Its time to stop talking about "slowing" climate change. The real issues the government should be addressing are the inevitable end of oil and unstoppable global warming.
The CEO of BHP recently called for a carbon tax, and was accorded a lot of attention. Last year he said something even more important and was ignored. Marius Kloppers told the Lowy Institute that at current levels of oil consumption and known oil reserves the world would run out of oil in 41 years and of gas in 63 years. He gave coal 147 years. The word "current" was underlined, presumably to emphasize that consumption was actually growing so the real time span was likely to be less than the figures given.
Maybe it was the amusing title to this particular slide in his presentation, "Resource reserves are assured for decades" that left everyone happy and relaxed.
The simple fact is that by the end of this century all the oil and gas and most of the coal that was created over millions of years will have been burnt over less than two centuries.
By extreme greenhouse abatement processes we can delay the inevitable by a decade, or maybe two, but the climate will certainly change and everyone alive more than twenty years from now will be affected.
Preparing for climate change means investing in science to understand what will happen and then in changes for mitigation or adaptation to the new realities.
But the other immediate requirement is preparation for the post-carbon economy. Within 10 years oil and gas will get extremely expensive and soon after that many people will have to be able to live without the absolutely massive benefits fossil fuels have brought us.
Australia will be one of the most affected countries. We rely on oil to transport our exports to the world, for our movement around this large land, to power our mining and other key industries, and for fertilizers to grow our crops. On the other hand, with our manageable population and advanced economy we could make a rapid and very effective transition to the post-carbon world. And we will probably be the last nation selling coal on the global market.
China is the only nation currently taking this reality seriously. It is making huge strides in alternative energy technologies, being the global leader in production of solar, wind and hydro power. It is rapidly expanding its nuclear power industry. China is also building a comprehensive fast-train network that can be powered by these sources to replace the aviation industry when it stops to redesign aircraft for new fuels.
In Germany recently a secret document prepared by their army was leaked. This outlined the chaos expected to take hold when fossil fuels finally, and quite suddenly, became very expensive. The US Airforce is experimenting with biological fuels for jet aircraft.
Oil rich nations are trying to acquire nuclear power so that they can sell the last of their oil at hugely inflated prices and still be able to survive.
The usual response from the right to this sort of information is to claim that huge new oil fields remain to be discovered. But tens of billions are already being spent on exploration, yet in most years the money spent on the search exceeds the value of discoveries.
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