From: "Shaping a Sustainable Future" Professor Ian Lowe addresses the National Press Club – 30 August, 2006
"The way we are currently living is not sustainable; it doesn’t satisfy any of the main criteria. Despite the evidence that the overall consumption of the present population is degrading our environment, we encourage both growing numbers and increasing consumption per person. If we haven’t yet passed the peak of world oil production, we are certainly near it, and there is no prospect of scaling up production to meet the demand we have stimulated."
"We are seriously changing the global climate, with economic and social consequences ranging from increased costs of water supply to growing numbers of human casualties from heat stress and severe weather events. We are already in the middle of the sixth major extinction event in the history of the planet, with global warming adding to the driving forces of habitat loss, introduced species and chemical pollution. In economic terms, we have had 44 consecutive trade deficits, a trend that should have alarmed our leaders."
"Experts disagree about whether we are approaching the peak of world oil production, or have actually passed it. Either way, we are near the end of the age of cheap petroleum fuels. The second problem is that our use of “fossil fuels” – coal, oil and gas – is seriously changing the global climate. We have known about the problems of peak oil and climate change for decades. But Australia still has no concerted responses, no overall energy policy, just a few half-baked schemes and political stunts thrown together hastily to give the appearance of action."
"We also need to put much less carbon dioxide into the air. There are two ways to do this. First, we must use cleaner fuels. We can’t afford to keep using old technologies that are changing the global climate – like coal-fired electricity. Using electricity to heat water or cook, rather than burning gas, puts about four times as much carbon dioxide into the air! Renewable energies, like solar or wind power, are cleaner still. These natural energy flows are huge, far greater than human energy needs. As a specific example, the entire world’s energy use for a whole year is only about double the solar energy hitting Australia in one summer day! We should get much more of our energy from sun, wind and other renewable sources. It might cost a bit more than burning coal, but it won’t impose the large and growing costs of climate change."
"On Four Corners this week, the Prime Minister showed the contradictions in his approach to climate change. He said emissions trading is unacceptable, even though it is supported by business and economists, because it would increase prices of electricity and petrol – yet he was quite happy to instruct an inquiry to investigate the viability of nuclear power, an industry that has never survived anywhere without massive ongoing public subsidies. He said we hadn’t ratified Kyoto, shaming us on the global stage, because it doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t impose binding restraints on the biggest polluters, China, the USA and India. Instead he supported the AP6 move – which doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t impose binding restraints on the biggest polluters, China, the USA and India."
"The US economist Lester Thurow said that it is hard to tell people the party is over, especially if they haven’t got to the bar yet! I am, in those terms, telling you that one type of party is coming to an end. But I am also telling you about a better party that is starting up. It is a better party because it won’t run out of food and drink. It is a better party because it won’t leave you with a very nasty hangover of radioactive waste or disrupted global climate or despoiled natural systems. It is a better party because it is based on quality of human experience rather than gluttonous consumption. It is a better party because the neighbours won’t be enviously peering through the windows or throwing rocks on the roof, because they will all be invited. And it’s a better party because our children will be able to keep enjoying it after we are gone."