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ANU Professor Sparks Climate Change Debate in Goulburn

From leading university students to serving as a science adviser to the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Professor Will Steffen, is no stranger to creating discussions around the science of climate change.

Will Steffan spoke in front of a regional audience on March 5th to about 50 members of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) for Hume, along with a few people from the Goulburn community at the Goulburn Soldiers Club. 

Steffen begun his talk touching on recent topics such as the recent bush fires, Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching, and his belief being that the world’s youth is the leading group in climate change discussion.

The room filled with silence and concern as Steffen delved deeper into the science behind climate change and the “Hothouse Earth”, a term Steffen used to describe the worst-case scenario if Australia does not steer towards a more beneficial pathway. The main risk being that if we exceed the ‘tipping point’ and, push it too far, it cannot be recovered and will cause catastrophic collapse — which would involve the global collapse of human civilisation and potential human extinction.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all to find the tipping point by tipping.” Professor Will Steffen reflected on such quote, said to him by a close friend.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Steffen started the Q&A portion of the night. The audience did not hold back, with this section lasting for about 45 minutes. Steffen was asked about Prime Minister Scott Morrison excluding climate change as a factor during the bush fires and claiming that arson was the main cause for flames. He was also  questioned about his thoughts on nuclear power, coal burning, and  was asked for advice on how to get more young people to CCL meetings.

Feelings of disappointment were expressed by multiple members of the audience in current Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction and member for Hume, MP Angus Taylor. They explained their experience trying to communicate with Taylor. Multiple members of the audience said that their efforts to communicate with Taylor were ignored.

One woman explained that even her son had written to Taylor, to no avail.

“Why would the young people keep fighting if their own member will not even listen to them?” she told the room.

CCL member Ian Anderson became emotional when advising the audience of a bill that was put before parliament on March 23rd 2020 by Independent MP Zali Steggall.

“I was the 286th person in Hume to sign — 109,502 Hume people voted at the 2019 election. I was sad, and then motivated … we are all concerned about our environment I believe, and are looking for ways to cause change to happen. If we leave climate change to our politicians to solve, without our lobbying, I think we will all be dead before anything happens!” Ian announced as the audience applauded his display of passion.

The bill is basically a copy of the UK bill which creates a commission responsible for climate change and holds successive governments responsible for progress against the agreed goals.

Questions were cut off due to the night running about half an hour overtime. The passion to fight climate change didn’t sway from the audience as they left their seats and walked around the room, waiting for their turn to meet Professor Will Steffen and chat to him further about their concerns for Australia, in regards to the part of his presentation that noted Australia as being ranked last out of 57 countries on Climate Change Policy.

It seems this regional event left attendees with an even deeper passion to fight this issue as the night came to a close.

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