A multi-dimensional approach to climate change
Climate change is potentially the greatest challenge that humanity has and will ever face. Many of you reading this will be negatively impacted within your lifetimes if trends continue. Many people are currently being affected negatively as the death toll for extreme weather events rises and we begin to see millions of climate refugees as crops fail and islands within nations like Kiribati begin to submerge.
Global temperature averages have already increased to 1 degree above pre-industrial levels, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimating that dramatic measures must be taken to prevent a further rise to 2 degrees. 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels would endanger millions of lives and ruin many more within our lifetimes. This does not include scenarios where we continue to emit greenhouse gases and positive feedback loops create increases of 4-5+ degrees. This would be catastrophic for life on earth for future generations and would erase any gains in wellbeing that humanity has achieved thus far.
Systemic issues require institutional change, meaning it is unlikely that we can rely on individual heroes to save us. This is a threat that will require action and cooperation from everyone in any way they can. This may sound intimidating, but it’s important not to attempt to single-handedly bear the burden of this crisis, you are a single person and can only do that which is within your sphere of influence. Fortunately, our lives are multidimensional and there are many different avenues one can take to assist in combating the climate crisis that will be discussed in this piece. As more and more people become engaged, and tackle this issue from multiple directions, a critical mass will hit, whereby systemic change occurs as institutions change and a large core of people are fighting. You don’t need to use all of the avenues within your influence, but a large number of people need to use at least 1 of them for our species and planet to overcome this obstacle and preserve wellbeing.
As previously mentioned, we are multidimensional people and we can use the different dimensions of our being to contribute to collective action. It’s worth mentioning that there is a lot of overlap between these categories, not all of them are necessarily equally important, and that there are interactions between them. However, this framework has been used to make it easier to conceptualise the different ways individuals can help using different aspects of their lives. These aspects are as follows: financial, career, lifestyle/consumer, political, and social.
Financial resources are the main drivers behind societal resource allocation and one can use their cash and assets to exacerbate a problem or contribute to solutions. This can range from donating to charitable causes that contribute to environmental stability to fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment. One could also swap superannuation funds to Future Super. Future Super are a 100% fossil fuel free super fund who claim that Australia could plug the investment gap required to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030 with just 7.7% of Australia’s total superannuation funds pool. Regular investing decisions can be mobilised by considering ethical investing and impact investing (read more about Impact Investing in our previous Impact Update).
Given that most people will spend half of their waking hours or more working at some career, any of that time spent working on climate related issues is worthwhile. This can be achieved by dedicating your career or side hustle to this issue or by taking action within the career you have chosen. Climate oriented careers could involve research, academia, government policy, climate adaptation, or starting a sustainability oriented social enterprise. Alternatively, encouraging your firm to adopt sustainable practices, become carbon neutral, invest ethically, or otherwise improve would go far to encourage institutional change. Spending time using your skillset to volunteer for climate related causes is also an option.
Consumer decisions are a key input for the resource allocation decision process for producers. This means that a sufficiently large mass of consumers making sustainable consumption decisions will lead to the adoption of sustainable products and practices. Using a similar line of reasoning, a critical mass of people adopting sustainable lifestyles would result in a large societal shift through consumption, network effects, and social pressure. From a lifestyle perspective, reducing one’s carbon footprint or purchasing carbon offsets would be workable. Some ways one could reduce their carbon footprint include: Living closer to the city, reducing waste, eating a plant-based diet, shifting towards bikes and public transport, and having less children. Consumer activism is another possibility, where one could participate in consumer boycotts or support producers with a good environmental record. These changes could be as simple as swapping web browsers to Ecosia, a non-profit web-browser service that uses its revenue to plant trees.
We also have a political dimensional to our lives, and it seems evident that the changes required will necessitate some degree of political mobilisation. This can include petitions, non-violent protest, contacting your local member, and factoring in climate concerns into your voting decisions. On a more intensive level, its also possible to get involved in local government to push for environmental decisions or to run for office with a robust climate-oriented agenda.
Just as important as becoming engaged on an individual level is convincing others to become engaged and forming support networks so that you do not become isolated. Learning about the causes and effects of climate change as well as the actions that can be taken is extremely valuable. This will enable and promote healthy discussions and debates on the issue, while increasing awareness. Using any platform at one’s disposal has merit, whether it be through social media, leadership roles, or including climate messaging in creative pursuits. Forming social groups that care about this issue will also make any efforts more engaging, manageable, and effective.
Hopefully this framework has allowed for more open consideration about the different aspects of our lives that we can leverage to contribute towards meaningful change in regards to systemic issues.
Author: Ben Griffiths | National Affairs Director