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Ward off Climate Change

About the author


Gary Warden was raised in the Perth Hills. After graduating from the University of Western Australia with a degree in Geology, Gary joined BHP Billiton where he spent 18 years working in a variety of roles in a number of locations around the world. Prior to leaving BHP Billiton in December 2006, Gary was Global Manager for the company's US$1Billion business improvement program.

While he was originally sceptical about the claims relating to climate change, he became convinced of the urgency of the issue in early 2006. He left BHP Billiton primarily to spend more time with his young family, but also to dedicate himself to creating a more sustainable life for himself and his family and to support others in making that change.

In September 2007 he was trained by Al Gore and has delivered the "Inconvenient Truth" lectures to thousands of west australians since then. In November 2007 Gary ran for the senate in the Federal Election representing the Climate Change Coalition.

In addition to his climate change lectures, he has facilitated Living Smart workshops across Perth. Between 2008 and 2009 he was on the Executive Committee of the Conservation Council of Western Australia including one year as Vice President.

Gary co-founded and is Executive Director of the very exciting Days of Change program, one of the largest sustainability programs in Australia and is now General Manager WA for Eco-Kinetics, one of the largest Solar PV companies in Australia and subsidiary of ASX-listed CBD Energy.

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Why I'm Concerned about Climate Change

Climate change is the biggest single issue confronting Australia and the world and represents a significant threat to our standard of living and our natural environment.

Many people that I have spoken to have some doubts as to the veracity of some of the claims being made about climate change.

There are very good reasons about why doubts still exist in the community in regard to climate change. What I’ve attempted to do below is to describe my journey from being a climate change sceptic to a climate change champion.

From Sceptic to Climate Change Champion

As a Geologist, I was initially sceptical about climate change – both the degree to which it was happening, the degree to which it was likely to happen and the degree to which human activities contributed to it. 

I considered myself an “expert” in the field, having studied the science of climate change at University. Note that I use the term “studied” in its loosest sense. I felt that the warming that we were seeing was a simple reflection of the fact that we had been on a long warming trend coming out of the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

The Earth has undergone cyclical warming and cooling phases over millions of years, so why should we think that anything that humans do could possibly have anything to do with climate change.

I often debated with my wife Toni on the issue, and used my self-proclaimed expertise to beat her into submission (those of you who know Toni well will understand that this is simply not possible – however I did try). 

As a scientist, I failed to keep up-to-date with the latest findings in climate change research, and was content to continue to rely on my studies from 20 years previous.

All that changed when was waiting in a Doctor’s surgery in March last year. To keep myself occupied, I picked up a Time Magazine. The front page of the magazine had a photo of a polar bear standing on a melting iceberg. The front page headline was “Be Worried. Be Very Worried”. Fortunately for me, the Doctor was running late that day, so I had the opportunity to read two articles on the topic of climate change. 

 

The first article was a summary of the latest science surrounding climate change. This was the first time that I had seen the most recent data and I was quite frankly scared by what I read. The science was compelling – CO2 levels in the atmosphere at 380ppm, higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. 19 of the 20 hottest years on record occurring since 1980, positive feedback loops from the melting of polar ice and much more - not only was climate change happening, but it was happening at an alarming rate, and we needed to act urgently to avoid catastrophic consequences. 

Fortunately, before I could leap straight from denial to despair, I read the second article which focussed on what forward-thinking governments, companies and individuals were doing to combat climate change. This was inspiring as it showed that we don’t necessarily have to wait for Kyoto to come into effect, or for the USA or Australian Governments to get on board in order to make a significant difference.

I walked away from the Doctor’s surgery a changed man – and not by the Doctor. Within a month Toni and I had sold our Toyota Prado and replaced it with a Toyota Prius hybrid, thereby reducing our CO2 emissions from ground transportation by 70%. We convinced Toni’s parents to sell their 4WD and buy a Prius also. 

We started talking about what we could do to reduce our household emissions, a conversation which eventually led us to our move to the hills. I sent scanned copies of the Time Magazine article to my work colleagues and urged them to take personal action also.

In late 2006, I resigned from my role as Global Manager for BHP Billiton’s Six Sigma program, primarily to spend more time with my children, but also to focus on creating a more sustainable lifestyle with a move to the Perth hills.

With my semi-retirement, I had even more time to think about climate change. It was hard not to. Hardly a week went by when there wasn’t some new, alarming revelation about the increasing speed of climate change – the Greenland glaciers melting twenty times faster than previously thought; the arctic ice cap melting 20% more during the northern summer of 2007 than at any time in history; the first ever hurricane forming in the South Atlantic; crippling drought in Australia. 

Toni and I wanted to do more, so we joined the Australian Conservation Foundation. We wrote letters to our local parliamentarians.  We replaced all our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. We signed-up for Green Power with Synergy. We offset all our remaining household emissions.

However I was dismayed by the degree to which people still believed that there was doubt as to the veracity of climate change. 

Due to my frustration that so many people were still confused and uncertain about climate change, I volunteered to participate in a program whereby 160 people selected from around Australia were to meet in Melbourne over a weekend in September 2007 to be trained by Al Gore in how to deliver his climate change presentation. I was privileged to be selected to participate (more than 2000 people volunteered), and have now delivered his presentation to thousands of people across Western Australia on more than 100 occassions. 

I've also delivered a number of Living Smart courses across Perth, teaching people how to live and work more sustainably, am Executive Director of Days of Change, one of Australia's largest sustainability programs and am now General Manager of Eco-Kinetics WA - a company specialising in domestic and commercial solar PV systems.