groundswell –growing a safe climate economy by 2020

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24 07 11 - 21:18

There’s a huge amount of amazing climate change campaigning being done around Australia. So why am I working on starting something new?

Because despite all the fabulous work being done, those of us committed to action to restore a safe climate saw two big gaps:

1.  the messages and asks of the range of campaigns are all over the place

we are still only reaching a tiny proportion of the population in a way which is capable of changing behaviours, attitudes, and votes.

We aren’t getting the political and societal traction we need for major change, particularly in the face of the increasingly resourced and organised opposition.

groundswell is aiming to tackle both of these gaps– and so work towards getting political support for urgent action restore a safe climate, here in Australia, and in partnership with similar activities throughout the world.

Here's a brochure about groundswell, or read on for some more details.

The message
The ask has to be what the science is telling us needs to be done to restore a safe climate. Our climate is too hot now, our oceans are acidifying, the arctic is melting. 

We have to aim for urgent restoration of a safe climate to give certainty that humanity and all the species of the world will continue to survive and flourish. The stakes are too high to be gambling with.

To restore a safe climate , and avoid dangerous climate tipping points and ocean acidification we need to:

  • stop putting carbon into the atmosphere –eliminating carbon emissions within a decade
  • actively take carbon out of the atmosphere through soil char and revegetation 
  • And, if this doesn’t happen quickly enough to avoid tipping points, temporarily use some direct cooling

To achieve this we need to restructure the world’s economies as safe climate economies within a decade. That will then set us on the path to restoring a safe climate.

The good news is that the technology to create this better future is evolving today. Solar thermal power stations in Spain are already producing electricity 24 hours a day. Solar rooves will produce clean energy more cheaply than coal in just a few years. And so much innovation is still to come. Beyond Zero Emissions has produced a plan for Australia to transition to zero carbon energy in a decade, and they are now working on zero carbon plans for other sectors of our economy.
Even so, a zero emissions economy is a big ask. It’s not going to happen just by accident or through incremental change. To make it happen we need to get societal and political commitment to start the transition. If we want to see the transformation of the economy by 2020, then this commitment needs to be made in the next 3-4 years – at the latest!
Sounds challenging. Sounds impossible! So, our job is to make the impossible possible. Once we get the social and political commitment, the hardest work will be done. We’ll develop the technologies, fast, furiously, amazingly successfully after that
Maybe the timelines will stretch a bit and that will be ok. Maybe if we get to yes by 2017 and transform the Australian economy by 2025 and the laggard economies in the world don’t come on board until 2030 we might be ok. It will probably mean more direct cooling which may have unforeseen consequences. What we do know is that time is of the essence. This is serious. This is urgent.
The challenging communications task is how to deliver this message, through what materials, how to best empower people with it, rather than scare them; how to link it with people’s day to day lives, and with the twists and turns of today’s climate news and politics 
The second task is then reaching people with this message, and empowering action.

The mobilisation
There are lots of different actions that people are already taking to achieve a safe climate economy. These can be grouped as:

  • taking action changing their own lives  – such as generating solar power, home grown food, energy efficiency measures, changing transport modes
  • embracing individual political change – making a decision to only vote for parties that are committed to taking urgent action for a safe climate
  • working with others, raising awareness and encouraging and facilitating low carbon lifestyles and low carbon local economies
  • influencing influential people
  • applying pressure on businesses and groups in society to adopt low carbon habits, and champion safe climate commitments
  • encouraging political change in others – building political commitment to support, advocate and vote for candidates and parties that are committed to taking urgent action for a safe climate. We live in a democracy. We have to make it work for us. 

groundswell aims to make the links between these different modes of action; to connect the dots, and to help people to take action along a ladder of asks and commitments, and to understand the importance and power of political change to get the commitment for urgent action for a safe climate.
We aim to work in partnership with existing campaigns –building, linking and creating coherence, not competing. And critically we want to spread safe climate campaigning beyond the current campaigning hot spots.
groundswell will provide well researched messages, materials and mobilisation techniques to help people have conversations with their communities about the massive transition needed, and generate support for effective action. We’re planning for the initial version of these tools to be available by end 2011, and to raise sufficient funds to run several pilot community mobilisation programs in 2012. These mobilisations would be conducted using an action research model so we can learn from them before large scale roll out begins in 2013
I’ve got a dream of staffed safe climate centres in every neighbourhood in Australia, being the springboard for reaching out to communities.
I know it sounds hugely, ridiculously ambitious from where we are now – but it’s what needs to be done. I’m giving it a go – how about you? Please contact me if you’d like to be involved.


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