A personal reflection on climate emergency
Michael Frangos, CEO Indigenous Energy Australia

“Emergencies are opportunities for lasting change” – Rewiring America, therefore humankind has never faced such a great opportunity.

I was drawn to climate change because of the complexity of the problem and diversity of the solutions needed, but have stayed because of the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in, and the opportunity presented by this somewhat alarming situation.

While I’m a little more social than your average electrical engineer, I’m pretty objective in my assessment of ‘problems’ that humanity faces, and objectively, without a hint of exaggeration, climate change is the most significant threat humanity has faced…..ever.

This is backed up by every scientific body and government organisation worth their carbon. Whether you like money, people, animals, plants, or your family, climate change should be your thing. Given the scale of the problem I find it hard to understand why there isn’t mass panic, people quitting their jobs, politicians stepping down, riots in the street, the justification is definitely there, but the action just hasn’t arrived yet.

To me preventing the societies we love from becoming “the frog in the pot”, is the greatest action we can take. As esteemed engineering professionals, we are the custodians of the fundamental infrastructure that supports these societies; water, energy, transport, resources, waste, and telecommunications are all the building blocks to any economy, and enable so much social progression and economic development. Given these are engineering industries, which wield significant influence and power, we must wake up to the fact that “with great power comes great responsibility” – SPIDER-MAN and future generations will rightly hold us to account.

Therefore, the most important thing you can do as an engineer, or a person in any organisation, particularly those that involve providing essential services; is at work. Wake others up, change the fundamentals of your organisation by inspiring and finding common ground so that others within your workplace, and consequentially your organisation, see the honest truth – there is a climate emergency that requires a mobilisation equivalent to “the New Deal”, “the Space Race” “the Montreal Protocol” and “the Arsenal of Democracy” combined, and then work with them to understand what you can do to help.

Engineers are great problem solvers once we know that there is a problem.
Part of the wake-up call will require that we apply numbers to climate issues. Council engineering departments, key corporate decision makers and property developers all deal in numbers mainly in the form of risk and dollars, this is their language. They want facts, business cases and risk assessments, and although there can be an involuntary repulsion to placing a value on society or the environment, and there is much debate on how exactly this should be done, developing widely agreed upon numbers that are accessible, digestible and resonant is an important way that we can cut through. It allows the conveyance of the likely climate impacts in the currency that our corporate world and society operate under.

At home, the best thing you can do is switch to zero carbon power providers, buy an electric car (when you need a new car), replace your gas cooker and heaters with an electric heat pump and an induction cooktop. These big changes are far more important than LED light bulbs and a vegan diet – although you can eat less meat and change your light bulbs as well. If we are going to be anywhere near a zero carbon economy by 2040 we need every new car in 2030 to be electric and need a decarbonised electricity grid, this will give us a good ten years to decarbonise the ‘hard to abate’ sectors. The solutions to decarbonising transport and energy by 2030 are here and they are technically feasible and economically viable – the conversation must move from “politically possible”, to “technically necessary”.

My last thought on a matter that I have many thoughts about, often at two o’clock in the morning, is that there is an opportunity to both decarbonise and reconcile Australia. Indigenous Australians are some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, yet they have the least contribution to carbon emissions, but also to the national climate conversation. When trying to do my most objective assessment of the issues that the nation faces, Indigenous outcomes are always on the podium, the most emblematic issue among this portfolio of problems, is the gap between life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Again if almost any other issue had these statistics behind it, 3% of the population will die ~8 years before the rest, something drastic would be happening in the public and private sectors, and society would be outraged.

 

Aside from the vast inequities that will be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, we must ensure we leverage the knowledge of a culture that is synonymous with custodianship and interacting with ‘country’ in a sustainable manner. Whether, it’s 65,000, 60,000 or 40,000 years, Indigenous Australians have an awfully good resume for adapting to changes in the climate, and understanding what effects we are having on the environment, by connecting to natural signals via Nature’s Control System.

Given the fact that the new economic and social paradigms: sustainable, distributed, circular, democratised, are those that Indigenous Australians have operated under for millennia, it would be remiss, even negligent for us not to identify, understand and capitalise on these synergies.

Be nice to your neighbour or colleague that thinks “climate change is just a natural cycle” or “won’t be as bad as we think”, try to find common ground, but don’t relent on them having no say in corporate or political policy – policy development is no place for nonsensical, emotionally derived beliefs, that are unsupported by evidence and hard facts.

Buy an electric car, switch your energy use to 100% clean and green, replace your gas heating and cooktop, and change your light bulbs. More importantly, become the “climate change guy” at work, inspire others with the opportunity on offer, and demonstrate the gravity of the situation with straight facts.

Regressing back to my objective nature and removing all hyperbole, this is an opportunity to tell your children and grandchildren about how you literally saved the world, and contributed to the one of the most significant steps in Indigenous outcomes in 65,000 years.

This opportunity motivates me, I work on these issues a lot, and am up at all hours thinking about them, not because I’m worried, but because I excited by the challenge, and what we will achieve.

Australian Engineers Declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency