The CSIRO's infinity swing

GetUp says Malcolm Turnbull has a mandate from the majority of Australians to commit Australia to stronger action on climate change at next month’s COP21 talks in Paris – and he also has one from our leading scientists, who are urging a genuine commitment to innovation and smarter approaches to energy.

But whether it catalyses firm action could be doubtful if it’s his own party’s supporters he looks to, with a CSIRO survey on climate change attitude hitting the headlines this week showing that while three quarters of Australians overall believe climate change is happening, only 28 per cent of Liberal voters and 22 per cent of Nationals voters agree it’s being caused by human activities.

In better news, the results of the Essential Poll released today show 60 per cent of Australians think world leaders should act on climate change now or within the next 12 months. It coincides with the release of a major new report by the CSIRO, The Australian National Outlook, which shows the nation’s future prosperity will be shaped by innovation, technology uptake and the choices we make as a society.

The report, which was accompanied by a study published in Nature, is a comprehensive quantitative analysis by 40 CSIRO experts and university collaborators of the interactions between economic growth, water-energy-food use, environmental outcomes and living standards in Australia.

CSIRO executive director Dr Alex Wonhas said the report focused on the physical economy that contributes to about 75 per cent of natural resource use and produces about 25 per cent of Australia’s GDP.

“The National Outlook is a first attempt to understand and analyse the connections in Australia’s physical environment many decades into the future,” Dr Wonhas said.

“It has a particular focus on understanding two aspects: The ‘water-energy-food nexus’ and the prospects for Australia’s materials- and energy-intensive industries.

“We hope the National Outlook will help Australia chart its future in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.”

The Essential Poll findings would appear to back up the CSIRO report’s message that innovation and new technology will be crucial, with 47 per cent of Australians surveyed supporting a ban on new coal mines and coal mine expansions.

GetUp campaigns director Sam La Rocca said the majority of Australians were wise to “the dirty coal con” and wanted special treatment for the big polluters to end.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has the mandate he needs to unshackle Australia from the outdated and dirty fossil fuels that pollute our air and water, threaten our way of life, and make us sick,” he said.

“Australians want a comprehensive plan that frees us from polluting energy so we can enjoy the benefits of clean air and water, and a safer climate.”

CSIRO has also stepped into the renewable energy momentum ahead of COP21 with another initiative – an interactive public art installation that harnesses people power to provide energy for a lightshow and soundscape.

The eight-person energy-generating Infinity Swing was launched yesterday at Customs House Square in Sydney, where it will be onsite until 8 November. It will then be installed at Federation Square in Melbourne from 16 to 21 November.

CSIRO research director Glenn Platt said the Infinity Swing aimed to spark a conversation about how energy can be sustainable and affordable.

“As the swing shows, energy isn’t easy to generate – just look at how hard you need to swing to light up a letter,” Dr Platt said.

“Energy isn’t frivolous and it isn’t free, so the challenge for Australia is how to keep energy affordable and available while protecting our planet.

Dr Wonhas said getting the energy mix right was an opportunity for Australia.

“The CSIRO Infinity Swing is about starting this discussion and showing the community how science and technology has a key role to play in developing smart energy efficient solutions,” Dr Wonhas said.

“These technologies are allowing people in Australia to continue to do the things that they love, but with greater comfort, more affordability and less emissions.”