It is a little over a week since we touched down at St Kilda beach after running the entire length of Australia from Cooktown to Melbourne. We ran this super marathon to raise awareness of global warming impacts and solutions, and to raise funds for Safe Climate Australia, which will develop a transition plan for the Australian economy demonstrating how Australia can take a leadership position in relation to global warming.
Now it is time to pause for reflection. After three months of preparation and a month of intense and continuous work on the road, I am feeling more than a little fatigued on some levels. Everyone involved in this project can sit back at your Christmas dinner this year and feel proud of what we achieved over November.
The standout impressions from the run for me include the following
- How much climate change is already damaging our country. We started in Far North Queensland, where the locals told us that the dry season is now longer, the wet season is more intense, and rising temperatures are already drying the rainforest and driving species to the brink of extinction. We ran through parched and burnt country all through Northern and Central Queenland, and heard from emergency service workers who told us of “once in a generation” fires becoming more common. The same story was repeated at the Great Barrier Reef – carbon pollution is driving warming and bleaching of the reef as well as making the oceans more acidic which is also killing corals – a diabolical combination for the future of our most famous ecological system. The Australian Alps repeated the story again – shortening of the snow season and an ecology in rapid transition. As we ran into the Murray Darling basin we experienced a November heat wave and dust storm, in our critical food growing regions that are becoming more arid, and heard of rural communities in despair. All the way to the Coorong, where this internationally significant wetland system is now largely dead and in parts six times saltier than seawater.
- How readily available the solutions are to Australia. None of the runners who participated in the run are in any doubt that Australia could move to a 100% clean energy economy if we chose to do so. The idea that we can’t run a clean, modern and safe economy on 100% renewable energy is a myth that was busted for all of us. The run provided a platform for the leading proponents of climate solutions, and we heard staggering statistics – including that if Australia were to tap 1% of our geothermal potential we could power the entire Australian economy 26,000 times over. We heard that our vast wind resources are largely untapped, as is our solar potential, and a lack of investment and political will has stymied widespread uptake of these technologies for several decades now. We heard from a West Australian wheat farmer who is transforming his 20,000 hectare wheat farm from a source of carbon pollution into a major carbon sink using Biochar, and he explained how farmers can become a major engine house of carbon drawdown if we harness their potential and engage them in the process.
- The discipline, good humour and patience of the runners themselves. Not once in a month did I hear a single complaint from the team, who were absolutely magnificent. Often a day would involve each runner covering a half marathon, and often missing out on lunch, then sitting through a community engagement event (of which there were over 20), scientific presentations and powerpoints, then having dinner at around 9 PM, to then be up at dawn and do it all again the next day. The runners were inspirational. The support team was equally hard working, moving from venue to venue and organising a huge number of community outreach events.
- The media coverage we achieved. My tally of media shows that we generated around 50 newspaper articles, as well as dozens of radio interviews and television coverage in many regional centres. Through the media our group conducted a month long moving discussion with millions of Australians on the community safety risks inherent in a warming planet, as well as the solutions we will have no choice but to adopt on a large scale to deal with the problem.
My thanks go to our principal sponsor NAB, and their staff group who turned out to support us all over Australia, as well as Mercedes Benz and NU energy, who supported the run with resources as well as volunteers, and all of our other sponsors and contributors who worked to build this event.
Where to from here? The run was really only the beginning. As Acting Sergeant Matt Astill remarked, it will be a ten to twenty year project to turn this society wide problem of unsafe carbon polluting behaviour around. In terms of running ambitions, once we have secured adequate resources, partnerships and sponsors to develop the Australian Safe Climate Transition Plan, I feel very confident we could launch two more ambitious runs, and here are the proposed details.
The Safe Climate Australia National Circumnavigation run.
Once the first version of the Safe Climate Transition Plan has been completed, this run would circumnavigate the entire country of Australia via the coast– around 17,000 kilometers. It would involve a team of police, firefighters, paramedics, SES, military and lifesavers. We would visit every state, and deliver the Australian Safe Climate Transition Plan on foot to each major community and centre. We would run the coastline of this country, from Melbourne to East Gippsland, to Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Kakadu, Darwin, Broome, Ningaloo Reef, Perth, Margaret River, Esperance, across the Nullarbor and back to Adelaide and Melbourne. The run would be a centrepiece of a nation wide community education campaign to increase understanding of the Australian Safe Climate Transition Plan, which is a comprehensive plan demonstrating how Australia can move to a clean energy base as well as transform agriculture into an engine house of carbon drawdown, and take Australia to a leadership position in combating global warming. It will educate the public that the science on global warming is clearly telling us that carbon levels in the atmosphere are already unsafe, and that Australia and all nations must begin to engage in serious scenario planning to transform economies to zero carbon. It will demonstrate to Australians how the country can become a modern, safe, efficient clean energy economy, what it will cost and how quickly this can be achieved.
The Global Safe Climate Run
This run would involve two teams running from the Arctic circle to the Antarctic, linking the major climatic “tipping points” across the planet that have the potential to rapidly accelerate global warming, as well as linking global examples of large scale clean energy solutions that are being enacted. The run would aim to secure high profile backing of global luminaries such as the Honorable Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev, Sir David Attenborough and others. The run would invite international emergency service workers who have deal with extreme climate events from across the planet to participate, including Southern European, Californian and Australian firefighters, the emergency workers who dealt with Hurricane Katrina, paramedics from Europe who dealt with the devastating August 2003 heatwave which claimed tens of thousands of lives, and Asian emergency service workers who have dealt with a spate of extreme typhoons and cyclones over recent years.
Team one would commence in Eastern Siberia in the Arctic Circle, highlighting the consequences of the disappearance of the Arctic Ice Cap over coming decades, and the potential for destabilition of permafrost carbon in a warming world. The run would travel southward through China, Bhutan and Nepal, highlighting the rapid loss of the Himalayan Ice Cap, or “Third Pole” which is the source of fresh water for over 2 billion people in Asia. The run would visit lowlying areas in Bangladesh and India, demonstrating the potential for massive people displacement and environmental refugees through storm surge and sea level rise, as well as large scale clean energy projects across China and India. The run would then traverse South East Asia, including Indonesia, to highlight the need to protect carbon rich rainforests and peatlands, before running from Cairns to Melbourne, then the length of New Zealand, and terminating at Antarctica, to highlight the dangerous effects of global warming on the Antarctic ice sheets and the Southern Ocean.
Team two would commence in Greenland, and would then run across permafrost regions in Canada, down the East Coast of the United States, then through the Gulf country and New Orleans, and on to California. The run would highlight the threat to worldwide coastal cities and communities from sea level rise from the potential loss of Greenland Ice, as well as the consequences of arctic warming and destabilization of permafrost carbon. The run would also highlight impacts across the United States including Hurricane Katrina, increased wildfires in California and threats to coastal communities. The run would also highlight large scale clean energy projects in the United States including wind and solar thermal, and highlight the potential for a massive upscaling of clean energy systems, clean transport systems and climate solutions. The run would then proceed through South America and highlight critical climate tipping point regions such as the Amazon rainforest, and glacier retreat across areas such as Patagonia, before terminating at Antarctica.
The two global runs would engage the communities, media, scientists, emergency services and governments of every country we move through and build the understanding that all countries now need to get serious about the enormity of the threat from global warming, and commence serious scenario planning for moving the global community to becoming a net zero carbon global economy, while concurrently commence large scale draw down of existing levels of carbon from the atmosphere to reduce atmospheric carbon levels from their current dangerous levels back towards pre-industrial levels.
The intention would be that the Global Safe Climate Run would generate a documentary series, which we hope would be shown internationally.
I encourage anyone who is interested in the Circumnavigation Run and the Global Safe Climate Run to register your interest on this website, and join us in our future adventures.
Run for a Safe Climate
CEO Safe Climate Australia