Ecoanxiety and inclusive energy transitions

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific and ANU College of Health & Medicine

The Social Dimensions of Climate Change Transitions in Australia seminar series is hosting two fascinating talks on ecoanxiety and inclusive energy transitions on Thursday 8 December. The first talk will be by Tanja Russell on the topics of "A 'greenhouse affect'? Exploring young Australians' emotional responses to climate change". The second talk will be by Kate Donnelly on the topic of "Imagined futures in the context of the energy transition: A case study from the Central Highlands Region of Queensland."

Morning tea is included so don't forget to include your mug.

A 'greenhouse affect'? Exploring young Australians' emotional responses to climate change

Recent studies reveal that young people around the world are experiencing a range of eco-emotions related to environmental degradation, including climate anxiety, anger and a sense of powerlessness. In Australia, young people have also voiced distrust in the Federal government for failing to adequately address climate change, a critical threat to their future. In this Master's research, I draw upon a social-ecological systems framework to explore the affective dimensions of climate change as experienced by young Australians aged 18-24 (N=14). A primary, overarching finding is of climate change as a multidimensional emotional challenge for young people, with four sub-themes describing key experiences through which it manifests: a fragmented climate education; disillusionment with politics, but hope for change; reckoning with uncertain futures; and grappling with agency. The findings contribute to the growing literature on eco-emotions, highlighting experiences of interrelated emotions that resist being reduced to one label (eg, 'eco-anxiety'). Accordingly, I offer the term 'greenhouse affect' as a means to convey the breadth of emotions provoked by climate change, and to avoid potentially pathologizing language. I also discuss implications for educating young Australians about climate change, and how this might improve their sense of agency to meaningfully contribute to climate solutions.

Bio for Tanja Russell

Tanja Russell came to the Master of Climate Change program at ANU after holding policy roles at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, and corporate positions at CSIRO. She works on climate adaptation projects at ANU's Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, and hopes to be accepted into a PhD program in the Crawford School of Public Policy in 2023.

 

Imagined futures in the context of the energy transition: A case study from the Central Highlands Region of Queensland

There is a growing recognition that global efforts to decarbonise energy systems pose significant risks to local communities with a dominant fossil fuel industry. Proactive and inclusive energy transition planning - often referred to as a just transition - can mitigate some of these risks, however recent studies have shown that the legacy of Australia's "climate wars" continues to impact conversations about the future of coal producing regions. This case study explores how social group dynamics affect conversations about the future in Blackwater, a metallurgical coal mining community in Queensland's Bowen Basin. The study's findings suggest that there is little active polarisation over the future of coal in Blackwater, but there is potential for premature conversations about a local energy transition to reignite social conflict, especially if led by out-groups. Instead, the findings suggest that regional development planning processes should seek to address challenges identified by locals today - such as the impacts of a growing itinerant workforce and lack of social services - in ways that take account of social group dynamics. Over time, this approach can help build the social conditions necessary for communities like Blackwater to successfully navigate periods of deep uncertainty and risk, such as that associated with the global energy transition, with agency and creativity.

Bio for Kate Donnelly

Kate Donnelly started to act on climate change as a volunteer with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition in high school. Grassroots movements and social change theory have continued to shape her praxis since then, expanding with roles in climate policy, community development projects and feminist movement building in Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Today, Kate is an analyst at the Investor Group on Climate Change, where she works with institutional investors to drive down the emissions of some of Australia's largest companies. She is also looking forward to graduating from the ANU with a Master of Climate Change this December!

 About the seminar series:

Social Dimensions of Climate Change Transitions in Australia is a new community of practice for researchers and policy makers. We encourage members to come along to all the seminars, whether they are directly related to their research or not. It is a chance to learn about the broader context, build networks with others, and present their research to a wider audience. These seminars will be in person**. We will run seminars every six weeks. If you would like to subscribe to the mailing list, please email Sarah.Boddington@anu.edu.au or Rebecca.Blackburn@anu.edu.au or Hannah.Feldman@anu.edu.au, or Allyson.Crimp@anu.edu.au.