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Lowe Tech

Lowe Tech column

Rare Stability for Science in Government

By Ian Lowe

The return of the Coalition government has paused the merry-go-round of Science Ministers.

The unexpected return of the Morrison government saw the reappointment of The Hon. Karen Andrews to Cabinet as the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Andrews has a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in the energy industry before becoming a politician.

Global Climate Report Underscores Australian Inaction

By Ian Lowe

The upcoming Federal election has produced a spectrum of responses to curb climate change.

With a national election imminent, climate change is on the political agenda again. Shortly before the date for the poll was announced, the World Meteorological Organization released its annual Statement on the State of the Global Climate.

Sustainable Food Production on the Menu

By Ian Lowe

A scientific report has set targets for a healthy diet derived from sustainable food production.

The leading international medical journal, The Lancet, recently published a report (https://goo.gl/hvd966) calling for radical changes to diet and food production. The findings of the EAT-Lancet Commission provide scientific targets for a healthy diet from sustainable food production. The study was motivated by evidence that current eating is causing ill-health and stretching planetary boundaries.

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Members of the Big Scrub Landcare Group have planted the key structuring species to restore areas of rainforest on land that had been cleared for farming, adding about 300 ha of habitat. Courtesy of Big Scrub Landcare

Members of the Big Scrub Landcare Group have planted the key structuring species to restore areas of rainforest on land that had been cleared for farming, adding about 300 ha of habitat. Courtesy of Big Scrub Landcare

By Ian Lowe

About 100 million hectares of forest have been lost globally in the past 25 years, but one Landcare group has increased a patch of rainforest lost to farmland by 40% in 20 years.

Loss of biodiversity is a critical issue, both locally and globally. More than 20 years ago, the first independent national report on the state of the environment identified the seriousness of the problem. The warning has been echoed by four subsequent reports.

At the global level, the 2018 Living Planet Report estimated the population levels of more than 4000 species of vertebrates: fish, birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles. It concluded that average populations are only about 40% of the 1970 levels.

Australia’s Environmental Ranking Trumped

By Ian Lowe

Australia has been ranked third-worst in the developed world for environmental protection, and medical professionals are increasingly concerned about the health impacts of climate change.

Australia ranks third-worst in the developed world for environmental protection. The annual report of the Washington-based Centre for Global Development has placed Australia ahead of only South Korea and Japan among the 27 nations it assessed. We were considered even worse than the USA under President Donald Trump. The Centre singled out our poor response to climate change as the area most needing attention, noting high per capita emissions, relatively low levels of taxation on transport fuels, and heavy reliance on coal for electricity.

The War on Plastic

Credit:501room/Adobe

Credit:501room/Adobe

By Ian Lowe

Our present epoch has been called the Anthropocene because of the dominance of human activity, but perhaps it should be called the Plasticine.

Our present epoch has been called the Anthropocene because of the dominance of human activity, but perhaps it should be called the Plasticine.

If a Taxonomist Falls in the Forest...

By Ian Lowe

Taxonomists are so under-resourced it would take them 400 years to describe all of Australia’s species, which means that species are going extinct before we even know about them.

Credit: nuclear_lily/Adobe

Investment in Renewables Is Burying Coal

By Ian Lowe

Politicians lobbying for more coal-fired power stations are defying the preference for renewables by both consumers and investors.

Last year the Australian government announced it had support for its proposed policy for the national electricity system. The package was clearly driven by political and economic issues. It did not respond adequately to climate change, but it was at least a coherent approach.

A Second Warning to Humanity

By Ian Lowe

Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a warning to humanity that “many current life forms could be annihilated or committed to extinction by the end of this century”.

Forty-five years ago, the first report to the Club of Rome was published. The Limits to Growth was a fundamental challenge to conventional politics and economics, which presume that endless growth is possible. It used the first global systems model to show that limits would be reached this century, with the most likely outcome a catastrophic decline in the capacity of natural systems to support human needs.

Lift-off for Space Agency

By Ian Lowe

The re-establishment of an Australian space agency is expected to generate billions of dollars after decades of neglect of the sector.

Australia is at last going to have its space agency restored. The decision was announced at a major international conference in Adelaide in September. Scientists working in space-related areas greeted the announcement with unanimous enthusiasm after governments had been missing in action for more than 20 years.