Newsflash: Australia’s Opposition Leader thinks climate change is a load of crap. What the??!! happened to get us to this point?

First entry in my Copenhagen diary. OK, I’m not technically in Copenhagen yet – I’m on my way, in Singapore being interviewed for the Rolex Young Laureates program, meeting some incredible youth from the Asian & Pacific region who are working on innovative approaches to social and environmental issues. There are social entrepreneurs from, among other places: China, India, Mongolia, and the Philippines. Had some great conversations with a Chinese entrepreneur who says the level of awareness on climate change is now relatively high in China – and that many Chinese had seen An Inconvenient Truth!

Found out a few hours ago that Turnbull got rolled by Tony Abbot. By one vote. Wow. One of my friends once said, hey, if the Liberals have a freaky uncle, don’t let him hide at the back! Not sure about that… but I do know that the Liberal party has just lost a large chunk (if not the whole chunk) of its youth voting base. OK, it probably wasn’t a huge percentage of its voters to start with – but as a party they’re heading for absolute collapse and eventually, electoral irrelevance if they continue to be dominated by people who deny climate change is happening. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the by-elections on the 5th. AYCC is running campaigns evaluating all the candidates on their climate change policies and getting some good local and state media coverage on the issue. We even held a climate change forum with the candidates in Bradfield where one of the climate sceptic candidates heckled an 18 year old AYCC volunteer!

So…now the Government will either pass the legislation without amendments after a double dissolution, or wait until next year and negotiate with the Greens, and we will end up with a stronger scheme. Or something else could happen. The only predictable thing about climate change politics is that you rarely can predict what’s going to happen.

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For example, I can’t believe how quickly the debate on climate change disintegrated into climate denialism in the past few months. Apparently it’s not just in Australia – see George Monbiot’s recent article here. Interesting thesis: that the reason more older people tend to disbelieve climate change is because it reminds them of death, and so they refute its premise because they are avoiding thinking about their own mortality. What do you think? Any truth in that?

It’s strange being here in Singapore – I still have a lot of AYCC work I’m finishing up, so my head still feels like it’s in the Sydney office with Amanda and the team. I’m also thinking forward to Copenhagen – I leave Singapore tomorrow and meet the rest of the team in Tokyo airport, where we go on to Denmark. So I’m thinking and preparing mentally for the next few weeks. But at the same time I’m participating in the program here and making some amazing connections with some very cool people.

Well – short entry but I figure if I’m going to be writing something every day for the next 20 days I don’t want to use up all my good lines in the first post!

I will however encourage everyone to read this recent article by Alex Steffen at Highlights below:

When confronted with generational conflict, we naturally tend to see the elders as seasoned and realistic, and the youth as passionate and ethical, and to seek a middle ground of tempered realism. Middle ground is going to become increasingly hard to find in this debate, though. That’s because realism now means very different, incompatible things to the two generations.

And this is what most older observers seem to refuse to understand: The world looks dramatically different if the year 2050 is one you’re likely to be alive to see. To younger people, Copenhagen isn’t some do-gooder meeting; it’s the first major battle in a war for the future. Their future. I’m in my middle years, in between the two groups, yet even I can see that this war is about to get a lot more heated—far more heated than anything we’ve seen in half a century. To younger people, this isn’t just policy, it’s personal.

To be young and aware today is to see your elders burning our civilization down around our ears. To hear scientists tell us we’re in the final countdown, with the risk of runaway climate change (along with the ecosystem collapses and horrific human suffering it will bring) mounting with every day we run business as usual. To hear nearly a chorus of credible voices—from doctors and scientists to retired generals and former bankers— warning that to lose this fight is to lose everything that makes our world livable and gives the future hope.

You wouldn’t think a war could start over such simple ideas.

To be young and aware is to see old people—from the U.S. Senate to Wall Street, from newspaper editorial desks to corporate boardrooms—stalling action on every front, spouting platitudes about “balance,” committing themselves wholeheartedly to actions to be undertaken long after they’ve retired and died. To be told that the world’s scientists are participating in a giant hoax; to be chided for not understanding how the real world works; to be warned that doing the right thing will bankrupt us; to be told that not wanting to melt the ice caps and circle the equator in deserts makes you too radical to take seriously.

To be young and aware is to know you’re being lied to; to know that a bright green future is possible; to know that we can reimagine the world, rebuild our cities, redesign our lives, retool our factories, distribute innovation and creativity and all live in a world that is not only better than the alternative, but much better than the world we have now.

To be young and aware is to suspect that, in the end, the debate about climate action isn’t about substance, but about rich old men trying to squeeze every last dollar, euro, and yen from their investments in outdated industries. It is to agree with the environmentalist Paul Hawken that we have an economy that steals the future, sells it in the present, and calls it GDP. It is to begin to see your elders as cannibals with golf clubs.

Over and out –  Anna Rose