Sustaining Future

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stern Report on Impact of Climate Change

This report has been making headlines all over the world in the last few days. BBC has a good summary of the key points. Most of the reports concentrate on the economic impact:
# Extreme weather could reduce global gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 1%

# A two to three degrees Celsius rise in temperatures could reduce global economic output by 3%

# If temperatures rise by five degrees Celsius, up to 10% of global output could be lost. The poorest countries would lose more than 10% of their output

# In the worst case scenario global consumption per head would fall 20%

# To stabilise at manageable levels, emissions would need to stabilise in the next 20 years and fall between 1% and 3% after that. This would cost 1% of GDP


My reading of the responses from business is that there is a great business opportunity if we embrace the reduction of carbon emission reduction e.g. see ABC nightline's interview of a former adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the managing director of Global Renewables.

Australian Horward government is still taking the lead from the US Bush government, refusing to ratify the Kyoto protocol. "Federal Treasurer Peter Costello says there is no point in Australia reducing its greenhouse gas emissions when China and India are such major global polluters." [see http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200610/s1777278.htm] That is wrong, both morally and economically.

As pointed out in the ABC lateline interview, it is likely that China and India (being developing countries and are current big polluters) may leapfrog in developing clean energy. By then, Australia would have lost huge business opportunity and will degrade to China or India's resource mines.

I am especially worried when Horward governemnt is so naive to believe that we can develop clean coal power stations or rely on nuclear power. Permanent storage of CO2 and/or nuclear waste is risky, unproven and is potentially leaving a huge problem for our future generations. When 1 ton of carbon is converted to CO2, it will be 4 tons of gas. It is more massive and much larger in volume. The engineering challenge is much larger. It makes no economical sense to support such research (instead of allocating the same limited research resources to more viable alternatives such as renewable energy) other than for political reasons beyond public scrutiny and review.

With relatively low population density, Australia is in a special position to develop solar energy technology and convert the energy into some carbon-neutral for export.

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