I’ve recently returned from an Asia Pacific Climate Change Congress in Melbourne. This was a gathering of climate change presenters trained by the Australian Conservation Foundation and Al Gore, where people told their stories and their experiences of climate change around the Pacific nations. Brave and innovative people from Fiji, Pakistan, India, and many more, including Australia.
Al Gore (still my hero) was on the phone, answering our questions. He now refers to it as the ‘climate crisis’, but he has not lost hope. He is cheered by our passing of the carbon tax, and I can only hope that The Spoiler doesn’t send us round about and in circles on that one great act of true Labor leadership.
This experience, combined with reading two books back to back and watching both the Libyan and Eurozone events shape my views.
A book about Copernicus reveals the gradual process of evidence and reasoning that took science from slavish devotion to the ‘common sense’ observations of Aristotle to a mathematically based appreciation of a cosmos that runs on something other than religious mythology.
The other book is a blueprint for a safer planet by UK economist Nicholas Stern. He carefully goes through the arguments for action on different levels to address climate change. The science, he notes, is clear and accepted, or should be.
He castigates economists who try to wiggle out of ethical questions, or rationalise deferring action for a discounted future. The assumptions aren’t tenable, and action later will be far more expensive and uncertain.
And risk assessment lies at the core of any decisions about climate change.
It is now clear (to me at least) that flooding is the first cab off the rank for impacts. The flip side, drought, is equally deadly and dangerous, but tends to encrouch more slowly, and thus the effects are revealed less dramatically. Floods, however, as Brisbanians and Toowoombans are well aware, give little time for preparation or departure.
Stern describes the risks and finds them much too serious to warrant delay. He goes into some detail about why thinking that there is a choice between economic development and greenhouse abatement is a red herring. We must see them together, because we must deliver both. This is also the take-away lesson for me from the Arab spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The group Beyond Zero Emissions has released a report on how Australia could achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020, using proven and commercially available technologies. 60% solar thermal with molten salt storage and 40% wind. See http://beyondzeroemissions.org/
We can embrace the future or get washed away by the laws of physics – take your pick.