It is now 25 years since the first global reports warned us that greenhouse gas emissions were a serious problem. I have watched the debate these two decades on climate change with increasing levels of concern. This is not some minor issue that will be easy to overcome. It is a massive juggernaut that will careen faster and faster, crashing through human society with drastic consequences. We have already committed our children to a degrading planet with compounding problems. If we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) our children or their children may not have a livable planet at all.
The tragedy of it is that we can do something to stop it. It is very simple – we must give up fossil fuels. We know how to do this. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are feasible and not overly expensive. It is not too late. In fact there is a driving moral duty to reduce emissions (and thus the impacts) as quickly as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it will become; until it is no longer possible to recover the Earth to the condition that have enjoyed through 5000 years of settled civilization. Every additional tonne emitted today will drive further warming over this and later centuries.
Besides what we can do individually to reduce our fossil fuel emissions, it falls on our governments to put in place plans to build new renewable energy plants so that we can close down fossil fuels. Because we have delayed for 25 years, there is now no other way to do this than actively closing down our fossil fuel plants. Our government must:
- Declare a climate emergency.
- Ban any new fossil fuel industry or infrastructure.
- Ban any new coal mines.
- Set in place a plan to build new renewable generation capacity sufficient to close down our coal plants.
- Found and organize our future carbon free industries.
Australia is in a unique position for renewable energy resources. Solar, wind and wave plants are already being constructed around the world. We have wide expanses of open land where solar energy would be ideal and a massive market to our north that needs energy.
Unfortunately, the agreement in Paris is not binding and the voluntary commitments made by all nations are not enough. Our ambition for reducing emissions must be increased in line with the above to avoid the worst possible outcome.
There is no future in those who continue to deny this crisis. We must have leaders who are willing to make the commitment needed to reduce emissions. No-one can expect us to stop emissions immediately, but I believe it is economically possible to replace our electricity system with currently available renewable energy plants in 10 years. Replacement of petrol would likely take longer.
With an election pending this year, we should be asking candidates of all colours how soon they plan to transition to a low carbon economy.