Bjorn Lomborg

If Bjorn Lomborg gets it…

12 November 2010 – There was a hullabaloo in the media again this week after the release of a report commissioned by The Australia Institute on whether the federal government’s solar rebate program was worth it.

Was it another case of incompetence by the Feds in the same vein as the insulation program?

The report gave the program the thumbs down on the basis of equity because generally it was the middle classes that benefited from the rebates, and also because the program had relatively low impact on solar energy produced and on the reduction of greenhouse gasses.

OK they might be right about their data, but where is the big picture thinking you are entitled to expect from academics? George Monbiot concluded a similar thing in a column he wrote in The Guardian a few months back. Solar rebates in the UK were all about middle class privilege and a kind of reverse Robin Hood effect, he said.

But as one astute observer commented, most of history’s big changes start with the middle classes. Because they can. After all, it wasn’t the peasants who contributed to our great literature.

Next, so what if the amount of solar energy was low to miniscule? Think about the psychological impact of all those hundreds of thousands of home-owners all now personal promoters of the great good thing on their roofs.

Spreading incentives to the voting public is a game changer.

If the rebates had only fed a handful of big commercial interests, the average consumer would not have noticed, cared or been changed one bit by it.

Yes, we need the incentives for big commercial interests to generate mass emissions savings, but it helps to generate voter support first.

Scientists need communications skills
You need to have to have some sympathy for academics in the science departments, and scientists everywhere in fact. They often struggle to get their messages across to the rest of us.

Macquarie University gets this and is now blending environmental science studies with communications courses, in the understanding that it’s brilliant leverage of the educational investment if the students understand how media works and how to use it.

And Machiavelli
They should also make those science students read Machiavelli. All the best lobby groups that try to stop climate change action  do.

Education
On education, there’s an old saying: They can take away your house, they can take away your money, but they can never take away your education.

As the global financial crisis ebbs away the property and general corporate worlds have started to realise there is a serious shortage of skills and knowledge about how to make the transition to a low carbon world, Lynne Blundell has found in her special report this issue.

Mandatory disclosure, or the Commercial Building Disclosure program, is just one  major driver in property and it seems there is a shortage of skilled people to manage the requirements. NABERS itself is hiring staff to deal with the extra demand for energy ratings, we hear.

At the investment end valuers are organising targeted education. John Goddard, who has been involved in the development of a new course for valuers, said the response to a call for industry input for course content was overwhelming. “We invited 26 very senior people from industry, from major building owners, to valuers, to lawyers, and almost nobody said no,” Goddard says in the report.

In other areas of property – from the trades to the real estate industry, a big (energy efficient) light has been switched on, with the realisation that these sectors have massive power to transform the market quickly.

Colour coded confusion
It was this time last year that the climate deniers were in full swing with COP15, Malcolm Turnbull, the carbon pollution reduction scheme and so on.

Now they are at it again, but under different guises. We think the term “denier” is rather on the nose these days. After all the former denier darling Bjorn Lomborg himself has recanted and is well on the way back from his personal Siberia to become a major advocate for climate action. In fact we see he will be a headline speaker at the Green Cities Conference in February next year.

This time the pushback has a new twist. It’s colour coding confusion.  The new green apparently is red. Or blue. Depending on which side of the fence feels more threatened by the rise of the Greens. Wait to see how nasty that gets as the Greens lose their purer than pure image and play politics – just like everybody else.  The danger is that the green agenda itself starts to get caught in the cross fire of party political games.

It’s a pity because when the environment goes into meltdown, it won’t give a damn who you vote for.

A green agenda is actually hugely conservative. In environmental terms it’s about keeping what we’ve got. Not radical change.

Clover under attack

The latest attack, stunning for its audacity, is on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore because she wants to bring renewable off-the-grid energy to Sydney – oh, and that other crazed leftist plot, bicycle tracks.
In The Australian in recent days, a riveting article appeared warning that new tenders for a network of local, gas-fired generators to power 94 council-owned city sites could “gradually extend across the entire 32 suburbs covered by the council, removing them from the state’s electricity grid.”

City businesses could be left in the dark with no back-up when outages strike, it said, citing state government sources (because they are such luminaries of forward thinking?) No mention of the blackouts and brownouts that have occurred liberally with coal fired power.

“Ms Moore’s push for a greener Sydney has attracted widespread ire,” it continued. “The construction of CBD cycleways has seen an increase in traffic congestion, and many city retailers have reported a drop in business due to the bike paths being built outside their premises.

“Even schoolchildren risk being adversely affected. A cycleway is due to be built within weeks in front of St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the heart of the CBD.”

Former NSW premier Nick Greiner chipped in with some negativity, adding to his other recent media outburst, saying that Landcom should be scrapped. (Is he trying to make another run?)

“Having pocket-handkerchief sized entities like the City of Sydney (council) pretending they are a real level for infrastructure provision is going backwards at a rate of knots,” Greiner said.

The article quoted Scott Driscoll, national president of the United Retail Federation, who said that “Ms Moore’s attempts to turn Sydney ‘into some kind of quaint European village’ could lose the CBD’s standing as Australia’s premier business precinct.”

And Aaron Gadiel from the Urban Taskforce said the energy plans could “scare off investors and send the cost of new apartments skyrocketing.”

But there will be more wild accusations as courageous people try to save the planet. Just watch.

The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news and forum

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