DR Rob Eisenberg was at one his favourite surfing spots during the 2019 bushfires when the seed for what he hopes will be a transformative idea was planted.
"I was walking down the path at Cellito and the bush was so thinned out, all the trees had died and the birds had gone, so it was quiet," Dr Eisenberg said.
"I was surfing and ash was falling around me. Afterwards we were watching the helicopters come, dip buckets in the lake, carry the water away and drop it on bushfires. It was like the apocalypse and I just thought 'Wow, is this how it's going to be from now on?' Our neighbours were fighting bushfires as volunteers and our Prime Minister was in Hawaii. I was gobsmacked and I was horrified."
Dr Eisenberg, an ear, nose, throat, head and neck senior surgeon, woke up at 3am on the following days, worrying about the future for his two teenage daughters.
"I developed PTSD and climate anxiety," he said. "I've worked all my life to make a difference, was it all going to be for nothing?"
He said he knows he is not alone. The Lowy Institute Climate Poll 2021 found 60 per cent of Australians - a four-point rise from 2020 - believe global warming is a serious and pressing problem and the country should begin taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs. It found 91 per cent would support the federal government providing subsidies to develop renewable energy technology.
Dr Eisenberg said he had been disengaged from politics, but became frustrated the government appeared to be "ignoring" the people. He has founded the campaign and website Vote Earth Now, which aims to force leaders to take stronger climate action.
"The aim is to force our politicians to act on climate change and for them to realise that it is the most important and urgent issue there is," he said. "It was like an epiphany. When I got the idea I felt finally empowered, when I'd been feeling powerless. When people join Vote Earth Now they feel relief and something lift. They're not environmentalists, they're just ordinary Aussies who have had a gutful."
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The website has a scorecard to allow objective comparison between politicians based on their action on the climate, including whether they've voted on motions or enacted legislation. It encourages people to register as a climate voter and share this with their family and friends. The website also automatically sends an email - which is copied to the person - notifying their local Member of Parliament that the person's vote will be based on climate action. More than 1000 people registered in the first week and more than 1000 emails were sent to politicians.
"The responses from politicians showed we had hit a nerve," he said. "By becoming a climate voter now you are telling the politicians that the next election is the climate emergency election and they will win or lose our votes if they act now. It's easy and it's free and it reminds our politicians that our votes are worth more than money. It's 30 seconds and less than 10 clicks."
He said the timing was ideal. "We've got economic pressures, it's soon if not now cheaper to use renewables, there's international political pressure and now we can apply internal pressure."
He said Bill Gates said governments had 10 times more power to affect climate change than private enterprise and people. "We're all doing whatever actions we can, we're signing petitions, we're going to protests, we're recycling, we're trying to buy electric cars, we're minimising meat... all of that is great, but it's nowhere near as powerful as getting our government to act now."
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