How do we gain understanding of the climate challenges confronting us while still retaining enough positivity and motivation to take action? Alison Cleary offers her list of the most informative, inspirational articles of 2021.

I first worked on combating climate change 20 years ago when I managed a national local government program focused on mitigating the effects of climate change, and future proofing through adaptation. This was under Prime Minister John Howard when in order to get Federal funding we weren’t allowed to actually talk about climate change mitigation, and ‘advocacy’ was a very dirty word.

At the time my partner was also working on climate change – first with an environment NGO and then with the Victorian State Government under Steve Bracks and John Brumby. A few years before that he had been arrested while attempting to install solar panels on the Prime Minister’s roof as part of a Greenpeace action.

Back then we counted it as a good day when there was a single article in the papers about climate change – a front page article was considered a serious win.

A lot has changed in the intervening decades. Sadly one of the things that hasn’t really changed is our universal struggle to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees – something that is becoming more urgent by the year. But there is now a whole lot more information out there about the causes and impacts of climate change, and the possible solutions … so much information that it can sometimes be quite overwhelming. Being bombarded with information about a real and viable existential threat on a daily basis can quickly put a dampener on the spirit.

I am back working on climate change and need to stay positive and not paralysed by angst caused by the very information that is meant to help me do my job. In order to keep my own sense of positivity and equilibrium these days, I have become quite selective about the information that I consume. In advance of the summer holidays I put together a reading list of some of the best articles I have read this year. Hopefully this will help you get your heads around the challenge confronting us while still having enough energy and motivation to join the many millions of people calling for action and a commitment to change in order to ensure a safe future for generations to come.

Alison Cleary

Here’s my list

So, what exactly was COP26?

COP26: A four-minute guide by a climate scientist
Richard Hodgkins (The Conversation)

Untangling the Climate Mess
Tim Leslie & Annika Blau (ABC News Story Lab) 

We Go Inside the COP26 Climate Talks
Alex Blumberg & Waldholz (How to Save a Planet podcast, Gimlet Media)

Who stands to lose if we get it wrong?

More Clean Energy Means More Mines – We shouldn’t sacrifice communities in the name of climate action
Nick Bainton & Deanna Kemp (The Conversation)

Land, Culture, Livelihood: What Indigenous people stand to lose from climate ‘solutions’
Robert Hales, Rowan Foley, Tim Cadman & Toni Hay (The Conversation)

Climate Change is a Justice Issue – These 6 charts show why
Sonja Klinsky (The Conversation)

This is What it Means to Decolonize Climate Policy
Ray Levy Uyeda (

A better future for our built environment

Building a Net Zero Future: What next after COP26?
John Thwaites, Margot Delafoulhouze & Michael Li, Climateworks (The Fifth Estate)

How to stay hopeful

Where to Find Courage and Defiant Hope when our Fragile, Dewdrop World seems Beyond Saving
John Wiseman (The Conversation)

Ten Ways to Confront the Climate Crisis Without Losing Hope
Rebecca Solnit (The Guardian)

5 Big Ideas: How Australia can tackle climate change while restoring nature, culture and communities
Rachel Morgain, Brendan Wintle, Judy Bush, Michael-Shawn Fletcher & Thami Croeser (The Conversation)

And some shameless self-promotion – a summer reading/watching list …

Summer Reading (and Watching)
Picks from the team at ClimateWorks Australia