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What to do when the IPCC gets you down

The seawall at English Bay flooding (image cc by Lisa, flickr)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the report of the second working group this week as part of the yearlong roll out of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5). Working group two are the scientists tasked with working out exactly what kind of impacts the world will have from climate change, how we’re vulnerable to these changes and the possibility for humanity to adapt to them.

It makes for pretty grim reading. All week, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with end of the world stories on climate. We’re going to have wars over food because crop yields will reduce so much that most people won’t be able to eat. The crazy smog in London right now that is part Saharan desert sand will become a regular fixture as ‘weird’ becomes our new normal, and on.

If that’s not depressing enough, Exxon Mobil proved this week that it really does hate your children in their report on the company’s carbon risk that figured that even if Governments move to act on climate change, they think we’re so hooked on oil that they’ll be able to extract and burn every last barrel on their balance sheets. Thanks for wanting to condemn humanity to extinction in the next century just so you can keep your unsustainable business model, Exxon.

So what now? I generally have a pretty high threshold for climate science and climate impacts. I can talk about sea level rise and impacts for hours, and have even been known to jokingly make plans with friends as to how we can stockpile enough gin to ensure we can keep drinking G&Ts when climate change hits the fan. But the IPCC doom has even been getting to me.

The thing is though; sitting around saying ‘we’re all going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it’ really isn’t useful. So here’s my recommendations for combatting IPCC report fatalism:

Exxon Mobil is wrong

Firstly, Exxon Mobil is wrong. In the same way that I said to my friends five years ago that I didn’t see the point of having internet on a cell phone, and Kodak never thought digital cameras would ever take off, Exxon desperately wants to convince you that they’re never going to have to change their business model. Except that they will. Because a wind turbine is cheaper, nicer and more efficient than strip mining a mountain to get at fossil fuels.

Around the world right now, renewable energy is getting cheaper, more efficient and easier to plug in to the grid. In several countries solar and wind are already at grid parity and may even become cheaper than fossil fuels in the short term – even while Governments continue to give billion dollar handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

Do you know what beats having to worry about price volatility in world oil markets? Using the solar panels on your roof to charge your Electric Vehicle. As the sign I saw on a bus in Seattle this week says; ‘Gas isn’t expensive if you never have to buy it’.

Do your own risk assessment

I was having a conversation with a cab driver about climate change this week and we were discussing property values. I encouraged him to find out how far above sea level his house was. Just because Governments and businesses are putting their heads in the sand doesn’t mean you need to run the risk of becoming a stranded asset. Don’t buy property anywhere less than 1metre above sea level.

If you currently live in a flood zone like Richmond, Delta, White Rock, or Steveston, start making plans to move while your house still has value. Storm surges in Vancouver are already destroying parts of the seawall as high tides reach ever higher – don’t wait until you’ve been flooded out too many times and you can’t sell.

Talk to pollsters and survey people

Many of the issues we face with climate change are the result of systems that need changing. It’s really hard to find an option that doesn’t burn carbon when the way it’s always been done burns carbon. We need the systems to change. They won’t change until Governments make it easier for businesses to profitably do that. So the most important thing you can do other than voting and making climate change your number one issue is to tell people that.

Politicians will only pay attention to something if they think it will get them re-elected. There’s no point taking a political risk on an issue that they don’t think people care about. So the next time a pollster or a political party calls your house to ask about issues and how you vote, tell them you vote on climate.

In the lead up to the 2015 Federal Election, making climate and the transition to a post-carbon economy the issue of the day is critically important. It could mean the difference for a livable climate for my future and for yours. 

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