There is no need to spend more than a very few words on this post. For the first time in recorded history, probably the first time since our species’ primitive ancestors crawled out of the sea, we have reached the point of two degrees above normal. Two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Think about that for a moment. That’s the figure that the world’s scientists and politicians have agreed marks the advent of dangerous climate change. It’s the figure that has been the de-facto goal of global efforts to avoid, ever since the Kyoto agreement in 1997 and agreed and reinforced innumerable times since. Two degrees is the figure the world has come to view as the mark of success or failure of our efforts to halt climate change. It’s half a degree above the goal agreed at the recent Paris accords.
We have just reached two degrees of warming, and we show no signs of even making progress towards reversing the trend. The two degrees figure incorporates the effects of a powerful El Nino effect in record heat for February, the hottest month ever recorded. It is possible that heat readings for March may be less terrifyingly extreme than February. Perhaps we’re not yet permanently two degrees above normal. Regardless, the trend is undeniable.
Climate change continues. Climate change is accelerating. Mankind is making no real effort to stop it. We will not survive this. If this milestone does not spur governments to action, likely nothing ever will.
It doesn’t get any more stark than that. We have failed, we are failing, we will fail.
Ok, I’ve been sitting around and trying to work out the middle way.
Yes, it’s a worthwhile question and it’s already been asked by many. Why so many pages about Paris and so few about all the other victims of people using weapons indiscriminately?
Of course, the question divides, because many of the people who are angry about Paris see it as typical of the left who apologise for all the terrible people in the world and if only we all got a little bit angrier, then everything would be ok, because, well that’s the way it works in the movies isn’t it? The hero is slow to anger, but when he does he wastes all the bad guys and it’s all ok, so if the left would just stop watching those arty films where things end badly, then maybe they’d understand that life isn’t like that, it has happy endings when the hero just uses his gun. And we’re the hero, aren’t we?
I’ve spent a large part of my life being angry about things. Not most of it. But a large part of it. Anger rarely solves anything. Sometimes, as that punk, Johnny Rotten once told us, it’s “an energy”. But usually it doesn’t usually solve anything.
So I spent a lot of time thinking about what could we do about Paris and I asked myself a lot of interesting questions. Like what would surrender look like? What would happen if we said to the terrorists, you win, what are your terms for peace?
Yes, yes, I know they don’t have any terms for peace. But it’d be interesting to ask them that. I mean, what would they say? We don’t want peace? Perhaps. But there’s also a possibility that the question could make them spend the next few years arguing with each other about whether they should ask for something or simply tell us that they don’t want peace at any price. At least that might stuff up their planning …
And then tonight, while I was still trying to work out a thoughtful response to the Paris attacks when I noticed a post on Facebook which I’ll quote loosely as “F*ck you, Charlie, don’t expect us to feel sorry for you.”
Now for a second, I’d forgotten all about the story on the news where I heard that Charlie Sheen was going to reveal that he was HIV positive in an interview, and while I’m tempted to have a long discussion about the nature of the word reveal that’d just be a distraction. At the time, I thought of all the “Je suis Charlie” posts and thought that this person was blaming the magazine for the Paris attacks. I was outraged and was about to pull out all the verbal guns and …
Then I remembered Charlie Sheen.
And I felt silly.
Not least, because when we have a media that thinks that Charlie Sheen’s HIV revelation is worth telling us about before he actually reveals it, I should already know not to expect anything better! While I could say thanks for the health warning, I realised that it’s probably wiser to just remember that book I read “Amusing Ourselves To Death” and realise that the nightly news is just entertainment and to expect it to be anything less is about as ridiculous as to expect that sportspeople should be role models just because they are slightly faster, more agile or bigger than the average person.
Why expect better from the media? Silly me.
I posted this a couple of years ago, but he seems the best Charlie to listen to right now.
P.S. When a part of Melbourne is evacuated because someone left a pair of shoes, it seems that the terrorists have won. Perhaps surrender is not as silly as it sounds.
(An update to this article was added on 18 November.)
Following the attacks in Paris on the weekend, there is little doubt that we – along with most of the rest of the Western world – are at war with ISIL. And at the risk of stating the obvious, the key to winning any war is knowing who the enemy is and correspondingly, who our allies are.
But understanding who’s an enemy and who’s an ally in this conflict seems to be something that many are struggling with. This is understandable – to some extent at least – as many still think of war as something that is fought between nations. But as I wrote last weekend, this is not a war which is defined by physical boundaries. You can’t point at a specific nationality – or even a specific religion – and say everyone of that nationality or religion is the enemy.
Jumping on the enemy bandwagon…
Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped some from using the tragedy of war to try and garner support for their own particular message of hatred and/or bigotry. Here’s some homegrown examples:
Tony Abbott – has been out and about, using this tragedy to push his stop-the-boats mantra, warning that terrorists are hiding in the ‘flood of refugees‘; and
Pauline Hanson – who has also grasped the opportunity to push her own particularly brand of bigotry, calling for a “Royal Commission into Islam” and demanding that Australia immediately cease all migration from “Muslim” countries.
The sad and tragic irony of this is that the likes of Abbott and Hanson have – albeit unwittingly – become voices for ISIL, pushing the very message that ISIL want them to push.
Pushing hatred and bigotry is exactly what ISIS want
Commentator Waleed Aly’s message on The Project yesterday evening made this very clear:
In Aly’s words:
“ISIL’s leaders would be ecstatic to hear that since the atrocity in Paris, Muslims have reportedly been threatened and attacked in America, England and here in Australia. Because this evil organisation has it in their heads that if they can make Muslims the enemy of the West, then Muslims…will have nowhere to turn but to ISIL…
We all need to come together, because it’s exactly what ISIL doesn’t want.”
But instead of coming together, many are being taken in by fear mongering – and as a result confusion reigns about who’s an enemy and who’s an ally.
Being French doesn’t make you a terrorist. Nor does being a refugee.
Just look at the response to the fact that a Syrian refugee passport was found next to one of the terrorists last weekend. Suddenly more than a dozen US states have said they will bar Syrian refugees and many countries in Europe are talking about putting up fences and barbed wire to protect their borders – as though this will somehow keep them safe.
The fact that at least five of the terrorists were French nationals and their leader was Belgian is just completely ignored in discussions around how to prevent terrorism – instead the focus is on refugees. Nobody is suggesting that we close our borders to all French and Belgian citizens – even though they were the bulk of last weekend’s terrorist cell – because we recognise that this would be absurd. Being Belgian or French doesn’t make you a terrorist. Nor does being a Syrian refugee.
Fighting the real enemy
The bottom line is that the very best way to fight ISIL at home is to fight racism, to fight bigotry, to welcome refugees, to support Muslims in their fight against extremism – because this is the exact opposite of what our enemy wants us to do.
If we don’t do this – if we allow the likes of Abbott and Hanson to divert our attention to their petty biases and bigotries – then instead of fighting the real enemy, we will be fighting our allies and doing ISIL’s work for them. And the outcome of this could be catastrophic.
In the words of Sun Tzu:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will lose every battle.” (The Art of War)
Unfortunately, the terrorists’ ploy appears to be working, as state after state in the US – undeterred by facts – confirms that it will no longer take refugees from Syria. Since I wrote this article yesterday, the number has more than doubled to 26 states. Further, conservative Republican candidates like Donald Trump are falling over themselves to support ISIS through their fear-based rhetoric – with Trump calling for the US to shut mosques and using the Paris Tragedy as an argument to support US gun laws.
If only we all shared the thoughts on life of AIMN reader Richard O’Brien, what a much better world this will be.
Beyond expressing my deepest sadness, it is not my place to speak for the people of Paris, or Beirut, or the countless other places where people have died for someone else’s cause of late. Many others will use these sad events to promote many different agendas, for many different causes. For the most part they are different sides to the same dice, where no matter what number you roll, someone ends up paying for it.
As I see it the world is divided. That divide runs through all beliefs, religious and not. It is a divide that runs through all countries, cities, towns, even families. The rich and the poor, the Left and the Right. It is a divide between those who choose to hate, and those who choose to love.
Right now we are all sharing a planet with 7.3 billion other people, dependent on one of trillions of suns in one of billions of galaxies. We’re still here because the people who choose to love outnumber the people who choose to hate by many to one.
You may not change the world in any noticeable way if you choose to love, and the people who choose to hate won’t go away. But we’re only on this planet for a relatively short time, and I guarantee you, if you choose to love you’ll enjoy that time more, and hurt less people doing it.
As news came out yesterday evening that a Syrian refugee passport was found next to one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks on Friday, predictably the media pounced, and all the right wing refugee-demonisers came out in force. Our very own stop-the-boats-fetishest, Tony Abbott, spoke with his media team – the Daily Terrorgraph, sorry Daily Telegraph – who today published an article with the following headline:
“Former PM Tony Abbott warned IS terrorists are hiding in a flood of refugees” (Daily Telegraph – November 15, 2015)
And Abbott wasn’t the only one. US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz came out on his personal blog yesterday saying:
Never mind that the French government has yet to validate that the terrorist was the actual owner of the Syrian passport. Never mind that at least one of the other terrorists was a French national, and that his father and brother have been arrested. Never mind that the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year were both born in France. And even more importantly – never mind that the terrorists perpetrating these attacks are the same people that refugees are fleeing from because they too, have been victims of these terrorist groups.
Clearly none of these actual facts matter to the likes of Abbott and Cruz. According to their logic, this attack could have been prevented if only Europe had stopped the boats, had forced tens of thousands of refugees to stay and face almost certain death at home or risk starvation in the already overcrowded refugee camps along the borders of their home countries.
The idiocy of this proclamation is astounding. It reflects the fact that many of our political leaders – and those in the media – have yet to grasp the fact that this is an ideological war being fought in an age where there are no borders around information, no borders around ideologies.
Prior to the advent of new communications technologies last century, governments could – at least in theory – stop information flows across borders since information had to be physically carried across by a person (whether as a book, document or a an idea in someone’s head). But in this century, people don’t have to connect in a physical space – they can connect in cyber space. Ideologies can cross any border they like with no passport, no visa, no stops.
Suggesting that having stronger physical borders will have any impact on the battle against these horrific terror attacks, is the equivalent of suggesting that you could stop flood waters from overflowing by putting up a sign instructing them not to.
The reality is that we are living in a different time – a time where there are no borders around ideologies. Strategies that focus on defeating terrorists groups with traditional warfare strategies alone are doomed to fail as they don’t take into account that at its core, the war against these groups is not a physical battle, it’s an ideological one. And ideological battles are not won and lost on battlefields or at borders, they are won and lost in people’s hearts and minds.
Does anyone truly believe that violence can lead the world to a better place?
There can be only one reason for the attacks in Paris and that is to draw the West into increased military action in the Middle East, and from the sounds of it, that has been the call from many people today.
To those whose answer to the bombs and bullets is bigger bombs and more bullets, I would say you are being manipulated in the same way as the ignorant deluded handful of people who carried out these attacks.
How can you claim to be on the side of right when you use the same methods – go to a foreign country and kill innocent people?
How can you speak of national security and protecting your borders as you invade other countries?
How can you claim to be protecting human rights as you bomb hospitals?
How can you claim to be fighting for freedom as you lock up the people fleeing from oppression?
We have removed countless despots and dictators but rarely has it gone well. We install corrupt governments or leave when it becomes politically inconvenient to stay and leave people to cope with the mess we leave behind. We train and arm paramilitary groups and then abandon them and show surprise when they team up with others we don’t care for.
The armaments industry is a huge global business with no ethics. Defence forces are empire builders who demand hundreds of billions to ‘keep us safe’ as they spark aggression around the world.
If you kill people, others will want revenge. Where does it stop?
Is humanity capable of civilisation? Capable of tolerance? Capable of accepting the responsibility of caring for and nurturing all children, educating them, and protecting the environment so they can have a future?
Billy Connelly used to do a skit about his mother belting him for hitting his sister. Are we to respond to violence with violence and see ourselves as saviours?
Until we learn to respect each other and the planet we share, we are doomed to let those who would use us for their own power and profit pull the strings.
It’s fair to say that the Volkswagen diesel emissions revelations have captured the world’s attention. As a scientist with a background in air pollution monitoring and management I must admit that the amount of attention the issue has received intrigues me – from the perspectives of both the media reporting of the issue and of course the public reaction.
I’m particularly interested in the media’s reporting of the issue in terms of what a test method is, what is emitted under test conditions and what an emission standard or limit is. I see the way it has been reported as a public demonstration of the scientific method-questioning the way something is, testing/analysing it, comparing the results against a standard and determining what that means. From my perspective these steps are fundamental, and the more the public can see why scientists do what they do, why they do it and the part science plays in society the better. However this is not really the place for a lesson in the scientific method. Instead, I would like to look at diesel emissions from another perspective.
Diesel emissions from vehicles are comprised of a number of pollutants, with the most significant being nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates. The latter were the first pollutants emitted from vehicle exhaust to be identified as toxic in 1993 by a team from Harvard University in their groundbreaking Six Cities Study which involved more than 8000 adults over more than 14 years.
The study’s findings were significant because the mortality risk in “dirtier” cities (cities that are more heavily polluted) was strongly associated with fine particles, and life expectancy in these cities was reportedly 2-3 years less than “cleaner” cities. The findings also gave rise to new air quality standards which have in turn progressively lowered particulate concentrations and improved health outcomes over the past two decades.
In the time since the Six Cities Study, hundreds of studies have given rise to similar conclusions. One study in the UK estimated that nearly 30,000 people are killed each year from exposure to particulates (more than obesity and alcohol combined and 10 times the number of people killed on roads). The UK Government Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution estimates that it is a factor in an additional 200,000 deaths.
In June 2012, The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that diesel exhaust was a probable human carcinogen, based on sufficient evidence that personal exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.
Head of the IARC Monographs Section Dr Kurt Straif stated at the announcement that the air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances, and that outdoor air is a leading cause of cancer deaths from an environmental perspective. The scientists conducting the evaluation reviewed in excess of 1000 academic papers on polluted air and small particles in that air. The IARC also reported that in 2010 air pollution was responsible for 223,000 deaths in lung cancer patients worldwide.
France has the highest percentage of diesel cars of any European country’s vehicle fleet as a result of successive Governments subsidising diesel fuel to such an extent that it is cheaper than petrol. In March this year, an increase in air pollution resulted in Paris being the most polluted city in the world for a short time, with the smog being so thick that many of the city’s landmarks including the Eiffel Tower were invisible. In addition, the Volkswagen revelations have increased the pressure on the French Government to act on vehicle emissions and the associated air pollution.
A car free day was implemented in Paris last week (September 27) at the suggestion of the Paris Without Cars group. The car free day was limited to approximately one third of the city, covering an area between Bastille and the Champs Elysees and the outer Bios de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes between 11 and 6pm. In the remainder of the city, cars were allowed to travel at 20 km/hour. Despite the limited scope, Elisabeth Pagnac who lives in a tower block in the east of the city reported the dramatic difference in the skyline and commented that it had never been as blue and was very different without the layer of pollution that typically hangs in the air.
In addition to implementing the car free day, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has made a vow to end diesel use on the city by 2020 and promote less car usage and cleaner vehicle. She also plans to extend car free areas further along the Seine River.
Regardless of the extent to which the decision to implement a car free day was or wasn’t influenced by the Volkswagen revelations, I think that implementing such a day was a bold decision. As an Australian I can’t help but wonder how many Mayors would have the courage to do the same in their cities. As a scientist I wonder about three points-1) whether the Volkswagen revelations and in particular discussions on the emissions will cause Regulatory Authorities around the world to rethink/ revise the process they use to assess/audit emissions sources (of all types, not just cars) and any associated data, 2) whether the revelations will cause people to pause and consider the full impacts (eg. environmental, health and economic) of their potential purchase as part of their buying decision process, and 3) the future of diesel vehicles.
About the author:Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.
While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”. In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.
You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June. In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone. The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.
Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself. This was the first story I came across.
June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”
News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”
CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.
He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.
Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.
He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past. [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke. Abbott has really done this. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”
This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.
November 22, 2013
This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!
Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”. What I see is ill-informed naivety. Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax. Nice going, Clive.
Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow … but don’t bet the house on it.
This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail. Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.
Image by climate-change-guide.com
Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda. Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency.”
A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem.”
In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.
In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity.” The main thrust of the study is:
Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.
The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close.” To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”. Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.
The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during – and well beyond – the critical decade.
Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.
To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.
Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.
But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.
Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.
It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.
The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence. Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.
Clearly, international cooperation will be required – particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions – working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.
Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.
We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” – a global fossil fuel phase out – a reality.
We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.
Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.
Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.
The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.
Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century – from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty – and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.
Australia has the power to make it happen. It is up to us to insist that it does.
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