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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a note on combating climate change « Previous | |Next »
November 27, 2008

Over in a little corner of the public sphere we have this kind of debate amongst the Quadrant conservatives. Climate change denialism has a life all of its own; one that has yet to come to terms with market failure of greenhouse pollution or the need for a more sustainable mode of life.

In the world of public policy the debate is concerned with a different set of issues---finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. There are multiple pathways to achieving decarbonisation or a lower carbon economy. They include reducing energy use, increasing energy efficiency, switching to low carbon energy sources and capturing carbon emissions for long term storage. However Australia's energy systems are characterised by lock-in, with coal fired technologies remaining dominant despite the existence of others that could meet current and future needs more effective and the slow rates of change in the physical structure of the built environment.

One pathway to help meet the targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions is through increased energy efficiency. That means improving the energy performance of the existing building stock by retrofitting older homes to make them energy efficient. Building insurance would be dependent on reaching a certain energy efficiency standard.

One way to address the historical dominance of producing electricity through coal -fired power stations is though decentralising energy systems, so as to help smaller-scale technologies get a foothold. This includes solar hot water panels on homes, a combined heat and power system for a block of flats, or a larger renewable power plant in a city centre or a rural area.

The argument here is that Australia is entering a period of energy transition. The main forces driving change are a growing consensus about the scale and importance of climate change, the need to ensure secure energy supplies for Australia in the face of rising global demand and the urgent imperative to re-shape policy in order to decarbonise the energy we use and to secure sustainable supplies for the long term. Achieving these goals requires that policy makers focus their attention on the relationships between energy systems, the built environment and the human activities within it. A lot of Australia's carbon emissions come from energy used in buildings.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:18 AM | | Comments (11)


The Quadrant crew have locked themselves into a corner of their own making. Thus Bob Carter in The Futile Quest for Climate Control reduced the world of public policy to propaganda:

The means by which the public has been convinced that dangerous global warming is occurring are not subtle. The three main agents are: the reports from the IPCC; incessant bullying by environmental NGOs and allied scientists, political groups and business; and the obliging promulgation of selectively alarmist climate information by the media. Indeed, the combined alarmist activities of the IPCC, crusading environmental NGOs, some individual leading climate scientists and many science agencies and academies can only be termed a propaganda campaign. However, because all of these many interest groups communicate with the public primarily through the gatekeepers of the press, it is the press that carries the prime responsibility for the unbalanced state of the current public discussion and opinion on global warming.

Public policy is based on a politically tainted science in Australia---science corrupted by politics. Scientists have become advocates for action to address global warming.

yeah. Carter sees himself as a rationalist---an empirical natural scientist---and he sees the present public policy position ---an emissions trading scheme---as a response to strong pressure from lobby groups whose main commonality is financial or other self-interest, and a baying media.

The downturn in world economies will effect the calculations of possible outcomes for the future.
Did anybody factor in recent events and the unfolding of events over the next 3 or so years into the calculations of where we would be at main dates? Is all data now void?

Australia is almost completely reliant on electricity produced by coal fired power stations and our per capita C02 emissions are close to the highest in the world.

All the indications are that Rudd is going to do very little about it apart from crisis management. He won't be able to deliver despite saying that climate change is the greatest moral and political challenge of our era.

The Quadrant argument rests on the assumption that the majority of people and governmnets of the world have been successfully hoodwinked by the propaganda of a conspiracy group. That would have to be the most impressive propaganda campaign in history, wouldn't it? Better than WMD, the 9/11 conspiracies and Milli Vanilli.

Carter's wasted. He should be writing novels.

Gary, This reference which I posted on your Conversations site

gives a unique holistic perspective on global climate change, and environmental destruction. And how our current global "food" systems are a major contributing factor---perhaps THE major contributing factor.

And also the major contributor to the patterns of chronic dis-ease that are a feature of life in 2008---at least in affluent Western socities, especially the USA.

The obese person being the current archetypal image of such a dis-eased person.

Uncomfortably numb rules!

With the concurrent flip side being the thousands of children that starve to death each day. Or whose lives are stunted by chronic malnutrition.

It is all the inter-related manifestations of one destructive pattern that is patterning everything.

Post script:

Green or gone!

"....decentralising energy systems, so as to help smaller-scale technologies get a foothold.. etc"

Apparently there is an idea going around that chucking large dollops of cash at the community is a good idea. The general community that is, not just the favoured few of the recent past. Weird idea I s'pose. Anyway a thought crossed my mind, whilst looking at an aerial photo of one of our cities recently, that there is an awful lot of veritable wasteland contained in those essentially empty roof tops, particularly in the CBDs and vicinities.
Which by chucking some money in the general direction, could be made useful. Not just the lovely garden top things I have seen on gardening shows on teev, but generating electricity via solar PVs and wind turbines. You know, the sustainable kind. Outa sight, outa mind, no rural ugliness, located right at the point of useful delivery, minimal bird strike etc, able to be structurally made safe, employment creating and so on.
Just a thought.
Hell who knows if the corporations aren't doing it maybe even set up a government owned company to manufacture, distribute, install such stuff! Yikes what cartoons would Petty draw given that scenario?

Might be better than doing nothing.

I'd put solar panels on the roof of the inner city apartment in Adelaide quick smart if there was a decent feed-in tariff to the main grid.

The country towns along the River Murray and the upper Spence Gulf could have their own local solar farm just out of town.

Carter at least endeavours to give an argument and he offers something to grapple with on different fronts---natural science+ climate change +human -caused global warming, computer modelling versus empirical evidence, the nature of science etc.

It is the geologist and University of Adelaide professor Ian Plimer who is really wasted, along with Miranda Devine. They just talk gibberish. Sad to see the pathology.

it is true. The modern, rational way of life puts it at such odds with the natural environment: it is based in a cultural outlook that sees little in the world apart from human needs. It interprets everything according to how these needs and desires can be satisfied. So nature becomes a means to an end, while the requirements of ecosystems are lost from sight, even it is our life support system.

In reality, the earth is a complex system such that when its requirements are not met it will necessarily adjust in a way that re-establishes a certain equilibrium. Climate change is that adjustment, and it makes clear that humans are not at the centre of things.