#33: Can there be a bigger challenge than climate change?

Image of UN goal 13
Image by United Nations

My point of sharing the 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) is to endeavor to demonstrate how their collective topics impact us all in all our walks of life. This Blog is all about Target 13 and Climate Change, which presents as a perfect example of how aspirational targets can and have an impact even on small day to day issues.

Even though I am not an expert on climate change it provides a perfect example of the tension that sits between ‘grass roots and glass towers’ – a contemporary way of describing the tensions that exist between top-down and bottom-up experiences.

As I contemplate the SDGs I have also been reminded of patterns that throughout the history of civilization, patterns of dis-connect have continued to emerge. Dis-connected patterns where the voice of the local, small in size or minorities (grass roots) becomes supercharged being often led by some form of inspirational leadership eventuating in monumental changes in the course of history. Interestingly over the course of history such changes and new found freedom often becomes in itself the revised new form of command and control (top-down) bringing new limitations.

It is this point of tension that interested me in pursuing my research as I saw this being played out during my professional career – albeit on a smaller scale – with the relationship tensions between policy directives and policy implementation. To this end the old adage of top-down versus bottom-up has many similarities within the context of climate change. At it’s most simplistic this tension can be found under the title of progress or layers of experience we call progress. Especially the kind that is being made to assist society and often being the very action that is destroying the foundations that society needs to have for a future.

Although I do not believe this tension will ever disappear I do suggest that as we enter this new paradigm – which I call the purpose economy it is unlike the forbearers – such as the industrial era. I propose we live in a point in time where we can make a real difference but not by doing things the same way as we always have. Climate change provides a perfect learning frame for how not to repeat past behaviours.

So in thinking about this global goal and Climate change it is not a subject just for the ‘environmentalists’ it is for us all. The facts are so startling that I have had no trouble finding relevant articles pointing to how these ‘windows of time are closing’ – and fast. For example, an article on carbon intensity clearly states how what is happening locally is not being reported at the macro level. It is not okay to pretend that all is okay – the cynic in me wonders whether such action represents leaving the issue for the next generation to pick up.

But modeling suggests that stringent climate policy will only slightly accelerate this historical trend of improvements in energy intensity. To keep warming below 2 will require deep and sustained reductions in the carbon intensity of how energy is produced.

As such discourses are identified they can in fact be quite useful as not all discourses are ‘bad’. Discourses can bring opportunities, which history has shown and can provide systemic change – but again not if we continue to do things as we always have done (a bit of a theme here!)

There may have been a point in time (this is debatable) where our approaches and treatment towards climate change related issues were okay but it is not now and non-action is not only reasserting Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing but expecting something different). Such mindless repetitive action is simply limiting the disruptive transformative opportunities that this new paradigm and purpose economy brings.

With this in mind I lam reminded by the following quote and propose that it consolidates the need for long-term thinking especially when over half the world is at threat

Would we knock down the pyramids or flatten the Acropolis to make way for housing estates, roads or farms? You would hope not. Such an indictment would deprive future generations of the joy and marvel we all experience when visiting or learning about such historic places.

There is something important around this dialogue of long-term especially as the pace of the world is promoting the complete opposite. I challenge all to deeply re-consider any resistance you may have regarding aspirational targets (such as the SDGs) and make a quick check-in to ensure your resistance is not caught up in the trend of short-term idolization.

In making such statements I am not disputing the benefits that the digital era has brought but I am keen to explore how we can ensure the longer- term approach is brought into daily actions. Climate change brings the perfect platform to consider these challenges as it impacts our daily lives. For example, the summer just passed in Australia was possibly one of the most uncomfortable summers of my many decades of existence and I love the sun! If nothing else the impact of heat-stress brought a billion dollar threat and impact to productivity loss.

Regardless of the reason, productivity loss from heat was a major cost to the Australian economy in 2014. Of 1,726 respondents sampled 7% did not go to work on at least one day in the previous 12 months because of heat stress.

Ten times that number (70%) went to work but thought they were less efficient. On average people were less productive at work because they felt heat stressed on 10 days per year and cumulatively also lost about 27 hours per year. When the sample is extrapolated to the Australian working population, heat stress costs the nation A$6.9 billion per year in lost productivity.

So I hope by now I have your attention how climate change is worthy of our collective attention and is possibly natures way of reminding us that we are currently not ‘fit for purpose’ – a phrase I use with all sectors and organisations in much of my cause related work.

The SDGs through target 13 is encouraging climate change action and I believe that this is being well articulated by many around the world but action must be at all levels including the local level. This requires ultimate politics encouraging the environmentalists think global and act locally. To be able to achieve this it means engaging at the local level – the love and topic of my research.

When you next read a climate change related topic along with the important cause please remind yourself that it represents a tension. This is a tension and one that we all must SRADDLE™ and a challenge for our current generation and not only those to follow. For those wanting to extend their parameters to 2045 check out a new era for humanity!!!



United Nations Sustainability Development Goals – Global Goals – Target 13


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