A personal account of the Climate Conversations by Willi Kiefel

Willi Kiefel was a member of the organising group for the Climate Conversations. The short essay below is his personal account of the process, written in connection with a World Bank online course: Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided


This project came out of a working group initiative “New Social Contract” which was established during the Climate Gathering in Dublin June 2013.

I am part of this group and I believe that the Irish Climate Change Conversations (ICCC) matches very well with the intentions of the above World Bank Initiative.

The basic aim of ICCC is to communicate many aspects of climate change to a larger cross section of Irish Society.

The ICCC working group believes that the scientific facts around climate change are well established and largely accepted at this stage, namely that planet Earth is warming from man made emissions and that these result in more catastrophic flooding, prolonged weather periods of extreme heat and increased frequency of extreme storms and severe loss of biodiversity.

But the people most affected by these changes live in the Global South, as well as our children and grandchildren.

However, this acceptance of the scientific explanations around Climate Change has not led to a wider societal discussion and engagement. We felt, this was because the Climate Change discussion has only touched the “left, or the rational part” of the brain and not so much the intrinsic, emotional side.

To improve this we put a strong emphasis on artistic contribution in our series of 5 Climate Conversations. So we invited musicians, graphic artists, poets and comedians.

Furthermore, we invited farmers, social entrepreneurs, civil servants and government officials, trade union and business leaders, church and faith representatives, pupils and students. We feel that we were successful in our aim to get a good gender, age and inter-generational balance and with the mainstreaming of the issue and widening the audience.

We wanted to provide a safe space where different views can be expressed and shared and tried to get the audience involved and capture their feelings/ senses/ intuitions. We also opened the conversations through live-streaming and video uploading to the Internet and thus made the process available to a wider audience.

I believe that ICCC are unique in their structure- 5 iconic locations in Dublin, artistic contributions, scientific background information, educational project ideas and above all striving for cross community engagement and encouragement.


At the Launch Event: ‘Communicating the Challenge’ on March 18 the main speaker, David Begg, former President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions highlighted challenges from climate change for jobs in general but esp. for some jobs such as coal miners, for example. But we have to face it and work around it as “there are no jobs on a dead planet

Session II: ‘A New Economy’ on March 26 outlined some of the opportunities from a switch to renewable energies and it also alerted us to the challenges from reductions of natural resources, especially Fresh Water.

Session III: ‘The Sustainable Use of Our Land’  on April 8- appealed that “the focus of land use should not be on the most profitable use but on land use which is the most sustainable.

Session IV: ‘Prophetic Voices’ – on April 20 in Christ Church Cathedral highlighted the social justice issues resulting from Climate Change especially for the “Global South”. It asked for “solidarity not just with human being but with all beings”. It also showed some examples of the good work of Irish NGO’s in the Global South.

The last session,  Session V:  ‘The Call to New Horizons’  – on May 10, an abbot, an archeologist, an artist and a comedian took to the stage in the Abbey Theatre to talk about climate change. They appealed, each in their own words, that “we need to make a great leap forward and to do that the ‘environmental movement’ needs to become a people’s movement instead”.

The following link shows a summary of these conversations: https://youtu.be/HHIEQNFpPuo

I believe that the ICCC will contribute to the discussion about how we can achieve a low or zero carbon economy by the middle of this century, how we can mitigate against climate change effects which are already taking place and adapt to the unavoidable consequences of these changes and thus also help to alleviate the even more severe social and inter-generational injustice which a “ 4° C warmer world “ would bring about.

The good examples given in the above World Bank initiative are very encouraging .

“ The good news is that we still have a window of opportunity to keep global warming below 2° C. But this window is narrow. The need to act has never been more urgent. We need to act now, act together and to act differently to prepare for a warmer and more unpredictable world”

Tuam (Ireland), 16/05/2015

Willi Kiefel