moment in human history, changed my life. It taught me that when we align behind a collective vision guided by strong leadership – no matter how unsurmountable the challenges feel – anything is possible.

Ultimately, we only really have one choice to make – to stay connected with people that restore our faith in the goodness of humanity, or fall into an abyss of cynicism and despair. It really is as simple as that. You can choose to be a person that restores someone else’s faith in humanity, and do what you can where you can, even when all feels lost.

Because once the despair has passed, we need to remember that there is still so much worth saving. How bad we let things get is still up to us – the apocalypse is not a done deal.

Dr Joëlle Gergis is an award-winning climate scientist and writer based at the Australian National University

‘Hope is other people’

Three years ago, inspired by the school strike for climate, I went through a personal and professional transformation that led me to full-time climate change research, strategy and activism.

Stepping into that new world, my biggest concern was that I would find it demoralising. I knew that the science showing climate change was causing extreme weather events and disruption to the natural and human worlds was overwhelming. The projections about the future more than sobering. I prepared myself for a life lived under a cloud of despair and panic.

And yet that hasn’t happened. Every day I meet people in the smallest community organisations to the biggest companies in the world who share stories of transformation like mine, who are pushing and pulling, shouting and whispering, organising in person and online to address the causes and effects of climate change.

To keep going I have to wake up every day making a conscious choice to be hopeful. I got to bed every day with more than a few reasons to be hopeful.

Jean-Paul Sartre once said “hell is other people”. And he had never even visited an Ikea (one of the many companies already signed up to the RE100). He was wrong about so many things. Hope is other people. Read the IPCC report, put it down, and connect with others like you in communities of common interest and concern.

That’s how to stay hopeful. And know we can do this.

Rebecca Huntley is a social researcher and consultant. She is the author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference (Murdoch Books), and she chairs the Advisory Board for Australian Parents for Climate Action

‘Resilient Pacific peoples won’t give in to despair’

As a Samoan, the IPCC findings weren’t surprising, but no less hard to stomach. The warning for the Pacific could not be more urgent.

Despite this, resilient Pacific peoples won’t give in to despair, not with so much at stake. We resolve with hope to fight on. We are already bearing the impacts of climate change so we have no choice but to hope and to fight. Otherwise, it’s our children and grandchildren who will pay and our islands and cultures lost. But we don’t have the luxury of giving up, tired and fatigued as we already are.

Our young people have long led the climate fight, knowing full well what is at stake. Their courage continues to inspire.

Neither have our leaders backed down, despite the, at times, patronising disregard that their counterparts from high-emitting, wealthy countries like Australia have shown towards the climate crisis we face. Pacific leaders are a powerful voice, and we will continue to pressure the world to lift its ambition, using every diplomatic, financial and legal avenue at our disposal.

We come from a legacy of fighting against the odds: against empire, colonialism, plague, slavery, nuclear testing and now climate injustice. We’re not about to back down and lose hope, not now.

And so it must be now, that our fight becomes the world’s fight. Against all odds, we convinced world leaders to strive to limit heating to 1.5C under the Paris agreement – and now the world has seen the wisdom of this. They will continue to see the wisdom in our struggle and the hope that fuels it.

Joseph Moeono-Kolio is Greenpeace head of Pacific

‘We can avoid the worst of it’

The strength of the IPCC’s Code Red for Humanity report is sobering; its dire warning could not be clearer. Yet at the same time, it confirmed that the Paris agreement’s 1.5C warming limit is not lost, and with strong global action, we can still achieve it.

There is no change to the timeframe at which the global average warming is likely to cross the 1.5C threshold that was set out in the special report on 1.5C published in 2018, essentially mid 2030s. So we still have a chance.

If we act fast, from today, we can avoid the worst of it. We need 50% emission reductions globally by 2030 – Australia needs to reduce 65% by 2030 from 2005 levels. On sea level rise, an issue of great importance to Australians, if we limit warming to 1.5C, this could drastically limit sea level rise to between 0.28 and 0.55m by 2100. And in the very long term, the difference between 1.5 and even 2 degrees of warming could avoid up to three metres of sea level rise.

The report confirms that every single tonne of carbon dioxide we send into the atmosphere will increase the impacts we’re already seeing: wildfires, heatwaves, drought, heavy rainfall and cyclones. Yet the report also shows that strong mitigation would have discernible effects on air quality within years and discernibly slow warming compared to a world with high greenhouse gases over the next 20 years.

We await the Morrison government’s announcement to cut the country’s emissions by at least 65% or more by 2030, especially from fossil fuels, in light of this warning and to get Australia on a 1.5C pathway.

Bill Hare, a physicist and climate scientist, is the managing director of Climate Analytics



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