By Jorge Branco, edited for online by Sarah Richards
Prime Minister Julia Gillard might be polling badly, but the latest scientific research backs her government’s controversial carbon tax.
Some experts say the theory of peak oil may be set to have an affect on policy.
A new report warns heatwaves, bushfires and flooding will increase across Australia and Federal Climate Commissioner Professor Lesley Hughes says Queensland’s policy makers cannot ignore this global issue.
“The sorts of risks we talk about in coastal areas are also the same whether you’re in New South Wales or Queensland,” Professor Hughes says.
Climate change sceptics have urged caution on the carbon tax because of it’s potential economic impacts.
University of Technology Sydney transport researcher Dr Michelle Zeibots says when peak oil is added to the equation, action on climate change becomes a much easier sell.
“Oil is an input to our economy, greenhouse gas emissions are outputs to our economy and it just so happens that the best solutions to peak oil are also solutions to climate change,” Dr Zeibots says.
The scientific community generally agrees the world’s oil fields have reached their peak production capacity.
Up until 2006, production of oil was increasing dramatically every year in response to global demand.
Production has plateaued since then and University of Adelaide senior lecturer in genetics Dr Michael Lardelli says it will decrease sharply in the next few years.
“Pretty soon the drop-off in conventional oil production will be so great that nothing will be able to compensate for it and so we’ll start to see oil production sliding down,” Dr Lardelli says.
Professor Hughes agrees peak oil should be considered when climate policy is developed.
“The peak oil debate brings the need for renewable energy even more to the fore,” Professor Hughes says.
But as the availability of oil decreases, it also makes it much harder to move towards these renewable energies.
Dr Lardelli says people underestimate the amount of money and energy it will take to replace fossil fuels with renewable energies.
“Oil is our supply of energy, you need energy to be able to do anything,” Dr Lardelli says.
“Unfortunately what happens is that as oil and other resources become limited, making any changes actually becomes problematic because you just don’t have the energy to do it.
But even if these solutions are put in place now, Dr Lardelli says it might be too little too late.