Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Dr Phillipa McCormack

Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide
Research Areas
Climate adaptation law, biodiversity conservation law, bushfire law, administrative law and government accountability
Why I do what I do
There are some really complicated questions about what our law is, what it means for a rapidly changing future, and how it might need to change. I really enjoy finding ways to connect the work that amazing scientists are doing, with the laws that we DO have, and the laws that we NEED to have, to adapt as the climate changes. My work is helping to take proposals from the science, and work out how to implement them effectively in our laws and policies.
Something interesting about me
I live on a fire trail and I get to ride my electric mountain bike to work. Sometimes I get to work really muddy, with grit in my eyebrows. In winter, it can take a while for my fingers to defrost. I sometimes don't get much work done, those mornings!

Questions answered by this expert

Why do we do nothing as a society when an animal species dies due to climate change disrupting its food chain?
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It is very upsetting to see the things we care about suffering because of climate change. Many people are working to change this, but action has been slow. In this video, Dr Philippa McCormack talks about how we can protect our endangered animals in Australia. You might also like to look at this answer about why getting societies to take action is so hard.

What is going to happen if it gets worse? What will the effects be?
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Will it stop by itself? Will it wipe out Earth?
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Are more natural disasters going to occur due to climate change?
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If we are warned about what Climate Change will do to our planet, what are we doing to stop it?
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Who is responsible for climate change?
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How do we protect our endangered animals that are endangered due to climate change?
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How much investment is required to make a drastic change?
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The short answer to this great question is: not as much as we’ll need to invest if we don’t make a drastic change! In the past, the cost of changing the way we do things has been used as an argument for not acting on climate change, but there are costs on both sides of that argument (that is, there is a cost to acting but there is also a cost to not acting). Climate change is making disasters like extreme bushfires and droughts more common, and these kinds of disasters already cost Australians a lot (approx. $3 trillion from 2010-2019!). These costs, which relate to damage and lost income, are going to increase a lot if we do not take urgent action on climate change.

Some people have tried to estimate how much money the world would need to spend to stop climate change, and their estimates range from $300 billion (the cheapest option!) to $50 trillion! Both of these amounts are huge and hard to imagine. The big difference between the cheapest and most expensive estimates also show us that working out exactly how much investment is required is a really hard maths problem! It’s hard because the final cost will depend on lots of things, like whether people agree on what to do, who should do it, and when, but also on how quickly we all make the drastic changes that are needed. For example, we know we need to shift from using fossil fuels to renewable energy, but the cost of doing it quickly (which might include governments paying some of the costs for people to install solar power, big batteries and other renewable options at their homes) might be really different from making that change slowly (which might mean that companies and governments waste money building or upgrading fossil fuel buildings that they can’t use because fossil fuels are banned).

Importantly, we need to remember that money we spend now to get ready for the challenges of climate change will benefit young people alive today and all of the people that come after us, as well as natural systems like our coasts and beaches, wetlands and forests. Investing in drastic change is definitely ‘worth it’, because this is an investment for all of us, and for our children’s children, and for the places that we love the most.

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