Alan Buchbach for Dickson
Climate, Energy and the Environment
Climate change is like Thanos: In twelve-months’ time, there are only two scenarios for Earth’s climate. One: Earth is warmer, even if only by 1 joule of energy in the system; two: Earth is cooler, even if by only 1 joule. As both of these scenarios represent change, change is... inevitable.
Regarding the cause of this change, there are two competing theories. The first being that generation of CO2 by human activity is the principal driver of a (warming) change to the Earth’s climate, this is known as the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis (AGW). The second theory being that the Sun, and the Earth’s relationship to it, are the most significant factors in determining our climate.
In determining our Energy policy, it does not ultimately matter which of these two theories is correct. This is because in the case of the second, we cannot control either the Sun or Earth’s Orbit; in the case of the AGW scenario, Australian emissions are simply irrelevant. To put our emissions in perspective, China's emissions grew by 15% or ~1.23 Billion tons of CO2 between Jan and March 2021. Australia's annual emissions were ~391 Million tons and declining. The amount of CO2 Australia put out in our largest year is roughly equivalent to the current rate of China’s growth of CO2 emissions per month (from ourworldindata.org)
Thus: If Australia were to completely shut down every mine site and farm; every truck, ship and plane; every power station and factory, every personal vehicle, if we as a nation were to dwell in stone-age squalor for the entire year… the total emissions we would have prevented would be cancelled out by the growth in Chinese CO2 emissions during the election period - and China is just one of many high emission economies.
Our policy must therefore be to ADAPT rather than seek to PREVENT Climate change.
Aside from any new challenges, we will still have to deal with the droughts, bush fires and floods of our present climate. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Indian Ocean Dipole will continue to bring annual and decadal swings in our weather conditions.
There are numerous infrastructure projects which we can embark upon – modern equivalents of the Snowy river scheme, a project for a generation – the building of a national water grid, which can provide both drought proofing and flood mitigation.
This combination of drought-proofing and provision for large areas of Australia to be protected against flooding events will work as both an adaptation to a changing climate as well as to shield against our annual natural disasters. Their construction will also create numerous job opportunities as we recover from the bipartisan ineptitude of government handling of Covid.
Having shifted climate policy from prevention to adaptation allows us to focus on a sensible energy policy. We shall aim for the cheapest and most reliable electricity and fuel sources possible, to improve the efficiencies of our industry and to reduce the cost of living for all Australians.
These options include a mix of safe and cheap nuclear such as thorium and/or fusion plants, the clean coal plants which Australia has pioneered, as well as natural gas. An additional benefit to drought proofing Australia is a source of renewable hydroelectricity.