Commit to renewables


DESPITE the fact we’ve had a cold winter, 2016 is set to be a third consecutive year of a new record in rising global temperatures. In the last six months Australia has seen a major warming of the Great Barrier Reef, the worst die-off of mangroves ever recorded in the Gulf of Carpentaria and 960 square kilometres of kelp forest that have disappeared off the coast of WA. 

This is all taking place at the current one degree of warming, but the stakes will be much more serious in a matter of decades when warming has doubled to two degrees. (If we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate, we are likely to see temperatures over 3.5 degrees). This means we must rapidly shift out of fossil fuels and into renewable forms of energy.

Bill McKibben, author and global climate activist, says our only hope is to undertake a total war effort like we did in World War II when the US government was able to mobilise the economy for an astounding level of production of supplies for war. This made the war winnable.

To keep the planet habitable we must deploy an even greater scale of supplies —of renewable energy equipment. There are many strategic signs that this is starting to happen. Here are a few.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential election platform asserts: “We are committed to a national mobilisation, and to leading a global effort to address climate change on a scale not seen since WWII”.  She has promised that America will install half a billion solar panels in the next four years.

And Bill Gates has recently said that starting with WWII, “US government research and development has defined the state of the art in almost every area.  [In contrast] the private sector is in general inept at R&D”.

Gates is concerned that governments of rich countries should do the primary research to make renewables cheap enough for uptake by the rest of the world.

A good example of this is the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which has driven most of Australia’s innovative renewables research and development in recent years. Its work can enable a rapid Australian integration with the world’s fastest growing industries, when in a few years a combination of renewables, battery storage and electric vehicles begin to really take off.

Working against these kinds of necessary developments, McKibben points out, the fossil fuel industry “has managed to prevent any real climate action for decades. It has lied, lobbied and poured largesse on the political class.”

Globally, it has made major political parties impotent to seriously start the switch to renewables.

Consider how the Turnbull government, in contrast to investing in clean energy ‘innovation,’ has in its budget repair bill, removed as much funding as it possibly could from ARENA  (In doing so there was no mention of the coming budget costs of increasing climate emergencies).

Also, consider how the major parties have over the years proposed renewables options and later vacillated.

And yet both parties have remained steadfast in supporting the fossil fuel industry. By ensuring ports, rail lines, and special concessions, they’ve hoped to triple the size of Australia’s fossil fuel output well into the future.

A majority of Australians are fed up with climate inaction in this country. Now is the time for ordinary citizens to contact the major parties to let them know our concerns — about the desperate need for government climate leadership.

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