With the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in full swing at the time, an ABC television documentary ‘How to Save the World’ last Monday night got me (again) thinking about climate change.  My initial reaction to the program was that it is remarkable how much some countries are doing to tackle climate change, compared to other countries – or is it a case of not remarkable but just ready availability of non-renewable energy resources?

Some interesting case studies and good initiatives that came out of the documentary include…

For a few months earlier this year, the entire country of Costa Rica was run on renewable energy.  Costa Rica has some geographical advantages and is able to tap into volcanoes to generate geothermal power.  In addition, it uses wind, solar and biogas as means of generating renewable energy.  Having an ambitious target to completely eradicate the burning of fossil fuels by 2021, Costa Rica seems to be one that is leading the way.

In California, a series of incentives have contributed to a booming solar industry that employs more than 55,000 people.  It was stated that the solar industry in California now employs more people than the coal industry.  The way the solar industry has come into prominence in California so quickly is impressive and although in a different part of the United States, on my recent visit to Hawaii, it was noticeable that the roof of every house seemed to be covered by solar panels.

Germany is heavily reliant upon wind power and has approximately 22,000 wind turbines (compared with Australia for example, which has just over 2,000).  While wind farms often meet with opposition in Australia, in Germany they are commonly owned by the surrounding land owners and are embraced for the benefit of providing power to the surrounding homes and the financial gains received from on-selling the surplus power.  As an innovative way of reducing conflict between wind farms and residents, 80 winds turbines have been installed off the coast in the North Sea.  These turbines are (for obvious reasons) more expensive to build and maintain but have the advantage of having better access to wind and therefore, can generate more power.

Fourteen Countries have bases set up in Antarctica to monitor the melting of the glaciers and the affect this is having on causing sea levels to rise.  While the extent of climate change is often the cause of debate, there is no disputing that sea levels are rising and in Miami, Florida sea levels are expected to rise by up to 1.5 metres by 2100.  Video footage was used to suggest that Miami is already seeing the effects of sea level rise with for example, a beachside car park now flooding during every high tide.  While properties along the coastline in Florida are still being sold at very high prices, modelling shows that on current trends most of the built coastline will be gone by 2100.

Seeing what other countries are doing and understanding the effects that climate change will have on our future makes you question: is Australia doing enough in the area and especially in the field of renewable energy?  In part at least I sense the penny is starting to drop but we have a lot of work to do.

Enquires to James Million (jjm@colliepl.com.au)