Following the meetings today, we finished with a public meeting at the Australian Center for Christianity and Culture. Over 100 people are attending, and I’m blogging as the meeting goes.
The forum consists of a paper on an environmental ‘creation theology’ presented by Bishop George Browning, responded to by Mark Dreyfus, Greg Hunt, and Jeanette Lindsay.
This environmental challenge is something that we all take part in. All of us will be affected, and each has a voice in how we proceed.
The vast majority of science supports the climate change consensus. Extreme weather events have increased in accord with scientific predictions.
Common to all faiths is that life is relational. Our well-being is that of all nature. If we tyrannize nature we will face revolt.
There are three main new factors that precipitate this crisis: technological capacity to affect the environment; population; increased per capita resource use.
We cannot take it for granted that we will safely reach the end of this century.
This is a moral issue, and we can’t continue to act out of narrow self-interest. There are three main moral aspects: impact on the poor; effect on future generations; how we relate to the created order bears testimony to the inner integrity of humanity itself.
We do not have a moral crisis so much as a crisis of the human vocation. Are we to stand above and decide for nature, or participate as partners?
We question the priority of economic growth above all else, and should look to a post-growth economy. Our gambling debt is highest in the world, yet we are filled with loneliness and mental illness.
A range of strategies is needed: energy efficiency standards, incentives, public investment in renewable energy. A carbon price must be structured to be flexible, and to prevent such escapes as free permits, and so on.
The ecological limits of the earth are not negotiable, and as members of Australia’s faith communities we commit ourselves to do what is right for the future of our created order.
Hon Mark Dreyfus
It is heartening to hear the strong committment by Australia’s religious communities to meet the challenge of climate change.
We also are committed to doing the right thing by the climate and future generations.
Here is a reading from the prayer book of Progressive Judaism.
A shaft of light, a haze of mist, and there again, God’s bow. There we have God’s promise that there will be no more flood. We have left it late to awaken.
The scientists tells us we will see more extreme events that will impact on the most vulnerable of society. Climate has changed already, may increase from between 2 to 5 degrees. Many changes have a high degree of scientific probability.
Govt aims to decouple economic growth from carbon pollution, following California and England.
Intergenerational equity is key, we aim to leave the world a better place. Gillard govt is committed to reducing pollution by a carbon price and improving efficiency. We aim to reduce carbon by 5 up to 25 percent by 2020.
The most disadvantaged will need assistance. Money from the tax will help transition workers and industries affetcted by climate change. There will also be household assistance for those in need.
Moving to a clean energy future is a challenge we must rise to meet. Religious communities will play an important role, and it’s been an honor to address you tonight.
Hon Greg Hunt
Had we been successful last year, the process would have begun to convert coal to gas power station. This is a real world example of what could happen.
I’ve three points to address.
Points of agreement. First, the science. There are good and bad marketing mechanisms, but we passionately agree on the science. Also, we need to act. And we agree on the targets, both carbon reduction and renewable energy. Market mechanisms should be efficient and fair, and not transfer costs overseas.
George’s paper is riddled with the problem of unintended consequences. With carbon tax, companies will move overseas and result in greater total global emissions. Ethical tax is to take steps to leave a better environment.
We have the carbon tax, decided by Nobel prize economists as the least effective mechanism. People don’t cut back electricity usage. US, China, etc. will not adopt this mechanism.
Alternative is to provide incentives for lowest cost buyback of emissions, capturing carbon in soil, etc. Does not result in comparative disadvantage. This is an optimistic message, we can adopt a system that will reduce emissions and can positively influence other countries.
Dr Jeanette Lindsay, Climate change scientist, ANU
George’s paper was fascinating and inspiring.
There is no doubt climate is changing. Discussion of the issue is complicated by distrust of science and complex models.
We have detailed observations of weather for over 100 years. These tell us that global temperatures have been rising, as are ocean temperatures.
There is an increase in extreme weather events – cyclones, floods are more frequent and stronger, in accord with the models.
When system is destabalized by global warming, everything becomes unstable.
Emissions in 2010 were highest on record. Human impact is clear, even the GFC makes a noticeable dip in the carbon levels.
Energy emissions are the greatest impact, but land clearing, deforestation and other things also effect climate.
We shouldn’t forget that we are a part of the system, depend on it, and there are many aspects of sustainibility that must be dealt with.
Summer sea ice in arctic is melting, some experts believe we have already passed a tipping point. Perhaps we will see no summer ice in arctic within the next 2 decades. All aspects are interrelated in cascading ways, not all of which we understand.
Vast majority of scientific community agree we need urgent actions. We may already be on path to reaching 2 degree increase, and further emissions may result in even higher increase. We are incurring an increasing carbon debt, and the pace is accelarating. Ability of land and sea to take up carbon appears to be declining already. Scientific consensus is we need to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
At 2 degrees, some island states will no longer exist.
We must be flexible, we are learning new things all the time, our knowledge is improving rapidly. We must be able to adapt policy to best respond to changing knowledge so as to best ensure environmental safety in the future.
Q: How frustrated are you, knowing these things, yet we haven’t solved these problems?
GH: The good news is, we have done much already, maybe nearly half of what is needed. I don’t feel frustrated, we agree on action, disagree on mechanism.
GB: VERY! Today I was told there is a division between those who think there is a problem and those who deny it. People are not deciding betwen mechanism, we need to persuade half the population that there is an issue.
GH: Actually, the stats are roughly 70-30 believe in AGW.
Q: What is the science of sequestration?
JL: Green carbon (sequestration in trees, etc.) is an important part. However it is not a long term solution. We are taking carbon from fossil fuels and putting in atmosphere. It is going to continue to accumulate unless we reduce our emissions.
Q: Many of us are frustrated that parties are ‘business as usual’, not taking use of coal seriously enough.
MD: It is an acute crisis, the later we act the harder it is. We must work with the Parliamentary process, in addition to international efforts. We can’t introduce a solution that causes massive disruption, must transition. I share the frustration, but believe we can innovate and lead the world. Most Australians support action, but some leaders are acting irresponsibly. (Applause!) Denying the science is like saying the moon is green or the earth is flat. The debate is on what is to be done. I call on Greg Hunt to ask his party members to stop railing against scientists.
GB: We should appreciate that politicians’ role is to set the goalposts within which we must work. We will follow their leadership