From baristas to barristers, Griffith University experts insist it will require the efforts of people from all walks of life to fight climate change.

Students from Years 10 to 12 attending the recent virtual Climate Action Leadership Conference heard from a panel of Griffith voices speaking about the importance of cross-disciplinary collaborations to climate action.

Panel members said there were a myriad of challenges in motivating people to do their part, as many accept climate change is an issue but felt powerless to help or that it was not an urgent priority.

Professor Paul Burton.

“They accept the science but they are not sure how they can use that information in their day to day job as a town planner, social worker, GP, barista or even barrister,” Cities Research Institute Director Professor Paul Burton said.

“I think one of the biggest challenges is to persuade people that it’s happening now.

“We’re always setting dates in the future, which is important for some things, but it can create this impression that it’s not with us yet… and we’re not very good at taking seriously big global threats that are a long way into the future.”

Professor Burton was joined on the expert panel by School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science journalism expert Associate Professor Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, Griffith Law School Deputy Head (Research) Professor Elena Marchetti, School of Health Science and Social Work Deputy Head (Learning and Teaching) Associate Professor Jennifer Boddy and Climate Action Beacon Head of Practice Sam Mackay.

Sam Mackay

With climate change set to impact everything from the kinds of cars we drive and where we live, to the meats we can produce and the way we consume goods, Mr Mackay said it was vitally important to build resilient economies that could support a sustainable future for all.

“Much of society has not had the realisation that we’re not talking about just an environmental issue,” he said.

“We’re talking about an issue that goes to the core of how we function as a society and what we value, how we value things in an economy, and how those values may impact on basic stable decisions we would have made in the past.

“Let’s think about it as what type of economy and what type of society we want to envision being in 10, 20, 30 years’ time, and what are the actual measures that we can put in place.

“The only way we can do this is if we do it together.”

Associate Professor Jennifer Boddy.

Associate Professor Boddy, a social worker, said while it could be felt by everyone, the immediate effects of the changing climate would be more devastating for certain groups.

“The effects of climate change will be disproportionately felt by those who are marginalized and vulnerable, but the reality is that climate change affects all of us, every single one of us,” Associate Professor Boddy said.

“We all need to be taking action in multiple ways to address it and it is just as relevant for those in the health professions, as it is for those in the sciences or the arts and elsewhere. “

Professor Elena Marchetti.

Professor Marchetti said law played a significant role, from the implementation of The Paris Agreement and regulations that impacts climate change, to holding those who do wrong to account.

“When it comes to law, I think people think they’re powerless over changing policy or how corporations behave, but I actually think that, as a society, we have a lot of power,” Professor Marchetti said.

“We can exercise that power by making different choices in terms of what we consume and that affects the laws, and we can do it in the way we vote.

“We can also lobby (and) it really does force governments to think differently about how they’re addressing this climate change issue.”

Communication of information about climate change by journalists was also fundamental to the public’s understanding of what needs to be done and how they can take part.

“A more sophisticated understanding of communication certainly is able to identify where science communication can play a role, and where other types of communication might be better poised to engage people in communities, who aren’t so interested in science, in climate action,” Associate Professor Foxwell-Norton said.

Professor Burton said by people from all areas chipping in, major progress could be made.

“Whilst we need to recognise the enormity and the urgency, incremental changes are a sensible way forward – taking lots of small rapid steps rather than waiting and anticipating a great leap forward.”

17: Partnerships for the Goals
UN Sustainable Development Goals 17: Partnerships for the Goals