JULIE Lyford co-founded Gloucester Environment Group in 1989 because of climate change.
It was a year after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed. The Gloucester group came into being as UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a professor of chemistry, warned in a speech to the United Nations that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would produce change “more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known”.
“And here we are, 30 years later, with politicians still doing nothing. It’s incredible really,” said Ms Lyford as the IPCC prepares to release its 2018 report tonight to strengthen the global response and focus on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The 1.5 degrees Celsius was a target of the 2015 Paris agreement of world governments.
The latest report is expected to focus on required changes to energy systems, including greater emphasis on the shift from coal and other fossil fuels to renewables.
“I founded the group in 1989 because it was well known then that climate change was real. I had family members in the insurance industry and it was well known that climate change was a risk that insurers had to respond to,” she said.
“We have politicians today who are deliberately, knowingly and culpably condemning not just this generation, but future generations, to a disastrous future because of their inaction. When politicians are so beholden to political donations from the fossil fuel industry we’ve got to call it for what it is. I don’t know how they wrestle with their consciences on that.”
A coalition of environment groups led by the Wilderness Society of Newcastle will rally outside Carrington coal terminal on Tuesday at 8am following release of a special report at the IPCC’s 48th session in Korea overnight. Society spokesperson Naomi Hodgson said people were rallying to “demonstrate people are watching and people care”.
Kokoda veteran Bill Ryan, 96, who appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Friday after he chained himself to a rail line in protest at Newcastle’s continuing role as the world’s largest coal port, said he feared for future generations but took heart from the rapid rise of renewables.
He was one of 26 people charged during protests in September.
“Fossil fuels are in the ground and that’s where they should stay. We’ve got renewables now, whether governments like it or not, and that’s where they should be focused,” Mr Ryan said.
Ms Lyford said history would be much kinder to climate change protesters than to governments because “I think the protesters are the heroes. They’re showing the leadership we’re not getting from our political leaders”.