Advertisement

'Mother Nature Needs Her Daughters,' So They Plan To Solve Climate Change

In less than three weeks, an all-female global team of 80 scientists will be heading down to Antarctica to try and solve the biggest crisis facing our planet: climate change.

The women, which includes 29 Australians, have been selected from their various fields across science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

They're tasked with coming up with a way to tackle climate change.

And it doesn't come a moment too soon -- just two months ago, the UN warned that countries must take "unprecedented" action to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050 -- something we, as a planet, are hardly on track to do.

READ MORE: 'Unprecedented' Climate Action Needed To Save Planet, Dire Report Warns

This trip, a culmination of 12 months work, is part of the Homeward Bound initiative -- a part-leadership program, part-networking event, and part-problem solving trip.

The aim is to empower and connect women from around the world in order to solve climate change. As the tagline reads, "Mother Nature needs her daughters".

"If we want to ensure long-term habitability for Earth, we need to add women to the mix," Marji Puotinen, one of the scientists heading down, told 10 daily.

Puotinen says that studies show that when you have more of a mix of people, you get much better outcomes.

"Right now, the ratio of people looking at climate policy is about 70 percent men.

"When you have a phenomenon that effects the entire globe and every species, wouldn't you want all the people the planet had to offer?"

10 daily caught up with three of the women heading down for this once-in-a-lifetime trip to figure out how to solve the seemingly impossible.

Sofia Kihlman Øiseth, Research Scientist at CSIRO

Did you know that one third of the food we produce worldwide is wasted? Sofia Kihlman Øisth does.

"We only have one planet, the global population is growing, and in the next 50 years we're going to need to produce as much food as we've done over the past 500 years," she told 10 daily.

"That's a huge pressure on the planet. And one third of all food not being eaten is a huge waste -- not only in terms of cost, but also the energy that goes into it, manpower, water and land use."

Kihlman Øisth has spent 15 years working in food science, and heads up CSIRO's Physical and Chemical Characterisation team in Melbourne.

She said both confidence and unconscious bias contribute to the dearth of women in STEMM leadership positions, as well as a lack of opportunities for women returning from maternity leave.

"It seems that from the bottom, there's an equal amount of men and women studying STEMM, but when we get to higher levels, women drop off," she said.

READ MORE: Waleed Aly: To ScoMo's Party, Even School Kids Are The Enemy When It Comes To Climate Change

Bec Smyth, public sector evaluator at Vista Advisory

"My role is to make sure that when the government puts out a policy, agenda or program with a stated claim, they follow through on that," Bec Smyth told 10 daily.

She's the one ensuring the government is working to protect clean water, clean area, and areas of of protected natural environment, as well as creating new economies like clean energy that move us away from a carbon-based system.

As anyone following the climate and energy policies coming out of Canberra over the last few years knows, it hasn't exactly been easy.

"We've had a policy vacuum on climate change through successive governments and we need to come up with a solution," Smyth said.

"We need a way forward."

Tom Ballard Goes Ballistic On Climate Change Policy

But she's hopeful that Australia is up to the task, telling 10 daily that we're "at a tipping point" in terms of climate policy.

Marji Puotinen, Ecological Data Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science

Marji Puotinen is the one keeping an eye on our coral reefs -- specifically, she's looking at the impact of tropical cyclones on reefs, which are under "extreme threat" from global warming.

"They're probably the earliest effected ecosystem on Earth to climate change," she told 10 daily.

"We've seen mass bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef two years in a row. Corals can recover from too hot water if they have enough time to regrow, but if it starts to happen every year, the reefs will just disappear."

One of Puotinen's passions is teaching kids about climate change and making sure their voices are heard, because "they'll be affected the most if we do nothing."

As well as running outreach programs, she held a an international drawing contest asking for school children to depict what they loved the most about coral reefs and polar animals.

Over 1,200 kids from 11 countries submitted artworks, which Puotinen then turned into a 7-metre-wide flag. It'll be planted in Antarctica in the coming weeks -- temporarily, of course.

One of Marji's favourite submissions from the competition. Photo: Supplied.

She said that people often get overwhelmed by the enormity of the climate change problem.

"If you look at other situations in history that have been really dire, we see where people have never given up and turned it around.

"That's the situation we have now."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Supplied