Dr. Kaushik Sridhar

“Do We, Can We, and Will We Change?” – Learnings from The Climate Reality Corps Training

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Every year, people from various professions and backgrounds — athletes, engineers, doctors, teachers, you name it — take part in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings around the world. Over the course of three days, trainees learn from world-renowned experts about how to inspire their businesses and communities to take action on climate change. I was one of the 780 lucky few to attend last week’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Brisbane, Australia.

It was an honour to learn from one of the leading climate change advocates and voices in the world, former US Vice President and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore. Despite the current debate surrounding climate change, Al Gore’s overall message on the reality of this existential threat was powerfully hopeful and optimistic.

The issue

Al Gore has three questions about climate change and our future. First: Do we have to change? Each day, global-warming pollution traps as much heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is leading to stronger storms and more extreme floods, he says: “Every night on the TV news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” Second question: Can we change? We’ve already started. So then, the big question: Will we change? In this challenging, inspiring talk, Gore says yes. “When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is foreordained because of who we are as human beings,” he says. “That is why we’re going to win this.”

“We need to stop using the atmosphere as an open sewer” (Al Gore). Climate Change is one of the biggest risks to our planet in terms of likelihood and impact.

Did you know:

  • The energy trapped by man-made global warming pollution is now “equivalent to exploding 500,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” (James Hansen, Former Director, NASA)
  • Economic losses from extreme weather totalled $653 billion over the past two years alone.
  • 91 of the 100 hottest locations on Earth, on 24 January 2019, were in Australia.
  • “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (2018 report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change).

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch stressed to delegates they lived “at a speck in time” in a country that has some of the world’s oldest rainforests – including the 180 million-year-old Daintree – as well as some of the world’s oldest freshwater springs on Fraser and North Stradbroke islands and the Great Barrier Reef, which draws enough tourists to support 60,000 jobs and generates $6 billion in revenue.

A certain amount of damage has already been done, with impacts that will continue to be felt indefinitely even if we were to stop our CO2 emissions entirely overnight. What we need now is to do everything in our power to prevent a global catastrophe.

So, what did I get out of it?

“I became hopeful”

“Will our children ask, why didn’t you act? Or will they ask, how did you find the moral courage to rise up and change?” (Al Gore).

While I always knew how urgent this issue was, the Climate Reality training gave me hope on possible solutions using technology and everyday ‘behavioural changes’ that collectively, can mitigate some of the risks from climate change. What gave me even more hope was the collective energy and positivity from the 750 attendees. I believed we were united and integrated in our purpose and mission to tackle the climate crisis. And this is cause for hope!

It turns out, while we cannot undo what we have already done, we have the solutions to curb this massive problem RIGHT NOW.  Technologically speaking, the answer lies in tapping into renewable energy sources, namely wind and solar, which can more than supply our collective energy needs.  Economically speaking, grid parity has practically arrived, meaning that the cost of these clean sources of energy is equal to, or even less than, the cost of the power created by traditional “dirty” sources of energy in most cases (with costs continuing to come down as technologies are improved upon).

“I am more determined than ever”

After speaking with a number of attendees post the training, I quickly realised a common thread between all of us: a shared purpose for solving the climate crisis. My aim for attending the training was to pick up key skills and materials on helping shape public and private sector strategies, influence public policy and motivate communities to commit to action. As Al Gore always says, “the will to act is a renewable resource in itself”.

How to communicate effectively?

Communicating the impacts of climate change comes down to three budgets: a time budget, a complexity budget, and a hope budget. When you are conveying the difficult message of climate change and what needs to be done about it, you must keep in mind that audiences have limited bandwidth in these three areas:

  • Time: you will have their ear for a relatively short amount of time.
  • Complexity: this issue is so far-reaching, with so much information to absorb and so many facets to it, you will have to be selective and judicious about what, and how much, data to include (as well as how to present it in a digestible way).
  • Hope: most important of all, you must not max out your audience’s “hope budget” before getting to the solutions to the problem! You want people to feel empowered and moved to take action, not beaten down by despair.

“I made some lasting friendships”

It was an amazing experience to interact with so many incredibly committed people, to inspire and be inspired. For me, the real value of the training wasn’t the vast mountains of facts and figures (some of which I already knew) but rather the powerful collective drive and energy I felt from my fellow participants. During the training, I quickly realised how my small actions play a role in the domino effect that is now cascading around the world, stimulating environmental action and putting the brakes on our climate crisis.

So: What can you, one individual, do to combat climate change?

As with all past social movements progressing us forward, change will only come about through public will.  It is up to us (as in you and me, not just some hoped for motivated, faceless, abstract others) to insist on switching over to renewable sources of energy – in fact, to demand it.  Fortunately, as Gore likes to put it: “POLITICAL WILL IS ITSELF A RENEWABLE RESOURCE.”

At the individual level, it’s about personal choices, and conscious consuming. At the community level: we must change laws/policies!  We need TOP DOWN action and policy to address this.  There’s simply not enough time for changes to bubble up only from the bottom.

Here’s a list of actions that we can all do as individuals to make an impact:

  • Contact your local MP and set out your concerns regarding climate change
  • Speak up, use your voice, register people to vote
  • Vote for candidates that have a strong stance on combating climate change. And then hold elected officials accountable to their promises.
  • Buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter and more locally sourced seasonal food – and throw less of it away
  • Drive electric cars but walk or cycle short distances
  • Take trains and buses instead of planes
  • Use videoconferencing instead of business travel
  • Insulate homes
  • Demand low carbon in every consumer product
  • Educate yourself, and others. Learn about climate change.  Write about it.  Speak about it.

I am proud to be among the newest class of Climate Reality Leaders. I am renewed with hope and optimism that we will rise to meet the climate challenge. At the end of the training, I walked away connected and with more knowledge and determination than ever before.

I’m so grateful to have met so many inspiring people and I cannot wait to begin my own chapter giving talks and presentations on how WE can solve this climate crisis. We have to be the movement for change and need to be united in our determination to create a brighter future.

To quote Wallace Stevens, “After the final no, there comes a yes, and on that yes the future world depends”.

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