NewslettersAugust 31st, 2021

PG #89: It's not too late

Reuben Stanton
Reuben Stanton, Managing Director
An image of two doors. The door on the left is full of flames. the doorway on the right side leads to a green meadow full of trees. Illustration by Jess Allison

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

– Mary Oliver, “I Go Down To The Shore”

I’ve been doom-scrolling a lot lately: COVID news, Afghanistan news, and most of all climate news. I even started reading the IPCC report the other day – partly out of interest, and partly because we’re actually working on a project at the moment which involves documenting the risks to Australia’s energy system in the future. I’ve been learning about what we need to do, as a whole society, to save ourselves from climate catastrophe, and oh, I am miserable.

In this project, the discussions with senior people across government and the energy sector have been alternately invigorating and infuriating. Invigorating because everyone seems to understand that a transition to net-zero carbon across the world is all but guaranteed – the only question is when. Infuriating because amongst those with real decision making power (say, in governments around the world), delay and obfuscation is making this transition harder, more risky, and more challenging than it needs to be. Too much focus on the cost of change, not nearly enough focus on the costs of not changing.

Yes, to fix these issues will cost a lot and will be a lot of work. But a lot of things worth doing cost a lot and are a lot of work. That’s not a reason not to do them!

What should give us hope is that fossil fuel producers are on the back foot; they are desperate. How do we know? We know because they work so hard to slow things down, to seed misinformation, and to make things seem less urgent than they are.

The change is coming – in fact, it’s already here. Even the usually staid and conservative International Energy Agency tells us “All the technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in global emissions by 2030 already exist, and the policies that can drive their deployment are already proven.”

The worst outcome here is that we delay more, or that we choose to do nothing – leading to more injustice, more inequality of outcomes, and a world and society much worse than the one many of us currently enjoy.

But! The best outcome is that we end up with a world that is better – the opportunity to do something incredible: a clean-energy, clean industry, sustainable society.

I’ve stopped doom-scrolling for the moment. Oh I am miserable. But we have work to do.

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