- The next UTSpeaks public lecture (Wednesday 28 September) will address the hotly debated topic of climate change in 'Progress or procrastination'.
Almost 30 years on from the first international conference addressing global warming, our changing climate is still a hot topic. From politicians to the general punter, ‘global warming’ is now part of the public’s vernacular. Yet the question remains: with such damning scientific evidence, why has so little been done?
With the Australian carbon tax still hotly debated, UTS Business School Lecturer Dr Ian McGregor, Institute for Sustainable Futures Research Director Dr Chris Riedy and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Associate Professor James Goodman will take stock of the current situation. The trio will discuss a positive climate change program during the UTSpeaks public lecture ‘Progress or Procrastination?’ on 28 September.
Recognition of the fundamental problem of global warming – increased greenhouse gases mainly caused by our reliance on fossil fuels and deforestation – is attributed to a Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, way back in 1896. Since then, rapid economic growth and a much deeper understanding of climate change has meant increasingly urgent calls for action by the great majority of those researching in the field.
McGregor is worried about the extremely slow response – particularly in Australia – to this scientific consensus. He argues those who have attained profit and power from fossil fuels are mainly to blame.
“Vested interests are opposed to change. They've been extremely skilful at using the media's ethos of 'balance' to encourage two sides to the story when there is only one.
"Even the more accurate term 'global warming' was switched by the George W Bush administration to 'climate change' so it was easier to argue that the weather – and by proxy, the climate – was always changing."
While they both agree on the need to address the warming of our planet, McGregor and fellow speaker James Goodman differ in their opinions of what needs to happen next. McGregor believes much more comprehensive policies and measures to limit emissions are required. However, Goodman isn’t sure policies even work.
“Global warming is a structural problem that requires a structural solution. Efforts to adjust the world's current socio-economic system so it takes on board so-called ecological 'externalities' are misguided and will be constantly overrun by the increasing scale of economic activity.
“What alarms me is that policies aimed at transitioning to cleaner economies are exacerbating the crisis by giving the illusion of meaningful action."
Head in your hands? It’s not all doom and gloom. Regardless of the decisions our political and business leaders make, there are other approaches being taken.
In Australia, grassroots climate-action groups – termed the ‘climate justice’ movement – have gone beyond formal politics to influence the national debate and create sites for political action at the local level.
“New international alliances of social movement organisations are contesting the models of governments and corporations, while also proposing local solutions that involve the wider population,” says Goodman.
“As climate change accelerates, so too does the pace of social change. New possibilities emerge as the failings of existing policies are exposed. There is a way forward.”