I had the opportunity in early March to travel to Denver, Colorado, to participate in the latest training for the Climate Reality Project presented by former vice president Al Gore. This most recent training was presented in the lead-up to The Inconvenient Sequel, to be released in July. It is also 10 years since I first had the opportunity to undertake this training.
Climate change first became an issue for me when I majored in palaeontology at university in the late 1990s. Combining a scientific study with history, it is apparent that climate change has always been part of the earth’s history. What is different now, is the pace of the change in the climate, which can largely be attributed to human activity since the industrial revolution.
The challenge for the scientific community, particularly those who work on climate change models, is how this is best communicated to the broader community. The problem is that there is no exact science and that models are just that – they are a model of what can happen given a range of parameters. But these models are complex and have many variables – they are not predictions. This is what makes communicating climate change and its consequences so difficult.
Over the past 10 years, the most significant change has been the rate at which renewable energy technology has progressed – both in terms of the technology itself, accessibility and the cost. In many countries, a combination of renewables is now the cheapest option and capable of providing a significant proportion of the power needed. Like the internet and smart phone technology, we have, to some degree found ourselves adapting faster than we probably thought we would.
There will, of course, always be people who want to dispute the science - and that is their choice. But there are two powerful arguments that support doing something – resources and risk.
The resource argument relates to the overuse of finite resources that should remain in the ground for future generations. It also makes sense to use renewable energy resources now they are cost effective and will soon be capable of providing more stored energy through batteries.
The risk argument is about being prepared for the possibility that climate models are accurate. In short, is it not better to do something to be prepared than not?