By Amy Huva
The voting age in Australia is 18, and when I was 17 and only months away from my 18th birthday, the Victorian State election was held and I missed out on voting by months. I was pretty bummed about that – I had all kinds of opinions and ideas about things that I wanted a chance to have my say on.
Climate change is a huge problem. It affects everything, and if we don’t do anything about it, it will only get worse until we’re forced to face the issue. Climate change isn’t just making our weather more extreme, it’s changing the long term patterns, which has huge implications for everything we do.
There are two big challenges when dealing with climate change. Firstly, we all share the same atmosphere, and secondly you can’t negotiate with physics.
There’s a finite amount of space for carbon emissions in our atmosphere before the sheer volume of carbon that we’ve burned and released into the sky causes changes that are likely to be irreversible for at least 1000 years. This is the physics we can’t get an extension on.
We have to ensure we don’t burn all of that carbon and create a climate that will be really uncomfortable to live in by the time you and I retire. But this is the problem with all of humanity sharing the same atmosphere; remember when you were in school and the teacher promised everyone a reward if you only behaved for the next 30minutes? There was always that one guy who couldn’t do it and would ruin it for everyone else.
Multiply that classroom until its all 7billion people on the planet, and you can quickly see that just asking everyone to do the right thing is futile. We’re never going to get everyone to change their consumption habits in a way that is enough to start significantly reducing our carbon emissions by just asking and saying it’s the right thing to do. If that worked, the whole world would have stopped smoking a generation ago.
So if you admit that climate change is an issue, what can you do?
The first and most important thing you can do to help our climate is to vote on climate issues.
Ok, firstly, vote. When the BC provincial election has a turnout of 56% that’s not very helpful, but you also need to be asking about climate before you vote for a candidate. Voting is really important not just because it’s a civic duty, but because the person who wins is running your country/province for the next four years. They’re in charge of our tax dollars, services and climate policy.
They can have different ways they want to deal with climate change but the key thing is to make sure it’s an issue for the candidate.
I understand it can be daunting to have to pick a candidate, because politicians all talk like politicians (spin, boring, boring, spin, blah) and unless you’re a massive nerd like me, it can be hard to keep up with the issues. But here’s the thing – unless you elect competent people into office, governments will keep making bad decisions on climate.
You need to make sure whoever gets your vote realises that platitudes and greenwashing won’t count when sea levels rise far enough that storms now flood your Richmond home.
We need to be demanding that candidates have a plan to stop burning carbon entirely in the next 20 years (or sooner).
Until climate change becomes a national issue that no politician or business person can ignore, everything else will be band-aid fixes at the edges. Vote on climate. Divest from fossil fuel companies. Demand more. Vote.
Outside the election cycle, you can use the power of your voice to help fight climate change. Learn more and sign WWF’s global “Seize Your Power” pledge today.
Amy Huva is an environmental chemist and sports fanatic from Melbourne, Australia. She worked for the Australian government for two years before packing her bags for the ski fields of British Columbia. She now works in the environmental industry in Vancouver and writes regularly for the Vancouver Observer and Read the Science. All opinions expressed in this blog are her own.