24 November 2009
In addition 120 ports, 1,800 bridges, power stations, water treatment plants and airports close to the coastline are also under threat according to a story published in the ’Melbourne ‘Age.’
Despite the prediction that properties worth an estimated $60 billion would be lost, the Australian parliament is struggling to reach any agreement about what needs to be done. To the amazement of the recently appointed British High Commissioner the debate in Australia is still centred on whether climate change is occurring at all, or to what extent it is a man-made phenomenon – elsewhere in the world the debate has moved on to what needs to be done to mitigate or adapt to the this major threat to life on this planet as we know it.
In another news item that appeared in the same week, the absence of a well-thought out long term strategy for coping with climate change in Australia was exposed.
In the Spanish province of Granada the Andasol Power Plant, the world's largest solar plant, has reportedly overcome one of the biggest problems facing large-scale solar power: how to produce electricity at night or when it is overcast. The Andasol plant stores heat from the day in molten salt, which then powers electricity turbines overnight. The plant can continue for 7½ hours without sunlight, and more advanced plants coming online in the next few years are set to double that storage time.
The potential of Solar Thermal Energy as a non-polluting unlimited source to meet Australia’s energy needs (first mentioned in this bulletin almost three years ago in Jan 2007) has long been recognized. Plants such as that at Andasol and in the Mojave Desert in California are already operating commercially, and plans to use the North African desert for the generation of electricity to supply a significant proportion of Europe’s energy needs moved a step closer to reality last month with the signing of an agreement by a group of twelve companies and the Desertec Foundation.
Meanwhile despite being particularly suitable for the generation of solar energy Australia, seemingly bereft of leadership capable of looking beyond the next election, continues to largely ignore this potential solution to greenhouse gas generation.
As is often the case governments will rarely lead, and instead will follow public opinion. It becomes the responsibility of all of us therefore to ensure our voice is heard on this and other important issues.