Last month Professor of Urban Environment and Human Ecology Xuemei Bai travelled to Brisbane for the Climate Reality Project training conference for several days of talks and learning about how to tackle what is arguably the biggest crisis of our time.
Hosted by former USA vice president Al Gore, the training looks at the communications around climate science, and organizing to better tell the story of climate change and inspire communities to act. Xuemei said it was an inspiring event that brought together more than 760 participants from a range of fields including scientists and academics, policy experts, and environmental advocates.
“I was deeply impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of Mr. Al Gore and the participants,” Xuemei said.
“Mr. Gore gave an inspirational lecture that lasted almost 3 hours, on the state of climate change, the science behind it, increasing manifestation of impacts, and societal responses so far.”
Xuemei appeared on stage herself alongside Al Gore in a two-hour panel discussion structured around ten questions put forward by the participants from the previous day's discussion. She mainly spoke about the important role of cities and local governments in climate change policy and actions; the contentious issue of historical injustice; and how developed vs developing countries can cooperate to create a positive impact for all nations.
“The panel members including Mr. Al Gore, Professor David Caroly, Dr. Dr. Anne Poelina, Prof. Don Henry, were all amazing people - we had a very lively and insightful discussion,” Xuemei said,
One of the big debates in climate communication is the issue of whether the climate discussion is framed in a positive, or a ‘doom and gloom’ tone. Xuemai said it is important not to sugar-coat the urgency and the seriousness of the issue.
“But at the same time we need to communicate hope, and the training combined both elements really well,” she said.
“In his opening lecture that lasted almost three hours, Al Gore showed how the climate system is changing faster than many predicted, which is threatening the human civilization as we know it, but also conveyed a strong sense of hope by showing many positive signs, such as in renewable energy sector, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of investment, employment and uptake. The dominant mood of the venue packed with 760 plus participants was one of inspiration and empowerment.”
One of the main topics of discussion was the role of the fossil fuel industry, both in their political lobbying and as agents of change. Xuemei said the need the need for reinvention of economies that rely on fossil fuel was of particular focus.
“The political agency role of individuals and collectives such as local governments, and the need for active intervention in terms of assisting transition for the affected community was also emphasized,” she said.
While not much was discussed in the way of national policy in Australia, Al Gore’s overarching message was one of hope in the renewable sector. “The climate movement is only building,” he said, “and the will to change is in renewable energy in itself.”