2022 has been a particularly busy year in terms of my climate change research and teaching. With my co-researchers we’ve written and published a significant number of new journal articles exploring different aspects of the climate crisis, including:
- the political economy of climate adaptation on the Great Barrier Reef
- the role of celebrities in climate change disputes
- the maintenance of fossil fuel hegemony in Australian energy politics
- the growing criminalization of climate activism; and
- the neglect of climate change in business and management research
The culmination of this year’s climate research was the publication in October of our latest book, Organising Responses to Climate Change: The Politics of Mitigation, Adaptation and Suffering by Cambridge University Press (the result of the previous 2 years of writing).
It was fortuitous timing, as the launch of our book coincided with the annual United Nations climate talks, COP27, this year hosted in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. Of course, it was hard to be optimistic that these talks would generate any radical departure in global climate politics in which there was much talk but little tangible action in terms of emissions mitigation. After all, before last year’s Glasgow COP26 talks, experts warned that that summit was the world’s last chance to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century. Indeed, a recent UN report found even if all nations meet their climate goals this decade, the planet would still heat by a catastrophic 2.5℃.
Despite the corporate greenwash regarding future commitments to ‘net zero’ emissions, the catastrophic impacts of climate change are already worsening
In the book we focus on the very evident disconnect between the stated concern of governments and corporations about climate change and the lack of any reduction in global carbon emissions. We argue that climate change is the most important issue now facing humanity. As global temperatures increase, floods, fires and storms are becoming both more intense and frequent. People are suffering. And yet, emissions continue to rise.
Our book unpacks the activities of the key actors which have organised past and present climate responses – specifically, corporations, governments, and civil society organisations. We do this by analysing three elements of climate change – mitigation, adaptation and suffering – and show how exponential growth of the capitalist system has allowed the fossil fuel industry to maintain its dominance.
However, we note how this hegemonic position is now coming under threat as new and innovative social movements have emerged, including the fossil fuel divestment movement, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and others. In exposing the inadequacies of current climate policies and pointing to the possibilities of new social and economic systems, our book highlights how the worst impacts of climate change can potentially be avoided.
To launch the book, my co-authors Daniel Nyberg, Vanessa Bowden and I held two events at the University of Sydney (in collaboration with the Sydney Environment Institute) and the University of Newcastle which were well-attended and led to some very productive discussions on the nature of the climate crisis and what can be done to avert a worsening catastrophe. You can hear the Sydney Environment Institute discussion below:
We also did a number of podcasts discussing the key arguments in the book for Sydney Business Insights, the Green Canary podcast and the US podcast series What Matters Most which are well worth checking out.
If you are interested in the summary or our arguments, make sure to also check out this short opinion piece we did in The Conversation which ranked amongst the most read pieces in that publication over November.
While there is lots to mull over in the book, the reality of climate change and the failure of governments and corporations to meaningfully respond to it, continues. Extreme weather events amplified by human-induced climate disruption will worsen but at the same time populations around the world are expressing their growing concern at the worsening climate crisis and associated environmental destruction. 2023 promises a year in which climate change will continue to amplify as the issue of our time.