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'COVID isn't the biggest threat to my newborn daughter. Climate change is.'

This morning I hugged my newborn daughter extra tightly. 

Right now, her health and safety is the most important thing to me. With a deadly pandemic on our doorstep, life is feeling particularly fragile and precious, but that’s not why I’m holding my baby girl so closely…  

Recently, representatives from the UN released the most comprehensive report on climate change to date. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says, very ominously, that we are “plotting a course to global catastrophe” if we don’t take immediate and drastic action to prevent further climate change by 2030.  

Read more: A critical report on climate change has been released. Here are 6 things you need to know.

My daughter will be eight years old.

With mountains of supporting evidence, the report paints the grimmest of pictures.

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A real-life horror show of bushfires, floods, drought, famine and a snowballing humanitarian crisis. Its message is screamed loud and clear by the Olympic champions of the scientific fraternity. 

So why isn’t this being taken seriously? As seriously as the COVID-19 pandemic? 

We trust experts to advise us when it comes to the pandemic so why do we shrug our shoulders when the world’s best scientists beg us to take urgent steps to slash carbon emissions and reduce global warming?

Internationally, the pandemic has forced us to disrupt our everyday lives like never before. 

And, for the most part, the pandemic has united the world against a common threat.

If only we had a similar response to protecting humankind’s one and only home. As the saying goes, there is no Planet B. There won’t be masks or lockdown options for my daughter’s generation.

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A month ago in the 2021 Sustainable Development study, Australia ranked dead last for climate action out of nearly 200 countries. Second last was Brunei. In my mind, this should have been a lead story, but it barely received any mention in the news cycle at all. 

Not enough people seemed to care – which to me is utterly baffling when, much like the pandemic, this is a disaster affecting each and every one of us.

I find it hugely frustrating and frightening that this latest report by the IPCC also won’t be taken that seriously by our country’s leaders, and the scientists will once again be largely ignored.  

Image: Supplied.

At a government level, short-sighted policies that are dictated by election cycles and business lobby interests, are taking priority over this “code red for humanity”. 

Disappointingly, there is even an inherently selfish view shared by some within the government that our carbon emissions are so small by global standards, that any effort to reduce them will have such a negligible impact, so why do anything at all. 

This from a country who strives to be regarded among the brightest and boldest.

“Billions of people are at immediate risk,” says the United Nations chief, secretary-general Antonio Guterres. Yet the Australian government refuses to commit to a target of net-zero by 2050. 

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In fact, it actively resists calls for tougher targets. So much for being led by the experts.

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At an individual level, when it comes to climate change many people seem to struggle to make small, everyday sacrifices to ensure a brighter future. I am certainly guilty of this. 

Despite my best efforts to compost, recycle and shop second hand, I am constantly forgetting my keep cup on my morning coffee run. 

More broadly, the sense I get is that finding a solution is in the ‘too hard basket’ and for many the problem seems too big and too far in the future to worry about.

The world’s climate experts say 2030 is our deadline. Doesn’t that make you anxious? That’s just eight short years away. 

We can all do the math so why do I feel the need to spell that out? If we do nothing, the planet will be, quite literally, doomed.  

Right now, I trust the science to navigate us through this pandemic. Equally, I trust the climate scientists who are giving us this warning. 

By 2030 my daughter will be starting second grade at school. But I’m not waiting that long. As soon as she can walk and talk, I’ll be teaching her to listen to the scientists too.

Over the past two years, our government has shown it can be agile and respond with urgency when there’s a health emergency that threatens our lives and our future. 

It’s time Australia takes decisive action on climate change as well.

As a community, we cannot say we don’t know what’s happening to the planet. We have been warned time and time again. 

And I will not look my daughter in the eye and say I did nothing to fight for her future.

Georgi MacDiarmid (nee Glover) is a freelance journalist who spent more than a decade reporting the news across major Australian television networks. She is now the head of communications for a leading non-profit organisation, as well as raising two young children. 

Feature Image: Supplied.