Cool cat: Meet Crawford’s Paul Wyrwoll

24 March 2020

Each week, Crawford School introduces one of our fantastic staff, so you can get to meet the people of Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate policy school.

This week, Dr Paul Wyrwoll tells us about decarbonising Australia’s economy, and what cats can teach us about optimism and determination.

1. Why did you choose to work Crawford School?

The people - both staff and students. I learn so much just by having chats to colleagues and attending seminars. There are really brilliant academics at Crawford from a lot of different disciplines doing important work that has influence and effects change. The professional staff are really friendly and supportive, and also very patient when I ask dumb questions about university accounting procedures. And the diversity, experience and knowledge of our Masters and PhD students is amazing - teaching on policy issues to a room full of current and future policymakers from many different countries certainly keeps you on your toes!

2. Can you tell us a bit more about how your research matters today?

Right now I’m building a simple excel model to simulate Australia’s national and state/territory greenhouse gas emissions to 2050 under different scenarios. The research objective is to identify pathways to decarbonise Australia’s industries, but the policy engagement is probably more important in this case: this simple model is a tool that could be readily used by policy advisors and decision-makers within and outside government. This matters because Australia needs to get to work on ensuring we have a prosperous future in a decarbonised global economy, and to make that happen we need long-term climate change policy at both national and state/territory levels.

3. Can you tell us about one of your funniest/most special moments when teaching a class?

I was asked to provide a lecture on domestic climate change policy in 2019 at the ANU Fenner School. The specific instruction from the course convenor was “try to not make the students depressed”. So I spent five minutes at the end of the lecture using cat pictures to explain how I reckon there are different ways of engaging with climate change as a social and political issue (e.g. sadness, anger, willful and playful ignorance, blind technological optimism etc.) and how this picture of my cat exemplifies my approach: inquisitive, optimistic, and determined. Not sure if the students took on my Tony Robbins style self-help advice, but I’m pretty sure they left fully aware that I’m a weird cat person.

4. If you could go back and choose a different career path, what would it be?

Frontperson for a rock and roll band. I have no musical talent, but I look great in leather pants, cowboy boots, and a sequin kimono. And I’ve got a lot of enthusiasm and almost no shame.

5. Can you give us your top 3 tips about how to stay positive during the COVID-19 outbreak?

  • Learning new skills (mine are the blues harmonica and agent-based modelling of water systems)
  • Finding new music that I like from different countries (radiooooo is a great app - my current faves are Lebanon and Vietnam in the 1970s)
  • Exercise with rewards - I’m keeping a calendar of my exercise with a points-based reward system. My reward is purchasing a drone that I will use to document a mini alpine expedition I’m planning for late winter/early spring: splitboarding to the source of the Murrumbidgee and paddling down the river (ice/snow permitting). Always good to have an adventure planned, even better to make yourself work for it.
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