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Lowe Tech

Lowe Tech column

Recycling Efforts Wasted

By Ian Lowe

Householders might decide it’s not worth the trouble sorting their waste.

A recent ABC Four Corners investigation raised serious questions about the management of waste in Australia. We generate much more domestic waste than most countries. In fact, we are among the worst of all advanced nations on that indicator, so managing that waste stream is important. As most local authorities now support kerbside recycling, it takes little effort from the individual to separate waste. However, the ABC report identified problems after collection.

Thirty Year Warning

By Ian Lowe

CSIRO predicted the increasing severity of cyclones 30 years ago.

The severe flooding in eastern Australia caused by Cyclone Debbie and its aftermath, and the more recent storm damage in New Zealand, are just the latest in a whole series of extreme weather events. Being asked by a journalist if they were related to climate change sent me back to scan the book produced after the first national conference on climate change, Greenhouse 87: Planning for Climate Change. Prof Graeme Pearman edited the book, which included peer-reviewed presentations to the conference.

Keeping All the Lights On

By Ian Lowe

A 100% renewable energy system using pumped hydro can store enough power for peak demand at a competitive price to fossil fuels.

Yes, Science Minister

By Ian Lowe

The merry-go-round of science ministers raises concerns about instability.

Australia has a new science minister, the fourth in the past 18 months. The Academy of Science’s secretary for science policy, Prof Les Field, noted: “This is the kind of instability that would typically raise a red flag, especially for a sector like science where training, work programs, infrastructure requirements and outcomes all have timeframes much longer than election cycles”.

The Eye of the Renewable Energy Storm

By Ian Lowe

Political foes have united in their condemnation of fear-mongering about renewable energy.

Australian responses to climate change have been a political football in recent years, so it’s a rare experience to find past or present politicians from different political parties even sharing a stage. It is quite remarkable to find an ALP Minister and a former Liberal Party leader in furious agreement. But I witnessed that phenomenon in Brisbane at the end of November.

Learned Academies Put Economics Ahead of Sustainability

By Ian Lowe

Australia’s learned academies have set income increases as the nation’s major priority.

I was recently involved in a discussion about a new report by the Australian Council of Learned Academies. Australia’s Comparative Advantage (http://tinyurl.com/p5f2uex) set out to identify Australia’s distinctive strengths and comparative advantages, before suggesting policy settings that could help the nation to thrive. The project was set up by the Chief Scientist in 2012.

Bombs Away!

By Ian Lowe

Australia has been obstructing international efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war.

Those who are promoting the proposal for South Australia to store radioactive waste claim that Australia has a good record on nuclear issues. Certainly we are a respected member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and our regulatory agency, ARPANSA, is prominent in global committees setting guidelines for peaceful use of nuclear materials.

A Bullet Train to Somewhere

By Ian Lowe

A strong case has been made for a high-speed rail network passing within 50 km of 60% of Australians.

An exciting plan for high-speed rail along the eastern corridor of Melbourne–Canberra–Sydney–Brisbane is the centrepiece of a new strategy for low-carbon transport. Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has held a series of launch events featuring leading politicians to promote the scheme.

Having travelled on the Japanese bullet train nearly 50 years ago and used the modern high-speed rail systems in Europe more recently, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the technology. It is fast, comfortable and potentially much better for the environment if the power comes from renewable energy.

An Energy Wolf in Greens’ Clothing?

By Ian Lowe

Is the creation of a single government portfolio encompassing energy and the environment a fatal conflict of interest?

The shuffling of ministerial responsibilities after the Australian election has produced some very interesting allocations. Greg Hunt, after an uncomfortable time as Environment Minister charged with promoting the obviously inadequate climate change response of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, has been moved sideways to become Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science.

What We Learned in the Election Campaign

By Ian Lowe

The election revealed a bipartisan lack of understanding of the role of science in innovation and of the coal industry in the fate of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s relatively unusual for scientists to be keenly interested in election results, but CSIRO scientists will have been watching closely on 2 July as Australians’ votes are counted. Earlier in the year, hundreds of jobs were lost in CSIRO as the CEO demonstrated his hostility to public good science.