Low carbon technologies and the climate?


I completed a survey recently by Yorke and Mid North Regional Alliance and University College London. 

It was called - "Yorke and Mid North Region Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Technologies Community Preferences Survey"

It's about finding ways "to prepare the region for renewable energy and other low carbon technologies as part of the State's climate change adaptation strategy".

The survey form discretely left off the term "climate change" from its title, but on closer inspection of the contents, that's what the survey was basically about. 

It's a bit curious that the survey had an initial focus on renewable energy, as the region already has a large wind energy industry. 

For some in-depth information on the wind energy industry, it's worth spending some time here.

But, perhaps it's more than wind! 

The other element of the survey was about the impacts of climate change on the region. We have already seen a future scenario in the Climate Change Adaptation Framework. It looks somewhat bleak for the Mid North and other parts of the state, despite the upbeat title "Prospering in a Changing Climate" that is on the cover of the framework report.

I have written extensively about a new direction for rural SA as a result of my investigations over the years.

Who or what is "Yorke and Mid North Regional Alliance"? 

I would wager my best hat that not many in the regional community would have heard of this organisation, let alone know what it is about. 

The Alliance consists of Central Local Government Region, Regional Development Australia Yorke and Mid North, and the Northern & Yorke Natural Resources Management Board. Its purpose is to "identify and progress agreed regional priorities".

I'll bring the Alliance into sharper focus in a future LOCAL EYE item.

The Survey

Being a "Community Preferences Survey", it is arguable what value this type of survey would yield for future climate change actions. Nevertheless, for the interested reader, here are my responses to the four main questions in the survey. Answers had to be brief because of limited space on the form. 

What do you think are the best opportunities for transforming your community to a low carbon economy?

Landscape-scale change by reducing the area under cereal cropping and transitioning to an integrated system involving revegetation, new crops, mallee oil industry, biofuels, energy from waste, and more.

Create a Centre for Sustainable Development that includes education about regional climate change, research, marketing of new crops, extension services.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to transforming your community to a low carbon economy?

Mindset. Deep entrenched beliefs, propped up by the established economic system, are very difficult to change.

Ignorance. Doing Nothing. This is THE most dangerous and high risk scenario. Adaptation is not enough.

Action. The significant decline in human and financial resources to rural enterprise is deeply worrying.

Climate change issues are driving the South Australian Climate Change Adaptation strategy including moving to a low carbon economy. Based on what you know about climate change, what do you think will be the 3-5 most serious impacts of climate change in the Yorke and Mid North region.

Decline in rainfall. This will force major changes to happen to rural enterprise and biodiversity.

Reduced water availability in runoff and groundwater systems (which are already over-used).

Collapse of biodiversity. It's already on the brink, and yet too little is devoted to landscape-scale change.

Social capital impacts brought about by the slow attrition of human mental and physical health.

Collapse of marine and coastal ecosystems. Non-local species will adapt and replace existing species.

Describe your ideal vision of what a low carbon future might look like for your community.

Firstly, the term "low carbon future" is a misnomer. We need a high carbon sequestration future. 

Secondly, policy settings need to be re-set instead of being skewed around the development of Adelaide. Massive rural change is needed to rebalance the Adelaide-centric priorities that exist right now. SA is galloping headlong towards city-state status. 

The rural sector is in general decline. It requires extraordinary efforts in revegetation that involves rehabilitation of degraded land and land formerly cleared for agriculture but is now mostly idle or at threat of closure. 

There have to be opportunities for landowners in biofuel production (e.g. mallee oil), education of farmers about the need for change and actions that can be taken, education of politicians and the community about a new agri-economy, integrated systems involving research-new crops-markets-local consumption-local business development-funding and finances. 

There has to be restitution of existing fragmented habitats, creating connections across the landscape, and an integrated systems approach. 

Decentralisation policies involving the establishment of two rural growth hubs (Murray Bridge and Port Wakefield) would relieve Adelaide of the extraordinary consumption of resources (e.g. land) that present government policies are directed towards. 

All this requires a change in belief systems - and that's the biggest challenge of all. SA can not continue to live with its past founded on massive land clearance, if it is to avoid the worst of climate change impacts.

My responses are very brief, but for greater detail, it's recommended that you read these articles.

Repairing and Preparing Australia's Landscapes for Global Change presents an overview of how best to approach a swathe of environmental problems. 

Could this be our answer to regional climate change?

Also, I've raised an idea about decentralisation, a topic that scarcely rates in South Australia. But it should. SA is the most centralised state in Australia, and that is not good for the future of rural folk.

There will be more on this in a future article.

Your response

Have your say. If you received the survey, what were your responses? 

Do you agree with the thrust about climate change adaptation?

Or, do you think a whole new approach is needed?

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