The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


A Climate for Change

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters by NTSblog on November 29, 2010
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“You must be the change you want to see in the world”

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s famous saying above implies the notion that change can be made starting at an individual level. However, from a different perspective, similar sentiments are needed in the climate discourse. In fact, conditions surrounding the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico seem to necessitate an urgent change. The prevailing expectations have revolved around pessimism that the conference might not be able to produce significant outcomes.

These pessimistic sentiments reveal that it is necessary to understand the complexity of a problem which may help us create change. The change in the climate change discourse will only be possible if made with all attempts by all stakeholders. Thus, if we want it happen in Cancun at international climate policy regime, we should also take our part in creating change at individual level.

A book, “The Psychology of Environmental Problems”, highlights that it is important to learn about the complexity of problems by expressing counterarguments in order to reach responsible decisions. However, the continuing differing arguments, such as the differences in viewpoints between China and the United States over what actions should be done and who should do it first, have somewhat demonstrated the slow-moving progress as the dialogues between the two countries moves towards divide and tensions rather than shared understanding.

The concerns over the progress of climate change negotiation are relevant as immersing ourselves in extended discussions and debates to find the best way to tackle environmental problems will not keep the earth from warming. A paper in the lead up to the last year’s Copenhagen Conference examines one central issue for negotiation process that is perception on the severity of climate change and its potential damage. The paper also suggests that the differences in perception are considered important to the negotiations as they may help determine the degree of commitment shown by individual stakeholders.

We might feel frustrated by the lack of commitments and incapability of the policy-makers for taking the necessary actions. However, these negative effects of the entire climate change debate on our psychology can actually be addressed by being the change we want to see. Therefore, rather than waiting for someone to make the change for us, we can start making the change ourselves.

The book of The Psychology of Environmental Problems suggests that the size of the change is not crucial, yet the most important thing is we choose to act. Furthermore, it also argues that only by changing our behaviour we can create change. It can be done by taking actions, such as reducing our consumption, choosing energy efficient appliances, taking public transport and other actions that help reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These actions can be small but they are definitely steps to achieving the big goal of creating change in the climate discourse.

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