Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government energy policy leading the nation to catastrophe – professor Ian Lowe

Professor Emeritus of science at Griffith University says govt energy policy risks ‘catastrophe’

A “CATASTROPHIC collapse of life” is drawing closer and parts of Australia could become unlivable by the end of the century if we don’t change course. Nick Whigham@NWWHIGHAM, 13 May 17

UNLESS the Australian government fully embraces renewable energy and moves to decarbonise our energy supply in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, parts of Australia like Bourke and Alice Springs will become unlivable in our lifetime.

That’s the warning from the highly decorated Professor Emeritus of the School of Science at Griffith University, and former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Professor Ian Lowe.

As public debate rages over the potential opening of the Adani coal mine in Carmichael, Queensland, Prof Lowe believes the government’s dedication to fossil fuels is taking the country in a troubling direction.

Speaking to he worried that the government’s intention to not only open up the controversial Carmichael coal mine but also open up the Galilee basin will “effectively guarantee the frying of the planet”.

“If we continue to expand fossil fuels — which is what things like opening up the Galilee Basin means — by 2050 the average global temperature will be at least two degrees more,” he said.

Under such a scenario, he expects parts of inland Australia to see average temperature rises that would make them virtually unlivable by the second half of the century.

“It’s difficult to imagine how life will continue in places like Alice Springs and Bourke under that sort of regime.”

In the coming decades, he believes countries including Australia who are not doing enough to combat global warming will receive backlash from the international community.

“I think there’ll be increasing international pressure for Australia to get into line,” he said.

“I think there will be political and trade sanctions on countries that are not seen to be pulling their weight.”

Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government is backing the Adani coal mine, claiming it will provide 10,000 jobs for the state of Queensland. However other reports put that number as low as 1,464.

Union leaders and regional mayors in Queensland as well as the Labor state government have also thrown their support behind the project, despite federal opposition leader Bill Shorten’s opposition to it.


Prof Lowe has previously received the Prime Minister’s Environmental Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement and was made an Officer of the order of Australia in 2001 for services to science and technology and for contributing to public understanding of environmental issues.

In 1996 he also chaired the advisory council that produced the first state of the environment report for the Australian government. A major concern highlighted in the report — and the three since then — was the loss of biodiversity in Australia due to the destruction of habitat, the introduction of species and chemical pollution.

It remains “probably one of the most serious environmental problems” we face.

“We’re losing biodiversity at an alarming rate and we simply don’t know what the long term effect of that will be,” he said.

“Basically we’re pulling random bricks out of the wall of life and we don’t know when whole sections will crumble.”

The UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which measured the human impact on the environment and published in 2005 projected that on current trends we could lose up to a third of all mammal, bird and amphibian species this century.

“That’s not a minor problem, that’s a catastrophic collapse of the web of life,” Prof Lowe said.

Environmentalist groups have raised concerns over the impact the Carmichael coal mine would have on the local habitats, including the nearby Great Barrier Reef.


If the climate change data is correct, we will see more extreme storms hitting the Australian east coast, according to climate scientists.

“If we continue to accelerate climate change, these cyclones will get more intense and extend further south,” Prof Lowe said.

For him, Cyclone Debbie was a reminder of the potential future we face. “There’ll be more catastrophic events,” he said.

The government certainly has the capability to address the issue, but its enthusiasm for fossil fuels — strangely highlighted by Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal in Parliament in February — has not inspired confidence in Prof Lowe.

“I’m confident about the government’s ability to do it but I’m not confident about the government’s will to do it,” he said.

“At the moment signs of political will are far and few between, and that’s probably always been the case.

“Politicians are increasingly driven by focus groups and opinion polls and they’re increasingly reluctant to do things that might be unpopular in the short term even if they’re essential for the long term good.”




May 13, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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