Australian comedian Dan Ilic has raised more than $70,000 in just two days to publicly shame Australia’s climate policy on billboards at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
The satirical billboards are intended to remind Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the rest of the world, about Australia’s track record when it comes to climate policy.
“With great anger, comes great comedy,” Ilic told The New Daily.
He believes the stunt will cut through to people more effectively than expert messaging alone.
“It reaches people. You know, mums and dads on their couch don’t read through the IPCC report,” Ilic said.
“This is a really funny way of telling a sad story in a funny way that cuts through really quickly.”
The project was crowdfunded via Indiegogo and reached its initial goal of $12,500 in less than three hours.
Now, Ilic has even bigger plans in mind.
A sign of the times
“I was racing to get the last spot at the COP26 conference centre, but I missed out by about a couple of hours,” Ilic said.
“So I got another spot around the corner on London Road in Glasgow. Lots of cars go past it every day – it’s really good.”
One of the billboards reads, Australia: Net zero by 2300! and another reads, Cuddle a koala! (Before we make them extinct).
The use of the year 2300 refers to science writer Ketan Joshi’s estimation that, if the Australian government’s own projections remain steady, the country will fail to reach net-zero emissions until that point.
An as-yet unnamed “very busy, prominent Australian” who donated $4000 to the campaign will choose the third billboard design.
After funds shot past the initial $12,500 goal on the first day, Ilic found a way to get even closer to the climate conference.
“Now it looks like we’re also going to be able to put the artwork on the side of the convention centre itself,” he said.
Ilic said an Australian has booked a seven-hour slot to project the designs on the sails of the SEC Armadillo.
He said he is working with motion graphic designers on making this idea a reality.
The road ahead
Ilic’s billboard campaign was so inundated with support and donations that he has since upped the ante to the tune of $1 million.
“Ideally, we can find a nice billboard in New England,” the comedian said, referring to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s seat.
COP26 will kick off on November 1, but Ilic has a vision beyond the conference.
He’s looking to assemble a team of 30 to 40 comedians, producers, data scientists, artists, creators and makers to make “subversive comedy” targeting pro-fossil fuel politicians in the lead up to the next federal election, which is due to be held during or before May 2022.
“A million dollars doesn’t buy you much these days. It buys you about a day in court if you’re a defamation lawyer, or it buys you about a third of a car park in Kooyong, or it buys you approval of a $60 billion mine [in the Galilee Basin],” Ilic said.
“Like, these are things you can spend a million dollars on, and we’re going to spend a million dollars on trying to make fun of politicians who are beholden to fossil fuels.
“This election coming up is the most critical election for the health of the world. We’re not mucking around here.”
The comedian’s end goal?
To elect so-called “climate independents” to the cross bench at the federal election who could push the next government to eventually abandon fossil fuels.
“The first act of Parliament that needs to be done as soon as the election is over is a supply deal that means that meaningful climate action is implemented, so supply can be guaranteed,” he said.
“And if meaningful enough climate action is enacted, then not only is Australia pulling its own weight when it comes to climate action, but it means we can avoid exporting gigatonnes of carbon dioxide out of Australia into the sky.”
The plan to plaster Glasgow – and now, Australia – with billboards is just the latest iteration of Ilic’s comedic climate advocacy.
His podcast A Rational Fear has been running since 2012.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” Ilic said.
“Quite frankly, I’m sick of making jokes about climate change.”