The science has long been considered sound, except by those who want to deny that there is an issue. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years on record, for the world, have occurred this century1; the frequency of extreme weather events has increased over the last 20 years; rainfall in the south-west of Western Australia has declined significantly since the early 1970s, making it difficult to maintain adequate supplies for an ever-increasing population in Perth. You would have to be incredibly naïve to consider that an increase from two billion to seven billion people in the world in less than a century2 would have no impact on climate around the world. The increasing number of people to be housed and fed, resulting in an increasing rate of deforestation (for housing materials and for winter fires), an increase in the number of animals grown (each pushing considerable volumes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere) for food, and the increasing use of fossil fuels to provide electricity, has caused much quicker rises in greenhouse gas emissions than ever before. Many people don’t realise that even a very small change in atmospheric conditions can have a large and negative effect on climates throughout the world. We must accept that human influence on climate is significant, and will have a huge detrimental effect not only on us, but also on plants and animals. The rapid increase in world temperatures is already having an impact on the reproductive cycles of many animals, and crops will fail more regularly in areas which have been the bread baskets of the world if we don’t work to reverse the impact we have had.
There is no economic sense is continuing to pay to use fossil fuels for supply of energy in the world when we have an abundance of free renewable energy at our disposal with little or no impact on the environment. What we miss out on by not turning to nuclear power will be more than compensated for from the increased income if we engage the renewable energy sector meaningfully.
Many big businesses in Australia failed to heed warnings of the impact of climate change because they were focussed on making money, aided and abetted by governments which were supported by those businesses and therefore didn’t want to rock the boat. Just because Australia is a small country doesn’t mean we can’t be world leaders, with the economic benefits that brings, by doing more than just reducing our pollution levels.
Even climate sceptics should be able to see the economic benefit of reducing our reliance of coal, oil and gas by using something we have in abundance and which is free, and they should be able to see the benefit of providing the world markets with high quality renewable energy technology, even if we don’t use it ourselves. If overseas customers want more efficient ways of using the sun, wind or waves than they currently have then why should we not supply them, even if we think they are not worth using? The world demand is there, but our governments are standing in the way of businesses supplying those needs.
Before last year’s Federal election, the Prime Minster, in a dramatic U-turn from previous policies, indicated there will be support for design and building of a large-scale solar power station at Port Augusta, using technology which allows the site to generate power through the night. That is how the Andasol-1 plant at Grenada, in Spain, operates3. It is how plants could operate in Western Australia if the government was willing to take positive action instead of tokenism. Nothing has eventuated from Mr Turnbull’s promise, just as nothing will eventuate from any other promise unless there is a real commitment. That scenario is, unfortunately, all too common, and many people fall for the trick, which is why politicians continue to use it.
For those who believe that we don’t have to make changes now, please be aware that the atmosphere responds very slowly to change. If we could stop carbon dioxide emissions totally, today, it is likely that we would not see any significant downward change to global temperatures for ten to twenty years. What we really need to do is begin removing large amounts of greenhouse gases. Sequestration isn’t a safe method of achieving that either: a small earthquake could open a crack and release enormous volumes of pressurised carbon dioxide, killing any people or animals close by, and undoing all the good work of removing that gas from the air.
Contrary to the expectations of those who tend to confuse climate with weather, cold outbreaks, as have occurred a few times over south-eastern parts of Australia in recent years, are part of a global warming process. Put simply, if hotter than normal air is pushed polewards the cold air is displaced and moves rapidly towards the equator somewhere else.
When South Australia suffered a catastrophic breakdown in its electricity network in September 2016 many people were quick to blame renewable energy systems, but the reality was that power lines were brought down in the weather event. If power lines are taken out of commission it doesn’t make any difference what the source of power is: it simply cannot be distributed.
There is another way in which we can act to actually reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Technology to remove CO2 from the air and convert it into hydrocarbon fuels for cars, trucks, buses, and even aeroplanes, has been around since early days of the 20th century. With improvements in solar power generation we can now produce enough of those fuels from the atmosphere to satisfy more than Australia’s total needs with only a small footprint. Removing CO2 from the air and making it into fuel will reduce our reliance on new oil finds, and it has the capacity to generate significant income. In addition, there will be new employment opportunities.
Encouraging the use of public transport, especially for commuters, improving traffic flows, and building roads to reduce the stress on engines and tyres, thus reducing fuel consumption, can have a positive impact with little effort, but will be opposed by those with a vested interest.
There is no point in saving the economy if we don’t have a planet on which we can live, which is the consequence of not taking decisive action now. However, we can improve the economy and have a planet to live on if we tackle this issue properly.
1https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201513 (Retrieved 23rd March 2016)
2The world population was estimated at 2 billion in 1927 (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf) and 7 billion in 2012 (WPP2015_POP_F01_1_TOTAL_POPULATION_BOTH_SEXES.XLS in “World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision” published by the UN Population Division)
I will push strongly for:
● a significant focus on renewable energy sources, building the state’s economy and showing the rest of Australia how to do it;
● encouragement for workers in the coal industry to retrain for work in areas of solar power;
● Synergy being able to buy as much solar-generated power as it wants, at a price below the cost of buying from a coal, oil or gas-fired power station;
● work to start on building solar power plants;
● encouragement for companies to pull carbon dioxide from the air and use solar power to convert it into hydrocarbon fuels, improving on technology which has been around for more than a century.
Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.