Sustainable Solutions

Abstract of paper presented by Dr Mark Diesendorf at FEN Forum on Climate Change 2007

Mark Diesendorf teaches and researches ecologically sustainable development and solutions to global warming at the Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW. He was formerly a principal research scientist in CSIRO and Professor of Environmental Science at UTS. He is co-editor of the book “Human Ecology, Human Economy: Ideas for an Ecologically Sustainable Future” and author of “Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy”.

There is now a large body of scientific evidence that humankind is changing Earth’s climate and that the changes are accelerating and could soon become irreversible. The principal causes are the burning of fossil fuels (especially coal for electricity and oil for motor vehicles), followed by land clearing and meat eating. Although almost everyone will be affected adversely, the biggest damage of global warming will fall upon the poor.

There is a clean and safe solution, ‘sustainable energy’. It comprises using energy less wastefully, improving public/rail transport and using renewable sources of energy from the wind, sun, organic wastes and tree plantations. Sustainable energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions faster, creates more local jobs and costs less than ‘solutions’ favored by the Australian government, namely coal with the capture and burial of carbon dioxide and nuclear power.

Moral and theological issues arise from the greenhouse crisis. Therefore faiths have a responsibility to become involved.

These issues include:

  • Has God created the Earth to be exploited and subdued by humans, or to be respected and cared for?
  • Is it just for the rich countries to cause the hazards of global warming and then demand that the poor countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Within rich countries such as Australia, is it just for governments to require citizens to reduce their emissions while encouraging industry (the biggest emitters) to expand and hence increase their emissions?
  • If carbon pricing is introduced, thus increasing the costs of energy from fossil fuels, how can low-income earners be compensated?