Greenhouse Gas Reduction – What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 5

Greenhouse Gas Reduction: What Extent Will Be Needed?

So looking at the big picture, even if all countries keep their emissions low as prescribed in this article, there is still a short-fall of 30-40% in the greenhouse gas reduction needed by 2050, even if everything goes well.  Of course it will not go that well!  Human nature, as often proven throughout in history, always appears to deliver too little and too late.  So projected results for greenhouse gas reduction must be tempered.

This means that if ‘business as usual’ and superficial or ‘green wash’ continues, as evident at present, the mandatory and eventual urgent action to reduce fossil fuel use by 2050, could be as high as a  62-72% reduction , after all other avenues have been exhausted.  To achieve such a dramatic decrease in fossil fuel use seems impossible, even though totally necessary to result in effective greenhouse gas reduction.  To create a dramatic greenhouse gas reduction in the magnitude needed, after all the built environment, culture change, transport and agricultural solutions have been tried and to a great extent failed, would cause a great deal of economic and social upheaval.  World wars have occurred under lesser circumstances before.

But, being basically an optimist, I am predicting many early initiatives will actually succeed to a certain degree.  I believe the ultimate challenge will end up forcing an urgent and mandatory greenhouse gas reduction of 40-50%  after all other measures are exhausted.

This shortfall in greenhouse gas reduction needs to be dealt with  progressively rather than occurring all at once.  Obviously progressive change is acceptable to most politicians and society as a whole and there are positive signs that this technological change has already begun.  What is in contention is the actual rate of change and the present extent of greenhouse gas reduction.

To determine this rate of change, a multidisciplinary expert management is needed and decisions made that are based on science and sustainability based economics, not based on political machinations and hijacking of the agenda by powerful and influential industries.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Photo

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Needed

This all means that solar and renewable energy will definitely have to progressively replace fossil fuel sources to a large degree.  The extent will greatly depend on the success of  the built environment to make changes resulting in adequate greenhouse gas reduction.

Solar and Renewable Energy – Why Use Them?

Do nothing with the built environment and we are heading for economic hardship, as far more expensive renewable sources will have to be used to replace our current enormous investment in fossil fuel power sources.  This realisation is the key to why I spend so much time on the promotion and advocacy of solar and renewable energy, starting in the 1980s with the Solar Energy Information Centre and subsequently online and with my educational efforts since the closure of it.  The advent of solar energy technologies complements the total built environment strategy as advocated.  Most systems need a building roof to sit upon or be part of a local or remote power system for a group of buildings.  There is a definite relationship between these two industries.  It is difficult to separate them – they are already and ever-increasingly intertwined.  Many of the technologies need a roof or a wall to accommodate them.

Make no mistake!  Australia along with the Western World, is eventually heading for disastrous economic times if we do not act now on improving the efficiency of the built environment to result in significant greenhouse gas reduction.  The previous arguments have shown why we must do more than we are currently doing,  given the threats to life on the planet if ‘green-wash’ continues for too long.

It all comes down to reducing coal-fired, or gas or oil driven power station outputs of energy and replacing at least 50% of the residual energy needs, after the conservation approach is maximised.  This  needs to be replaced with renewable and solar energy, if our standards of living are to be comparable to the present day and if we are to achieve greenhouse gas reduction to the extent needed.

This proposed technological shift would be the biggest change in society and lifestyles since the Industrial Revolution.

However, by acting on reducing energy and water dependence, we can still have a healthy share of fossil fuel use for base load power for hundreds of years.  We simply need to reduce consumption and energy use in our built environment now.  Otherwise, we will simply have to close the coal-fired power stations down when disasters start snowballing with Climate Change.

I fail to understand the short sightedness of the coal industry if they have a long-term vision for their industry and shareholders taking this logical progression into account.  Perhaps their current leaders are still waiting for a miracle?  Maybe they do not care about the long term and want to keep making returns for their lifetime alone?  Who can explain the logic of greed?  We all need to embrace significant greenhouse gas reduction and look ahead, taking  responsibility for the future, rather than denying the dangers.

This is why I spend a great deal of my present time and resources expounding these ideas on Wise Earth’s global website:

Rather than seeing Climate Change as a threat I see it as an opportunity for innovators and emerging industries to meet the challenges  of greenhouse gas reduction. The first step is to immediately start to get our built environment functioning to deliver measured prescribed outcomes and adapt until it does.  This will require support of private initiatives and the ‘movers and shakers’ who get things done, as well as to review outdated compliance and development processes that are obviously not working from the government end of the spectrum. Greenhouse gas reduction should be our first priority and needs our significant and immediate attention.

Back to Part 4

Continue to Part 6

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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