On a night dedicated to finding solutions to climate change, Q+A eschewed politicians in favour of sustainability entrepreneurs, renewable energy experts and a business lobby group representative.
But it was a television host of a popular dating show who best captured the audience’s attention, raising a series of relatable analogies for Australia’s climate change position.
Osher Gunsberg, host of the Bachelor and Bachelorette programs, compared the push by some Government MPs for new coal-fired power stations to an electronics store selling outdated telephone technology.
“If they were selling us mobile phones, they’d be saying the Nokia 3210 is the only phone we’ll ever need,” he said.
“I’m telling you that we are — as a country exporting coal — we are Nokia with a 3210, thinking people will only ever want to play Snake forever. And the iPhone is coming.”
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As for Australia’s attempts to use carryover credits to meet its emission reduction targets, Mr Gunsberg compared it to doing housework in a past relationship.
“Trying to say the Kyoto credits work is like … saying to my current wife, ‘I did heaps of dishes in my first marriage, so I don’t need to do the dishes in this one’,” he said.
Too scared to have children
One audience member revealed climate change anxiety meant she was “too scared” to have children.
The audience member, Alice Trumble, said her studies in environmental and climate science had shaped her opinion on becoming a mother.
Q&A audience member Alice Trumble revealed her experiences with climate anxiety, saying she did not want to bring children into the world. (ABC News)
“I came to the conclusion that it was unsafe, unethical probably and just a bad choice for me to make to bring children into the world,” she said.
“I would really like a family but I’m way too scared to do it.”
Mr Gunsberg said having a five-month-old son gave him hope, while small decisions, like driving an electric car and having an electric bike, gave him a sense of agency.
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“As someone who has suffered incredible climate anxiety, I had episodes of psychosis that manifested as paranoid delusions,” he said.
“I was on two different kinds of antipsychotics and was seeing things, it was horrible. I can say to you, you’re not alone and when you know what you know, it’s a completely ordinary normal reaction to have when you look at what is coming.
“Having Wolf in my life, with a baby in your life that is hope. That is absolute hope. What can we build for this child?”
He said the world needed parents who thought about climate action to bring children into the world and urged her to “please” reconsider.
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The television host also said giving politicians space to change their positions towards climate change solutions might help develop a plan.
“You’re allowed to say, ‘I’ve got it wrong. Let’s do this instead’,” he said.
“Let’s just allow our politicians some room to move. If we go, ‘Aha, you said something else eight years ago’, they’re so tied into this idea of catching each other out, they’ve painted themselves into a corner.
“Even though it’s very clear, we stand on the cusp of economic abundance in this situation, they’re so terrified to move.”
Australia has ‘good story’ to tell
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said she thought climate anxiety was real but argued there was a collective responsibility to create a plan that gave people hope to want to have children.
“The point that people have been making is that in Australia particularly, we’ve got the technology, the skills to actually be a global superpower in exporting renewables, in exporting hydrogen and exporting lithium,” she said.
“This should be a good story for Australia if we get things right.
“And I think we’ve got an obligation or a responsibility to actually take control of this issue and paint a positive story for people.”
Ms Westacott said the Australian Government making a plan and sticking to it — such as agreeing to net-zero emissions by 2050 — might give young people faith.
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Martijn Wilder, chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, said he had similar discussions about bringing children into the world with his teenage children.
He said the debate was very different in other parts of the world and there were many exciting innovations in technology.
“One of the real issues is in Australia, in the US, climate is a toxic issue,” he said.
“In the rest of the world we don’t have this debate. The rest of the world is moving very fast. A completely different story and narrative.”
‘Pretty much everyone wants’ a solution
The episode also heard from people employed in the energy sector in the La Trobe Valley and farmers wanting to use new, environmentally friendly practices.
Chef and farmer Matthew Evans said there was a broad spectrum of people wanting a solution.
“The farmers want it. The people want it. The businesses want it. Pretty much everyone wants it. It’s just the tiny [minority] of federal politicians who seem to be in the way,” Mr Evans said.
Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview or enjoy the replay by watching it again on Facebook.