Tackling the fundamental issues of our times

19 February 2020

"Acting on climate change doesn’t happen naturally, and it takes resolve and effort." Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor, Australian National University. 

On 12 February 2020 the ANU Climate Change Institute, of which our College and many of our colleagues are an integral part, hosted the ANU Climate Update 2020.

This event explored the global overview of how our climate changed in 2019, including a focus on extreme events and health impacts, and discussed ideas for how we can transition to a low carbon future.

Building the knowledge base around what’s happening with our changing climate is more important than ever before and ANU is well positioned to advise policymakers, support government, businesses and the community into the future.

In his State of the University 2020 address on 7 February, ANU Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt said,

"The world is looking to [the ANU], and other leading universities, for action and solutions, so the Chancellor and I resolved that we must do something significant. In the face of an almost universal concern across our campus about the impact of climate change I am convening a body to ensure ANU becomes carbon-negative as fast as possible."

Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, Professor Mark Howden, and his colleagues will spearhead these efforts and the ANU Council has now passed a resolution, committing ANU to taking action to help meet the growing challenge of climate change.

The College of Asia and the Pacific is an important part of the ANU commitment to lead the charge.

Within the College, we have experts working on climate change research across the whole gamut of impacts, from the environment to economics, historical perspectives to security, food security to trade and diplomacy.

Crawford School of Public Policy hosts distinguished academic collaborations such as The Centre for Water, Economics and Environment Policy, The Centre for Climate Economics and Energy Policy and also, as mentioned, has key personnel working in The Climate Change Institute.

The School of Regulation and Global Governance has climate energy and the environment as one of their four research priorities, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs focuses on the impact of climate change on our security, and the School of Culture, History and Language has many areas of research and expertise on the historical impacts of climate change and how this can help us chart a way forward.

Policy Forum is an important College resource - publishing blog posts throughout this summer period in real-time response to events, applying our in-house expertise to help the community as the disaster unfolded.

And the contribution of members of our community to policy debates is vital. For example, the work of Professor Quentin Grafton on the issues of water management, trade and allocation, or Professor Frank Jotzo and Dr Bec Colvin on the future of energy use and the economics of climate change.

And we also have researchers such as Professor Margaret Jolly conducting cutting-edge research such as gathering important information on Indigenous ways of managing climate change and the environment – so relevant for our current debates over how to manage forest burning and the immense value of adapting traditional Indigenous land management practices.

This is just a snippet of the broad spectrum of our work. All our centres of excellence, our cutting-edge research and reliable, world-class expertise and knowledge, and enormous depth of teaching expertise, are an invaluable resource.

Our College is a repository of information and advice which can and will help our communities and our governments come to terms with what we now know without a doubt are THE crucial issues of our times, as well as nurturing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in these fields.

The loss of human life this summer is hard to countenance. For some the grief will never heal. We’ve all experienced disruption to the infrastructure of our normal lives in recent weeks - transport, power and communications disruptions, we have experienced days of the worst air quality in the world. And we are yet to count the cost of the broader losses - from vital CSIRO research, to huge swathes of farmland, stock and food crops which underpin our food and economic security, precious wildlife, and vital habitat, homes, businesses, vehicles. The list goes on.

This is the human experience of change, terrifying, disempowering, coining a new condition – ‘eco-grief’.

But how can we respond constructively to these upheavals and disruptions?

By actively and robustly injecting the expertise and the wealth of knowledge within our College into public debate, influencing policy right now and ensuring the Australian public, and indeed the broader international community, can reap the benefits of our expertise and our research.

There has never been more urgent need to see research in action – impacting on debate, on policy decisions and ultimately on the well-being of all of us.

And it is our people, and the vital the work of our distinguished College colleagues is publicised and utilised in the public arena and it is sought out by decision-makers and informs public debate. These are the voices, the facts, the ideas and the research which will help us ensure these last few weeks, and the dawning of 2020, becomes Australia’ watershed moment.

We will be showcasing in more detail the work of the College in this area over coming weeks.

In the meantime, below is a selection of resources from across the College of Asia and the Pacific:




Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team