Introducing Lauren Drake! Lauren is a Sydney based Climate Change Adviser and long time advocate for climate action! Lauren works at Pollination, a specialist climate change advisory and investment firm that launched last November. Her work involves advising companies and governments on climate change law and policy as well as the design and implementation of strategies to transition to a net-zero emissions future. On a quest to become more informed on climate change we spent the morning with Lauren and left feeling inspired and empowered to take some climate action!
What kind of issues do you tackle in your role as a Climate Change Adviser and what challenges do you face?
Nearly every country in the world has agreed to try to limit warming of the Earth to 1.5 degrees and many countries have committed to having net-zero emissions by 2050. In my job we work with a lot of governments with their plans to achieve these goals, and companies that are trying to get their heads around how their businesses can still exist in a new world where we will be much less dependent on fossil fuels. Companies are under a lot of pressure to not only reduce their impact on the climate, but also manage the impacts that climate change may have on them (like sea level rise, droughts, fires). And the smart businesses are thinking about the opportunities that will exist in a lower emissions future - for example many people think there will be whole new industries around hydrogen fuel, driverless vehicles, plant-based foods, and digital infrastructure to deliver smart and low energy solutions - so much that hasn't even been invented yet but will open up so many new opportunities!
When you first started studying in 2009 how much discussion was there around climate change and how much do you think it's evolved since then?
I think the awareness amongst the public on climate change has grown significantly in the past ten years and global movements such as the student protests lead by Greta Thunberg have really changed the way discussions are being had, and opened the debate up to whole new groups of people including children. I've noticed a big difference in the discussions people are having even in the past few months as a result the bushfire crisis - people are really acknowledging that this is a problem that impacts everyone, it's not just about polar bears and Arctic ice sheets. I think everyone would now agree that if what we have seen is from 1.1 degree of warming in Australia, then we don't want to see what 2, 3 or 4 degrees will look like (which is where we're headed based on current global policies).
Sadly though, the politics of climate change in Australia haven't changed all that much in the past 10 years - we're still seeing debates about whether or not we should be doing more to reduce Australia's emissions rather than taking action to reduce emissions and adapt.
Wearing Valerie Jumpsuit
How are the fires we've experienced this summer and now flooding a result of climate change? And what does this mean for our climate in the future?
I think the science is pretty complicated around the exact climatic patterns around the flooding, so I'll leave that to the climatologists. But I know a lot of climate scientists are very confident that the fires we experienced this summer were a direct result of the unprecedented drought we've had in NSW along with heat waves that have totally changed fire conditions and made them much more difficult to prevent and manage, which is a product of being 1.1 degree warmer in Australia since the start of the 20th century.
Although we need to adapt to the already changed climate, I think we can't just accept this as the new normal - any adaptation effort must go hand in hand with significant effort to halt the cause of the warming.
Wearing Rommy Skirt
How has your work affected you personally - do you feel a sense of responsibility to create change and educate people on climate change?
It can be a bit overwhelming at times and a lot of people are feeling a sense of anxiety about climate change, which I can relate to. But I try to focus my energy on achievable goals using the skills I have - whether that's having a conversation with someone that didn't understand the issue and helping to change their mind, or signing a petition, or changing something in my lifestyle, or finishing a project at work that has a big impact. I'm aware that there's a lot that I can't do, and I'd much rather leave the campaigning to Greta!
Wearing Valerie Jumpsuit
How can people improve their knowledge about climate change and reduce their carbon footprint?
One of the best resources for facts on climate change is the Climate Council - I would encourage people to read their free resources. There's a great podcast I love called Mothers of Invention which is about finding a feminist solution to climate change, which highly recommend! And there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint - one place to start is to calculate it (there are lots of websites where you can do that for free) and then work out whether you can replace a car trip with public transport, get a train instead of a plane, cut out meat a few nights a week, and offset whatever you can't reduce! I personally travel a lot for work so I rely on offsets to reduce my footrpint. Carbon offsets are essentially donations to projects that sequester or avoid carbon emissions. There are many options out there - to name a few: Greenfleet (Australian forestry projects) and Conservation International (international projects)
While reducing your footprint is really important, and sends a strong market signal, I feel strongly that it's our government's job to put the policies in place to reduce our emissions, rather than putting the burden on individuals - so writing a letter to your local MP is one of the most powerful things you can do! Or sign Zali Steggall's petition for introduction of a Climate Change Act . Remember that while a lot of the focus is on the Federal Government to do this, each State and Territory in Australia has a net-zero target by 2050, so it's also important to wrtite to your State MP in support of developing comprehensive plans to get there!
Finally, we could all consume more consciously - that goes for food, fashion, furniture, electricity and everything - try to find out where it's from, who made it and how far it travelled, and make an informed decision of the environmental impact it has.