Inaugural Curtin Sustainability Lecture, with UN advisor Jeffrey Sachs

December 11, 2019

>>My name is Professor
Peter Newman. I am Director of the Curtin
University Sustainability Policy Institute. I am the emcee for the day. This is a special event, and welcome to the inaugural
Curtin Sustainability Lecture and Showcase. The Showcase will be down
the stairs there afterwards. I’d particularly like to
acknowledge His Excellency, Malcolm McCusker, who is the
Governor of Western Australia, and thank him for allowing us
to hold the event in your home. And it is delightful to
see a full house today. We had a full house
yesterday in Fremantle, at an event where
Professor Sachs talked about the end of
extreme poverty. He spoke for an hour
and twenty minutes, and there wasn’t a sound. It was a fantastic afternoon. We will have it available on
our website, the CUSP website, if anyone wants to see that. Now we are not alone. We are being videoed
around the world. There’s possibly a thousand
people watching this today. We have cameras simulcasting to ten university campuses
including Viet Nam, India, Brazil, China, as well
as Curtin’s own campuses, particularly the
one in Singapore. A few housekeeping matters, mobile phones, you
know the drill. And when you exit
down to the Showcase, don’t go exploring other doors, because alarms will
go off [laughter]. The Dr. Richard Walley, OAM is
a Noongar Elder, and he is going to provide for us a
Welcome to Country. Welcome Richard. [ Applause ] [ Foreign Language Spoken ]>>Welcome, may the
Good Spirit be with us. This is land of Noongar,
part of the Whadjuk language, the language I’m speaking. It’s some 40,000 years old. We still maintain our words, and
our connections to this land, by acts of good spirit
to guide those who are providing messages
today, to articulate the message in such a way that
we receive it, and those who take the
message on to those who can put it into action. I also give an apology,
I cannot stay. I’ve got to go to
another presentation. But I mentioned, my brother
David Collard is here, and he can answer questions
you like, because he’s as knowledgeable
and as connected to this country as any of us. Just to make sure that it
fits into the programme, so we get the programme
as correct, and we’re not telling people,
you know, false advertising in here [laughter] so I’ll do
a song for you, and I’ll finish up by doing an imitation
of the didgeridoo without the didgeridoo
[laughter]. [ Singing in Foreign Language ] [ Imitates Didgeridoo ] [ Applause and Cheering ]>>You’ve seen it
first [laughter]. I saw Richard perform
in Los Angeles at the Good Day USA event,
in front of 3,000 people. And there were a whole lot
of film stars performing, and Olivia Newton-John
singing, and people like that, and he was the star [laughter]. You can see why. Richard was also a member of
our Sustainability Round Table, which was reporting to the
premiere a few years ago. And I won’t talk any more
about that [laughter]. We are in government house, and sustainability
has not gone away. And it’s here to stay, and Jeffrey Sachs will
certainly be telling us why that is the case. But before that, can I
welcome His Excellency, Malcolm McCusker. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much Peter. I don’t propose to
emulate Walley– Richard Walley–
on the didgeridoo. Professor Deborah Terry,
the Vice Chancellor of Curtin University,
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University’s
Sustainable Policy Institute, distinguished guests,
and ladies and gentleman. I begin by respectfully
acknowledging the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation, and
thank you again, Richard Walley for your usual warm
and informative, and indeed entertaining,
Welcome to Country. It’s my very great pleasure to open Curtin’s inaugural
Sustainable Development Lecture this afternoon, to be delivered
by such an esteemed speaker as Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Professor Sachs is amongst
other things the Director of the Earth Institute
of Columbia University, Special Advisor to United
Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, on the development of the U.N.’s Sustainable
Development goals, to replace the millennium
development goals by 2015, at least we hope that’s so. Curtin University’s Australian
Sustainable Development was officially launched five
years ago, and I was very glad to accept initial membership of its board before
I became Governor, as like any sensible person,
I have a keen interest in the subject of
sustainable development. An article in the Australian
newspaper in January of this year, by a
journalist, Nick Cater, he said it is difficult to define exactly what
sustainability means. And he referred to
Wikipedia, which didn’t seem to know either, as it’s
being applied, he said, to a wide range of subjects–
sometimes misapplied. He also suggested that
sustainability is malphemism, professor Malthus,
for the 21st Century. A fallacy that population
is growing faster than available resources, and ruination is just
round the corner. And he derided that
sustainability as he defined it, pointing out that in 1990 the
World Hunger Project calculated that the ecosystem could sustain and support only six million
people, and only if they lived on a vegetarian diet, that
more than two decades later, with the world population
of 7.1 billion, global production had
substantially increased and they were, he says, 170 million fewer malnourished
people than there were in 1990, according to the
World Food Programme. But that author, in so defining, and implied the deriding
sustainability, fails to grasp its true meaning, which is both conscience,
and in a way, simple. To seek sustainability means
identifying either existing issues, or issues foreseeable. And taking steps in
advance to deal with them. Failure to do that, and
to deride those who work in the cause of sustainability, is to invite a dangerous
complacency. The commonly-used Australian
phrase, “She’ll be right,” is a message that should
be immediately rejected. She won’t be right
unless problems existing or in the future are addressed. There are many challenges
for those, placed on those who seek sustainability
in the world today. A major one, as we all
know, is climate change, bringing with it
the related problems of diminishing water supply and
diminishing food production. Due to great foresight and
planning in this state, desalination, here,
has reduced anxiety about a plentiful water
supply being available for our ever-growing population,
forecast to reach 3 million by 2050, which probably to Professor Sachs
sounds exceedingly small and insignificant. However, very little rain falls
have occurred in past years, although happily not the last
year, has made the continuance in farming in our eastern wheat
belt increasingly problematic. Some farmers, indeed,
have already been forced to walk off their properties. Furthermore, the amount
of arable land available, both in Australia, and
in the rest of the world, has been reducing
year after year, with increased urbanisation
and salination. The challenge is to
increase food production for a growing population on a
reduced supply of arable land. I understand that Curtin
University is considering agricultural production
in the Pilbara, as well as the Kimberleys,
where water supply is abundant. The terms food security and
water security have come at a greater usage
in the last decade, and that reflects
a growing concern which can only be
met by innovation. This challenge can be met
by research and innovation, as I say, and Curtin University
is to be congratulated for recently establishing
a Curtin Centre aimed at increasing cereal production by breeding new cereal grains
resistant to diseases and pests, which still savagely reduce the
size of the crops in some years. I’ve had agricultural interests
in this state for some 50 years. I’m therefore aware of
how important science is, and research, for our industry. An industry which,
in Western Australia, is extremely important
and worth more than 7 billion dollars
annually to this state. Another important
sustainability issue is energy. Considerable advances have
been made in the production of an alternative
source of power– alternative, that
is, to coal and oil. Such as solar, wind,
waves, nuclear. All of them being essentially
renewable and clean. All of them have their problems. Nuclear, for example, has a
problem I think with the notion or reaction or distaste by
large parts of the population. And I’m sure you’ll
hear more about that in the speaks to come. High on the list of priorities of the United Nations
sustainability goals, is the reduction of carbon
emissions or sequestration of carbon in a safe
and secure manner. And that’s something which,
again, is being addressed at the Curtin University
Institute. There are many problems
in the world, and to ignore them will
not make them go away. But they’re challenges
that I’m confident that can successfully be met
through the admirable work of researchers, such as those
at Curtin University Institute of Sustainable Development. Australia is blessed
with researchers of a very high standard
of excellence. Just over a week ago now,
I attended a presentation by 12 gifted and very earnest
young Australia scientists competing in what is called
the International Homeland. Scientific research is
essential if our civilisation is to prosper, and indeed, that means scientific
education of our youth. I mentioned earlier solar power
as being one area of research, and there’s no doubt its
efficiency has radically improved over the years. For example, I recently had a
solar-powered pump installed, which, at a very low
cost comparatively, replaced a diesel powered pump,
which was very expensive to run and high cost of maintenance. The comparatively cheap solar
pump had no running costs, and almost no maintenance costs. And I think that’s
the way of the future. Relevant to that, however,
at the Finelab function that I attended,
one young scientist, whose field of science
is physics, has found that the efficiency of solar panels can be very
significantly increased by a factor of four by the
use of what he describes as miniature versions of
Buddhist singing bowls. I repeat, Buddhist
singing bowls. An idea that he, when he was
asked, how did he get onto that? He said a friend of mine
came back with a couple of singing bowls, and I started to think what could
they be used for? He said in the same way
that Buddhist bowls resonate with sound, nano bowls
resonate with light. So just illustrates, there are
many scientific minds focussing on the various forms of
energy replacing coal and oil, at least, if not replacing, substantially diminishing
our reliance upon them. So I congratulate Curtin for organising this inaugural
lecture, which I’m now pleased to officially declare open. I look forward with regard
interest to what flows from these proceedings, and I
do hope that they may translate and inspire positive action
and leadership outcomes. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much,
and thank you Malcolm, for your leadership in this area
over the time of your office, which is drawing to a close and you’ve really set
the bar quite high, and we thank you
indeed for that. We have a new leader
at Curtin University, a new Vice Chancellor,
who the other day when they were dividing up who
was going to have responsibility for the four core areas
in the university, one of which is sustainable
development, he said “Yes, I will be the Sustainability
Chairman”– uh, champion, we
are very pleased to welcome Professor Deborah
Terry to tell us a little bit about sustainability at Curtin. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much,
Peter, and I, too, would like to acknowledge
the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation who are
the traditional custodians of this land upon which
we meet, and I’d also like to pay my respects to
their elders, past and present, and although Richard’s not here, I’d like to just
record my thanks for his wonderful
Welcome to Country. And I’d also like to especially
welcome the following: Professor Jeffrey Sachs,
Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, His
Excellency, the Governor of Western Australia,
Malcolm McCusker, Professor Peter Newman, John
Curtin, Distinguished Professor of Sustainability, distinguished
guests, ladies and gentlemen, but here and at all
of the campuses that are accessing
the large streaming of this afternoon’s lecture, and
can I just add that everybody, both here and elsewhere,
is welcome to join in the conversation this
afternoon on Twitter, #sachssd. Now, just I’ve got a few minutes to make a few brief comments
obviously before we hear from Professor Sachs,
but I’d just like to say that Curtin is deeply honoured
to have Professor Sachs as the guest speaker for
its inaugural Sustainability Development Lecture. Professor Newman will shortly
introduce Professor Sachs formally, but can I say that
we were absolutely delighted that he accepted our
invitation to present, and on a personal level,
it’s been a privilege for me to be able to have the
opportunity to spend some time with Professor Sachs over
the last couple of days, and I’ve been incredibly
impressed with his energy and his stamina, and I’m
sure he will present us with a very thought-provoking
lecture this afternoon. Professor Sachs’ capacity
to perform so effectively as a leading academic scholar
on economic development, at the same time,
has been so committed to having a genuine
impact in relation to the immense challenges
facing the globe, is enormously impressive. His role in relation to the
progress that has been made in relation to the UN’s
millennium development goals has been absolutely pivotal, as
is his role as the Director with the U.N. Sustainable
Development Solutions Network, and in relation to
the development of the new sustainable
development goals. And at the university level,
he also has a major role. He’s Director of
the Earth Institute at Columbia University,
and in this role, he’s having a tremendous
impact through his leadership of what is essential
in this area. A genuinely multi-disciplined
institute that is focussed on research, on education,
and on practical solutions. The Earth Institute brings
together around 850 academics and researchers from a wide
range of different disciplines, all working together on
sustainable development. Since taking up my
role in February, I’ve been very impressed with
how embedded the commitment to sustainability is
across Curtin University, so like Columbia
University, this is an area that we are very focussed on. Around a quarter of
our research income and our research output
relates to this broad field. And with the assistance of
both government and industry, Curtin supports a number
of institutes and centres that are engaged in
sustainability research and sustainability education. Sustainability thinking
is also woven into the way in which we manage our campuses. And our physical infrastructure. And it’s a strong focus of
our teaching programmes, and a perspective
that we aim to ensure that characterises our
graduates’ approach to their chosen professions,
whatever that profession is. As the Governor’s indicated, with the world facing
increasingly complex and pressing challenges, in terms of sustainable
development, the higher education and research sectors have an
absolute obligation to respond, and I can assure you,
at Curtin University, we are absolutely committed
to meeting that obligation. So what we want to do now is
show you a brief presentation that captures some of what’s
happening in sustainability at Curtin, and obviously
after this lecture, there will be the opportunity
to go downstairs and see a bit of a showcase as to what’s
happening at Curtin University. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] [ Music ]>>The Australian Sustainable
Development Institute’s role is to bring people together
from across the university, from communities from
industry, to tackle some of the serious issues that
face society and to come up with real solutions that
can then be implemented. Take unconventional gas. This is a potentially
low-carbon fuel source that everybody seems to hate. We can bring industry,
government, researchers together round a
table, to actually have a look at the issues, research
and discover the facts, and then promote a debate around
facts rather than around fear. Take climate change
for instance. We can no longer plan on what
climate has been in the past, we have to plan on what it’s
likely to be in the future. We have to build
our society based on what the future
might be like. A really exciting emerging field of research is around
bio- mimicry. This is design inspired
by nature. Nature’s very good at producing
things that use minimal amounts of water, energy, produce
no waste, create diversity. Nature’s been around
for 3.8 billion years, and I think there’s an
enormous amount we can learn. Other work we’re doing
around regenerative cities. Cities that actually
are part of the solution to sustainable society, rather
than being part of a problem. These are real cutting edge
policy bits of research that will have a huge impact. I think the enduring legacy
of the Institute will be of children or our
grandchildren will sit there and say thank heaven someone had
the courage to start investing in research around quality
of life and making it better.>>The Sustainable Built-In
Environment National Research Centre is a unique blend
of industry, government and research partners, who come
together delivering applied research for Australian
industry. Our Centre’s research is
structured along three streams. The triple bottom
line sustainability, environmental, social
and economic. We call the first one greening
the built-in environment. It’s about less water,
less energy, lower cost in buildings
and infrastructure. The second programme
we call People, Processes and Procurement. For example, it’s about looking
at social policy around housing, and looking at the impacts
of fly-in, fly-out workers on the workplace and their
families, and the third area, economic, we call
the productivity, driving productivity
through innovation. The Centre brings
together an integrated view between our partners that
provide value on projects like this, the 1.2 billion
dollar Perth Children’s Hospital, where we’re looking at
Building Information Modelling or BIM, in integrating design,
with optimising construction with lowering the
long-term asset costs. It brings together a better
hospital at lower cost. We’re governed by an
industry dominated board, a board that determines
the strategic direction of the Centre, made up of
our private sector partners, our government partners, and of
course, our research partners. And I can assure you that
the board members let me know if they’re not getting
value for money. I’m delighted to say
that the enduring legacy of this Centre are the
personal relationships and the long-term respect
that researchers have gained over the past decade or so. What we’re seeing now in today’s
hard-headed world of business is that researchers have a place
at the head table in business, and that’s good for Australia.>>Curtin University
Sustainability Policy Institute, or CUSP, is one of the new ways
of trying to solve problems across the disciplines. CUSP has nearly 70 PhD students which puts us amongst
the biggest in the world in this area, and we attract
people who are professionals, practitioners, people who
want to change the world. And we ask them always,
who is going to benefit from this PhD you’re doing? We start with the problems. We don’t want to
start with theories. We end up using theories, but we’re actually solving the
problems that we’re faced with. We have worked with doing
on-climate change adaptation. We’re doing this in the
southwest, as communities need to prepare for the big
storms that are coming. We have worked on green
innovation in China. How can China lead the
world as it must do in becoming clean and green? And the work that I’m doing
is on railways and how to build them, and how to
get the finance for them, and we’re doing detailed
modelling and calculations that show you could pay for
a railway out of the increase in value around stations. So that’s a pretty good message
that most treasuries want to hear, and politicians, and
we’re doing this in Perth. But we’re also doing it
in India and in Myanmar. The legacy of CUSP, I believe,
will be a whole series of people who are solving problems,
that before were put aside, because they’ve got skills that
cut across the disciplines, have got the passion to
do it, and most of all, have got the hope that what
they do will really matter.>>I would like to start
with a very simple fact. It is believed that the building
LNG facility cost about 20 to 30 percent more in this
country than in North America. It is not economically
sustainable, and we have to find a way
to drive down the costs, and improve the productivity. The structure process, to
some extent, can be regarded as the information
management process. This is especially true
for the mega projects, such as LNG facilities,
and one of the concerns in our BIM centre is to see how
information can be effectively managed throughout the entire
life cycle of the project, all the way from design
engineering to construction and eventually to
operation and maintenance. An example of how we’re making
industry impact right now is Woodsides’ smart LNG tech. The smart tech is
no ordinary tech. It’s a tech that
can be integrated with advanced technologies,
such as virtual and augmented reality. This technology is a
breakthrough technology and with the smart tech, each component can
actually speak for itself. So we can create a
smart construction site. Project Echo is the
Centre’s Faculty project. It was initiated by Woodside. It’s a collaborative project
between Curtin, Woodside, government, and over 20
different industry partners, and all coming to Curtin
with the ultimate goal to enhance the
technology-enabled productivity for the entire industry. Not just benefiting
only gas industry, our research can provide
full-on benefits into money and infrastructure sectors. So far, we have had good
success in front-end research and innovation, and we’re
going to continue the success into the implementation. [ Music ]>>It’s time for the main event. Professor Jeffrey Sachs has
been introduced, really. There are few public
academics, none as powerful and as significant
as Jeffrey Sachs, and it’s a great pleasure
to welcome him today. [ Applause ]>>Well, back here
[background sounds]. Governor McCusker,
and Vice Chancellor, and Professor Peter Newman,
and ladies and gentleman, let me say what a
thrill and delight and absolute pleasure it
is to be in Perth with you in the last couple of days, and to get to know
many wonderful people and great thinkers in this area. I think the video we just
saw is extremely inspiring, and very, very impressive. For me, I was so taken, it’s
very much like the last line of Casablanca for me,
“Louie, this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.” I think the Earth Institute
and Curtin University and many leaders in this
community, we have a lot of fun things to do together, and a lot of very exciting
things to do together, and I feel very, very privileged
to have a chance to speak with you about the
opportunities and the challenges that we face, and
especially now. Because we’re in a moment of
history that’s going to matter, and it may be a subtitle
of my talk, which I just learnt a moment ago from the Governor is
Show Me Right, Mate. If we try. But she’ll be very
wrong if we don’t try. We’re really at a crossroads. We’ve been losing a lot of time,
actually, ladies and gentlemen, over the past 42 years. Forty-two years ago, we had the
first global meeting in history on climate and development,
in Stockholm. We had the publication of a
very important book that year, called “Limits to Growth,”
which was the first attempt of system science to
grapple with the combination of economic development
and a finite planet, and a threatened environment. And while that specific
model had a lot wrong, it had a crucial
message that’s right, which is that there is an
issue, a challenge, a problem, and we’ve lost a lot
of time in facing it. And so my message
today is really one of urgency, most of all. During the next year and
a half, as I’ll describe in the next few minutes,
we aim globally in the United Nations context to negotiate two
pivotal steps forward. One, to set goals on sustainable
development that are clear and robust, and understandable
by the entire human community. And second, to reach a year
from this December a new and vitally important
agreement on climate change. So we have a heavy lift, and
we have a real job to do. And the time is short,
but the spirits are high. So let’s get to it. I’ll start with the
hero of my youth, President John F. Kennedy, who in his inaugural address
said something very important and very true for us today. He said, “For man holds in
his mortal hands the ability to end all forms
of human poverty and all forms of human life.” That is really the
paradox of our time. We are heirs to an
incredible wealth of scientific and technological knowledge,
completely breathtaking, and advancing as
a dramatic rate, as you just saw in the video. We can do wonderful things. It is literally within our reach to end extreme poverty
in this generation. Indeed, we have already
had not a bad go of it in the last 20 years. But it’s also quite true, as
it was for President Kennedy, thinking of the thermonuclear
issue in 1961, and today we think of the
environmental challenge. It’s possible for us to ruin
everything, and technology, as it has been throughout
history, is always double-edged. It gives us more capacity. It doesn’t determine
right from wrong. It doesn’t determine, by itself, whether that technology
is properly used, or used in an entirely
destructive way. And so the challenge, really,
is whether we choose the path of ending all forms
of human poverty, and paths of human enrichment
which are within our reach, or whether we are going to
continue as we are continuing down a path of self-destruction
in many ways. Can we succeed in making the
best of the knowledge we have and in benefiting
from our prosperity? Or are we so short-sighted,
and so blinded and confused, that we’re going to let it
pass through our fingers and bequeath a much more
dangerous world to our children? I’m always reminded, when
I think about this paradox, of the way that Professor
E.O. Wilson, who is my guru, the great biologist
at Harvard University, put it when he kindly
wrote a foreword to a book of mine a few years ago. He said that “humanity has
stumbled into the 21st Century with its ancient
emotional baggage, its mediaeval institutions, and
its near God-like technology,” and we have a struggle to
make these different time horizons work. Our human nature built
on the Savannah here, and then the Savannah of Africa,
tens of thousands of years ago. Our institutions, which
we venerate in some ways, which are also outdated in
many ways, and our technologies and the opportunities
and the urgent challenges that they present– this
really is the essence of what sustainable
development is. We are, in our own time,
the beneficiaries of one of the most remarkable
scientific and technological
revolutions ever. Perhaps the one that is
preceding the fastest in all of human history. And that, of course, is
the digital revolution, or the information revolution,
that began in the 1930s, with the theory of
modern computation, with the first computers
in the 1940s, and then with the
integrated circuit in 1957. And what is shown in this graph
is what’s called Moore’s Law. The idea that integrated
circuits have been improving in capacity, essentially
every 18 to 24 months, since they were first
invented in 1957. And this law was not a law
when it was first articulated by the then-CEO of Intel, Gordon
Moore, in 1965, who looked back at the first eight years of
integrated circuitry and noted that every 18 to 24 months,
the number of transistors that Intel had been able to
put on a chip had doubled, and when Gordon Moore
wrote about it, that was five doublings,
or two to the fifth power, about a 32 time improvement
of capacity of these early integrated
circuits. He said that we’d have
another tenure head room, at least, for this. So he envisioned another
five doublings, or so. But what has, in
fact, been the case, and it has made our world
economy as it is today, that since 1965, we are
now 49 years onward– we’ve had another 25 doublings. And Moore’s Law has
continued until today, and the industry leaders tell us
there’s another 10 to 15 years of headroom ahead,
further doublings. So we now have, in
Intel’s latest chip, 5 billion transistors, in
what was two the first time. We have had a billion-fold
improvement in the capacity to process, store
and transmit data. And this is changing the
world economy, obviously. It’s changing our daily lives
at a rate that is unimaginable. It is giving real life to
President Kennedy’s insight, which is that we hold within
our mortal hands the ability to end extreme poverty. It makes it very real,
and very tangible. And it is enabling every other
branch of science to benefit, because fundamentally
the bits and bytes that can now be manipulated and transmitted can
change biological sciences, material sciences, of course
business management practices, agronomy, and every
energy systems, and every other area of concern. This is another example
of a super-Moore’s Law. The vertical axis
is logarithmic, so each of those steps
is a multiple of ten. Ten thousand, hundred
thousand, million, ten million, hundred million. And what this is graphing
from 2001 to 2013 is the price of sequencing a human
genome which, in 2001, cost $100 million dollars
for the human genome. What’s interesting
is that at that time, the U.S. National Institutes of
Health brought together a group of leading biologists and
asked what should be the goal in the area of genomic
sequencing? Dream, the blue sky
dream, and they said that the goal should be to bring
down the cost of the sequencing, down to $1,000 because that
would bring it within reach of personalised medicine,
and tremendous benefits for every area of biological
science and human health. And NIH, in this case, did
absolutely the right thing– it created a large-scale
programme. It gave grants on a
competitive science basis to leading genome
sequencing scientific groups, and they beat Moore’s Law. And actually achieved the
goal, because this year, the cost is falling from
$100 million 13 years ago to $1,000 now. Moore’s Law is that
straight white line. Straight line, because this
is a semi-logarithmic graph, so these are equal
proportionate steps down. And you can see that the cost of the genome sequencing
has been even faster than the revolution of
information technology. It gives a sense
of what we can do. And you saw in the video just
a few moments ago many places where photovoltaics
can now be deployed. And this, too, isn’t advancing
at the rate of Moore’s Law. It’s called Swanson’s Law. This time around, it’s a
doubling, for every doubling of installed capacity of PV, there’s been roughly a 20
percent reduction of cost. And since 1977, that has meant
a 100-fold reduction of the cost of a one-watt solar cell, from
about $77 per watt in 1977 to just 70 cents a watt now. This makes it feasible to
envision universal access to modern power for the
more than one billion people who still do not have
electricity on the planet. And not having electricity on the planet is not a
matter of inconvenience. It is literally a
matter of life and death. There are not cold
chains for antibiotics. There is not refrigeration
for food. There is not proper safety. There is not pumps for
irrigation without electricity, in many remote regions. But now because of the advances
in photovoltaics, it’s possible to envision universal
access to safe, clean, modern energy sources, and
a much deeper transformation of the world energy system,
which I’ll come back to shortly. The fact of the matter
is that it’s adding up to something quite real. It brings realistically the
idea that extreme poverty, which I call loosely the
poverty that kills, and it kills in large numbers, within
reach of its final end. Extreme poverty is measured
conventionally by the World Bank in a not-so-precise way, I would
say, or a falsely precise way, according to an income
line for households of $1.25 per person per day
measured at international prices to put it in shorthand. And by that World Bank standard,
in 1990, roughly 43 percent of households in the developing
countries, that is six-sevenths of the world’s population, still
lived under that minimum line. By 2010, which is the most
recent year unfortunately that the World Bank has produced
this number in the aggregate, so we don’t have the
more recent data– that share of households
had declined to 21 percent. There had been a halving of the so-called head
count poverty rate in developing countries
between 1990 and 2010. This means that in the aggregate
of the developing world, the first millennium development
goal, which was to cut by half the poverty
rate by the year 2015, was actually achieved
five years ahead of time. Mind you, not in every country,
because the predominant force for this improvement was, of
course, China’s development. The most remarkable and
rapid in world history. But this kind of reduction
of poverty is being seen in every region of the world,
including in sub-Saharan Africa. Though, in sub-Saharan
Africa, the poverty rate as a whole still is probably
at this point around 40 to 45 percent head
count poverty, when the World Bank gets to
the next round of the data. But it makes it realistic to
think about the actual end of extreme poverty, and
the World Bank Development Committee, which is the
guiding policy committee of that institution, and a
fairly conservative one at that, mind you, because it’s chaired
by– or it’s occupied by– ministers of finance and
economy from around the world, voted last year officially
for a 20-30 target to end extreme poverty. So we’re getting somewhere. Now, we’re also getting to
the end of the good news, because I have to give
you some bad news also. Because, as President
Kennedy said, it’s a choice. It’s not an inevitability. She’ll be right, maybe. If we choose to make it happen. Because in the midst of all
of this economic development, there are two other phenomena
of striking reality as well, that are not so happy. The first is a dramatic widening
of equality around the world. In my country, we have become as
divided as at any time we know of in American history. And this phenomenon is occurring
in many places in the world. The middle class
is disappearing. A lucky few are becoming
phenomenally wealthy, and many are falling into
poverty or near-poverty. And youth around the world are
finding it extremely difficult to find jobs, especially
as technology leads to upheavals in the
labour market. And it has been the case
in almost every place that I’ve stepped foot
in the last three years. And for a while, I was
taking it personally, but now I understand it’s
not me arriving at someplace, but it is the fact of
a global phenomenon. There have been crowds of youth out in the streets
fighting police. There is a governance
crisis worldwide. There is a social
crisis worldwide. And even in places where
it just seems to simmer or not even simmer, it’s
lurking, and it’s real. And often, the people at the
top are not very aware of it. But all over the world,
we’re seeing this kind of profound governance crisis,
that has its roots in people who are displaced, who
are poor, who are failing to find a foothold in a dramatically
changing global economy. In China, the measure of
inequality has soared. As an example, I was in
Beijing just a couple of days ago listening
to Professor Lee Chi of Beijing Normal
University, discuss this curve which is the rise of the
so-called Gini Coefficient, the standard measure
of inequality across households in China. But of course I found
it compelling that that curve looks
a lot like that curve, that’s the Gini Coefficient in the United States
during the same period. We are both, economies,
seeing this dramatic, unprecedented widening
of inequality. And it is poverty at the bottom, and it is wealth beyond
belief at the top. And of course it is being
dangerously amplified by a political system that
increasingly caters only to the top, and doesn’t even
recognise those at the bottom. The most recent research
in the United States– really remarkable political
science research, by the way, by Professor Martin Gilens
at Princeton University, in a book called
“Affluence and Influence,” studied how various public
policy issues have been resolved in the U.S. in the
past 20 years. And what he did was very clever. For each issue, he
looked at how class or income gradient affected
positions on the issue, and then tracked how the
issues were resolved over time. Turns out that the only
attitudes of public opinion that matter in the United
States are the top decile. The bottom 90 percent views and opinion surveys have
no relationship whatsoever to the policy outcomes in
the U.S. And we feel it. Because our public
policy is not related to the so-called median voter. Our public policy is driven
by the voter at the top of the income distribution. And that is dangerously
amplifying these inequalities. That’s why sustainable
development deals with social inclusion as the second fundamental pillar
following fighting poverty and spreading economic
well-being. Social inclusion is not simply
a nice idea or a nice goal. It is vital for our societies to
hold together, and many places in the world are absolutely not
holding together, or are at risk of coming completely unstuck. Now, we have one
more big problem. And that is the third
of the pillars of sustainable development. That’s our finite planet. And to understand
our finite planet, one needs to take a step back. I had a chance to discuss
in detail yesterday at the economic history
of our time. That Moore’s Law
phenomenon, of the doubling of the transistor
count every two years, and how that has propelled
the economy of the world in the last 40 or 50 years,
and reshaped the world economy, is really a phenomenon
that began with the industrial
revolution itself. And one goes back almost to
the exact founding of Australia as a colony of Britain, to
the American Revolution, and to the start of the
industrial revolution. It all happened almost
on exactly the same date. I find 1776 to be the pivotal
year of modern history. It’s a date we learn in
school for the wrong reason. We’re taught something about
the Declaration of Independence in the United States,
not a bad document. Little bit peculiar in
some ways, I might add. But it’s also the date
even more importantly that James Watt patented
the steam engine. It’s also a date, dear to my
own heart, because it’s the date that Adam Smith published
The Wealth of Nations. And for those who want
the broad historical view, it’s also the date that Edward
Gibbon published The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It was a busy year. A lot of good writing. And one pivotal transformation,
the steam engine. And the steam engine, of
course, helped make Australia, and Australia coal helped
make the world economy, as well as the Australian
economy. But it was the invention of the
steam engine and the ability to tap into fossil fuels for the
first time, for mode of force, that changed the world economy
in the most fundamental way. And what happened is
shown by this curve that also looks a
lot like Moore’s Law. This is a reconstruction,
imperfect, but useful, of an estimate of
output per person, national income per person. But this is world
income per person. Stretching back to the beginning
of the modern era in 1 A.D., made by a great, late
macro-historian, Angus Madison. And he reconstructed
this on a simple basis, that throughout almost all of human history people were
farmers, living at subsistence, and we know that
the urban population in the world was
always under 10 percent of the world population
until the modern era. And one can see that the
world economy as a whole, as best one can understand it, actually had very slight
technological change for 1800 years. And then, with Watt,
and all that followed, came this remarkable
process of geometric growth. The Moore’s Law, in and
of itself, not at the rate of semi-conductors, at
the rate of, in the U.S., which has been the leading
economy almost since the start, at about 1.7 percent per year. It doesn’t sound
like all that much. But it means a doubling
time of 40 years. And if you do that for two
centuries, you also get two to the fifth or 32-fold
increase of output per capita. And if you do that,
together with a growth of the world population
of nearly ten times since the beginning of
the industrial revolution, you have a world economy in the aggregate that’s
expanded about 250 times. Quite remarkable
for us homeosapiens. But the one thing that hasn’t
expanded 250 times is Earth. The Earth has remained
a finite system, and at 250-fold expansion
of human activity globally, roughly 25 times or 30 times
per person, roughly 10 times in population, it’s
actually a nine-fold increase of populations since
Thomas Robert Malthus, whose wrote about
this question in 1798, has put unprecedented
pressure on the physical Earth. This is our reality. It’s a reality different from
every preceding generation. And it’s come on us at such a
fast pace, not like Moore’s Law, but generation by generation that we still do
not recognise it, and we still do not have
political institutions, a mindset or a strategy
to address it properly. If I go back to the wonderful
opening of Limits to Growth in 1972, which was the first
modern text on this challenge, it famously introduced a parable
of the lily pads on the pond. And it said imagine a pond
where the lily pads are doubling in the surface area that
they cover every day, and in exactly 30 days, they
entirely cover the pond. And it asked us to think about
that, because you realise that in the 29th day half
the pond is still uncovered by lily pads, and in the 28th
day, three-fourths uncovered, only one-fourth covered, and
the 27th day only 12.5 percent covered and the 26th day
only 6.25 percent covered. And the point is that
suppose you were warned that the pond is going to
be completely overtaken by lily pads the first
day of the month. And you observe, and you
observe, and you observe, and you say nothing’s happening. And you get to the 10th day
and it’s some tiny corner, you say “don’t worry about it.” The 15th day, the 20th day, the
25th day, and it’s 6 percent. And you say “don’t worry.” And then in the blink of
an eye, the pond is lost. And that’s where we are, because
we have arrived on the 29th day. It’s just our fate. Our fate could have
been different. We could have been born in
1776, faced a different set of problems, the beginning
of the industrial revolution. Or in 1972, that generation
first heard about this. It was two generations
away from reaching the end. But for us, we’ve reached it. But you wouldn’t know it from
the newspapers, would you? You wouldn’t exactly know it from Mr. Murdock’s
media, would you? Every day Mr. Murdock tells
us in the United States, in the Wall Street Journal and
on Fox News, “that’s a hoax.” A heck of a lot of
nerve, by the way. Pure propaganda. Pure anti-science. Pure immorality, as
far as I’m concerned. And pure danger for us. Because the reality is, we are now with our
backs against the wall. [ Applause ]>>The most important
concept in recent years, actually there are two important
concepts I want to share. One without a slide is the
phrase that was introduced by Nobel Laureate, Paul
Crutzen, the Anthropocene. This is in neologism, based
on Greek, anthropose– human, cene meaning
epoch, geologic epoch. In formal geologic terms,
we live in the Holocene. In the post-ice age,
following the Pleistocene. The Holocene began around
10,000 years before the present, between 17,000 and
10,000 was the transition from the Pleistocene
to the Holocene. But Professor Crutzen, who won
the Nobel Prize for being one of the three scientists to discover the ozone depletion
effect, said about 10 years ago “we’ve entered a new
epoch on the planet, one in which humanity is
forcing the fundamental changes to the Earth’s physical
systems.” For the first time in
the planetary history, one species is dominating
Earth’s physical process change. Humanity. And the scientists
say we’re driving the change. I say we’re drunk
driving the change. We don’t even have a clue
we’re driving the change. Some ecologists five years
ago, led by Professor Johann of the Stockholm
Resiliency Centre, created a second concept
called planetary boundaries. They worked together to
identify the real threat points for our time. The places where that
near vertical growth of the world economy
is now colliding with the Earth’s physical
systems, and in particular, is at risk or already
has passed thresholds in which great destabilisation of Earth’s processes
will take place. And they created this idea of ten planetary
boundaries at risk. And at noon, at north, at 12:00
noon is climate change which is by far the most important
of all of them. Because it affects
all of the rest, and because it is completely
out of control right now. Next ocean acidification. This is the phenomenon that,
because of the heavy loading of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere, due to fossil fuel use, that
carbon dioxide is dissolving in the ocean sea surface, and
when CO2 dissolves in water, it creates carbonic acid, the pH
of the ocean is already fallen by .1 unit, which means an
increase of acidification of 10 to the point one, or 30 percent. Which means that the
shellfish and the plankton that are calcareous, with a
calcium shell, the mollusks, the other marine life of
exoskeletons and coral reefs, of which this country is host
to the greatest in the world, are all under profound threat. And the ocean acidification is
proceeding at a dramatic rate. Ozone depletion. I don’t think I have
a pointer here. Nitrogen and phosphorus flux
from massive fertiliser use, depletion of fresh
water, which this part of Australia knows a lot about
and has addressed with insight, change of land use,
deforestation, massive over-logging of some
of the neighbouring countries in this region–
Indonesia, Malaysia– with this incredible demand
for tropical hardwoods and other products in China. The profound loss
of biodiversity, leading to what has been called
the sixth great extinction of the planet. Massive aerosol loadings,
with massive smog and pollutants claiming many
years of life expectancy in many of the cities of the world,
and massive chemical pollution, are the planetary boundaries
that have been identified. The most important
of all of these, because of the profound effects
that it will have on every part of the biosphere, and
the other Earth systems, is the carbon dioxide loading and the other greenhouse
gas loadings. I’m sure you’re aware
that this year for the first time we
had an entire month in which CO2 concentrations
in the atmosphere were at 400 parts per million. This is the first time
in three million years that carbon dioxide
has been so high. And as my colleague,
Professor James Hanson, who for 30 years was the U.S.
Government’s lead climate scientist, has shown in compelling research every
time the Earth has had this level of carbon dioxide
loading in its long history, ocean levels have been
several metres higher than they are today. Professor Hanson concludes
that we’ve already set in motion a process
that when all of the feedbacks work
themselves through, we’ll lose a significant portion
of the West Antarctic ice sheet. And perhaps a significant
proportion of the Greenland
ice sheet as well, raising ocean levels
many metres. Of course, when this
was true 50 million or 100 million years ago, we
didn’t have Manhattan, or Perth, or Los Angeles, or the
dozens of major cities around the world
sitting at the ports, which is a wonderful
place for cities to sit, except if the ocean level starts
to rise by several metres. We learnt in New York that just
a rise of one-third of a metre over a century can be pretty
devastating when it’s combined with a massive storm,
as we had in 2012. Because we had unprecedented
storm surges, this is New York’s finest, the New York Police Department
floating down 10th Street in lower Manhattan on the
first night of the storm. Every major hospital in lower
Manhattan was knocked out. You can imagine what
we consider one of the most sophisticated cities
in the world had not remembered to take the back-up
generators out of the basements. We don’t think very clearly,
ladies and gentlemen. We’re not exactly
on top of the game. And we shouldn’t
pretend that we are. Events are changing a lot
faster than our institutions, our knowledge, our procedures,
our care to look at this. This is Beijing in January,
perhaps a historic moment for China, because it is– it was both an eye
closer, and an eye opener. You couldn’t open your eyes. The best advice during
these smoggy days in Beijing was stop
breathing for the next week. Because this was something
like 30 times higher than the WHO safe thresholds for
PM 2.5 particulates. And this is a repeated
occurrence. It was an eye opener
to China’s leadership, because environmental
crises can be crises of profound political
destabilisation as well. Look at Chernobyl. It was the start of the
unravelling of the Soviet Union. I think the Chinese leadership
has taken some notice, that they’re facing an
environmental calamity. And the research is suggesting
more than five years lost of life expectancy
in northern China in the heavily coal-impacted
areas. This is a draught being
experienced in San Paulo, state of Brazil, where
I was a couple of weeks, now I guess about a month, ago. Notably, the government
had sounded no alarm. They said, “Quiet! We have the World
Cup coming up!” Not to tell people we’re
running out of water. And what they’re going to
do afterwards I don’t know, because then they’re going to
be having an election coming up. And the government
doesn’t know what to do. The reservoirs are drying up. We have the same phenomenon
in California right now. Hit by one of the worst
draughts in our modern history. And exactly the kind of
draught that one expects to become a prolonged,
recurrent phenomenon in a world of human-induced climate change. Currently, there’s massive
draught in Indonesia. This is a picture from
March, in Sumatra. And this is what it
means, nitrogen flux. When the nitrogen and phosphorus
from the fertilisers flow into the rivers, percolate
into the ground water. And end up in the estuaries. I also use this as a picture
of bad parenting [laughter]. Do not put your child
into an algal bloom. Not a good idea. Lot of nutrients there. Not a great place for a swim. And absolutely alarming, because
the coastal China is seeing this kind of phenomenon at
unprecedented rates. The estimates now are
about 150 major estuaries around the world, including the
Gulf of Mexico, in the delta of the Mississippi River,
with massive dead zones which follow these algal blooms. And of course, extreme storms,
such as in Szechuan Province, and the strongest land-falling
typhoon in measurement history, Typhoon Hiyan, which
struck the Philippines and devastated large areas
and left vast numbers of people still displaced,
of course, many, many months after this calamity. And it’s notable that in
many cases these shocks like the mega-draught that
hit Syria for 10 years, end up in open conflict. This is something, again, our policy makers
fail to understand. When conflict breaks out,
they view it in strategic or geo-political terms,
not in ecological terms. But ecological catastrophe
leads to social and political catastrophe. There was massive internal
migration and displacement in Syria for many years. It was a tinder which
struck fire just with the so-called Arab spring
in 2011, and since then, of course, the outside powers,
as they always do, came in and greatly amplified
the violence and more than 130,000 Syrians have been
dead in what the United States and Iran and Russia and Saudi
Arabia consider their latest great game. But it’s of course a
devastation for the people, and none of the outside powers
is doing a thing actually addressed to the
well-being of the people in Syria stuck in the middle. And of course you know it well, this country is extraordinarily
vulnerable to climate change. This is a mass drylands country. This is a country
dependant on its agriculture. This is a country of immense
and unique biodiversity. And it’s not surprising that
in many parts of this country, the vulnerabilities are
extraordinarily high. Whether it’s to draught
and forest fire, as in Western Australia, or
massive flooding in Queensland. Or to the massive heat
waves that we watched as the players were collapsing in the Australian Open
earlier this year. You’d think some Prime Minister
might notice [laughter]. You’d kind of think it, right? But then again, you’d think
some President might notice it. Or someone else. This is really the oddest
disconnect of the planet. So here’s the grim reality. The grim reality is that we
have squandered our time. We’ve squandered the warnings. Twenty-two years ago,
that was 20 years after the Stockholm Summit, the
world met at what was the apogee of the global environmental
movement, at the Rio Earth Summit. And at that summit, world
leaders from all over the world, even a Republican Party
President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush,
Sr., went to the conference and signed three treaties. Three really important,
well-drafted, well-reasoned treaties. The UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity,
and the UN Convention to Combat Decertification. These are excellent treaties. Well worth teaching to your
students year-in and year-out. But 20 years on when the world
met as the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit,
Nature Magazine, the premiere scientific
journal weekly in the world, gave a report card to
those three treaties. And it gave them three Fs. Not one of the treaties
has been implemented. Not one of them. And the United States in
its infinite lack of wisdom, which it displays to
glowing proportions more and more every year, wouldn’t
even ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity,
because Newt Gingrich, one of our most expendable
politicians of modern life [laughter]
convinced the Congress that private property
means the right to endanger species
on your land. And don’t let the United
Nations tell you otherwise. So we face the sixth
extinction, we’re not even party to the Convention on Biological
Diversity in the United States. So Rio plus 20 in June 2012 was
a little bit a grim occasion, and this time around, a
Democratic Party President, ostensibly the party
of conservation and environmental
attention, didn’t even dare go to the conference, much
less sign a treaty. Because it’s dangerous politics
to be associated with the UN. I partly thank Rupert for that,
because of the vilification of multi-lateralism that is core
to the message of his media. And so Obama stayed away,
and what the conferees came up with was something that I
think we need to hold onto, even though it’s not necessarily
the most robust thing in the world that we could want,
but they came up with the idea of adopting goals that every
one of us could aspire to, not just legal draughts for
the diplomats and the lawyers. And so they came to the idea of emulating the
millennium development goals, which have had some traction,
not as a legal document, but as a moral document
or as a focal document, as an inspiration. To do the same with
sustainable development. And they adopted the concept of
sustainable development goals. I thought immediately
this is great. SDGs, it’s pretty much
branded on with MDGs, it’s a good transition. It’s a good follow-up. It’s what we need realistically. Because as much as we can fight
poverty, if we wreck the planet, the poor are going
to be the first to fall back into
extreme poverty. That’s for sure. Africa’s the number-one most
vulnerable part of the world to these anthropogenic changes. So the notion of SDGs is, to
my mind, a vital hand-hold that we have before we
let everything slip away. And the world, the governments,
the 193 member states of the UN adopted a timetable
to negotiate these goals. And we’re in the
middle of it right now. And it’s actually working in
a remarkably sensible way, at least for the moment. There have been ten meetings
of 90 governments working in this mass commission
called the Open Working Group. And they’ve been
listening to scientists. And they’ve been
listening to engineers. They’ve been listening
to development leaders. Talk about what the
goals should be, and what really the dangers are,
and what can be accomplished. And last September, they set a
timetable that world leaders are to come together
in September 2015 to adopt the Sustainable
Development Goals. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon
asked me in that context, and in a fundamental way it’s
what gives me the great fortune to be here today, to help work
together with great universities around the world, like
Curtin University, to create a world-wide
network of problem solving, practical solutions, expertise,
on actually solving the problems of sustainable development. And this UN Sustainable
Development Solutions Network, or SDSN, is taking shape now. I was in China two days ago to launch the China
Chapter of the SDSN. You’ll, therefore, find a
powerful partnership in China, centred at Tsinghua University,
but engaging great universities across China, on these issues. And the hope is,
and my belief is, as with millennium
development goals, that if knowledge
communities come together, make the diagnoses, and help
show the actual practical pathways, that we can
find a way, a safe passage through this extraordinarily
difficult, challenging and unprecedented time. And again, because we have
tools that are more powerful than ever before
in human history. So the SDSN has made
its own recommendations, and I just offer them to
you as an illustration of what the SDGs
may turn out to be. We said ten goals,
embracing economic, social and environmental
objectives, ending extreme poverty,
sustainable growth within planetary boundaries,
is the way we put it, using information technology
to enable education for all, social inclusion
in human rights, including gender equality,
universal health coverage, and access to primary health for
all, new sustainable agriculture that lifts the heavy
environmental footprint of industrial agriculture,
sustainable cities, as Perth has demonstrated
the capacity to be. Sustainable energy, which
means a transformation of the energy system to a
low-carbon energy system. Ending and reversing the sixth
great extinction on the planet, and governance for
sustainable development. Something like this list will
emerge and be adopted next year. Something that looks
a lot like this list. And again, I think
it’s important, and again I’ll quote President
Kennedy who, when he was seeking to negotiate the
first treaty of peace with the Soviet Union
during the cold war, just months after the
Cuban Missile Crisis, and made a remarkable,
successful initiative to reach a partial
nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, in
an environment of mass doubt and scepticism, really
defined the idea that I find to be compelling for the
sustainable development goals. He said, “By Defining
our goal more clearly, by making it seem more
manageable and less remote, we help all people to see
it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly
toward it.” It is, I believe, a method
of leadership in a world where there aren’t very
many leaders after all. Define the goal. Help show that it’s manageable. That’s where universities
come in. Governments cannot do that. They can agree to goals, but they don’t know
what they’re doing. They’re not organised
for problem solving. These issues are also technical. They’re also across many
different scientific, social scientific and
humanistic disciplines. Governments are not
arranged for this. Universities have a
unique role to play. Not that we’re necessarily
so good at being practical all the time. But we need to be. That’s also a challenge
for academia. We need to be helping
to solve problems by bringing true knowledge
to bear on how to do it. What are strategies for
sustainable development? In my view, it starts
with goal setting. Then is a process,
sometimes called back-casting. There’s the goal for
2030, there’s the goal for 2050, how do we get there? How do we go from that
goal back to the present, to find a pathway that can
take us to where we want to be at the future date? What kind of research and
development will be vital to overcome current obstacles? Sometimes called
technology road-mapping. Then is prototyping. Getting actual projects
on the ground. Testing. Learning by doing. Showing how they can
work in practice. Then, of course, is scaling up. PPP, public-private
partnerships, for mass scaling up of the successful cases. And, I believe, accelerated
mass learning. One of the things
that the moocs, the online education
makes possible. We can have millions
of students from all over the world online
studying these fields, learning whether they’re living
in remote villages or high in mountains, or are too
poor to get the education, or there’s no education
accessible locally, we now have information
technology to make this knowledge
universally and freely available. So one case, quickly. Climate change mitigation. We need to change the direction of our greenhouse gas
emissions, most importantly CO2. The top line is the
path that we’re on right now roughly speaking. It’s the path that the
inter-governmental panel on climate change
has as its scenario, its reference concentration
pathway, RCP 8.5. It’s a trajectory that will lead
us to a warming of the planet of something like four to
six degrees centigrade. Completely out of control. And moreover, to an extent that the scientists tell us the
feedbacks are so unpredictable that we could set in motion
absolutely runaway climate change and climate disruption. The path we need to be
on is this downward path, RCP 2.6, as it’s called. What the vertical
axis is, is the amount of carbon that we’re emitting. Right now, we’re emitting
roughly 10 billion tonnes of C, of carbon. And that means about 36
billion tonnes per year of carbon dioxide, given
its atomic weight relative to carbon. We need, by the middle of
the century, to be at half that level, even as the
world economy grows. Grows perhaps three
or four times. We have to have the emissions. And if you do the arithmetic,
we have the following challenge. We’re at 35 billion, 36
billion tonnes of CO2 in a 7 billion person-world
economy. We’re emitting five
tonnes of carbon dioxide on average per person
on the planet. Australia and the United States
are the two largest emitting countries, per capita,
of major economies. We’re at 17 tonnes per
capita emissions of CO2. China is at about 8 tonnes
per capita right now. The world, as an
average, about 5 tonnes. By 2050, we need to
reduce that emission to about 15 billion tonnes. But then there will be
about 9.6 billion people. That’s 1.7 tonnes per person. That means for the
U.S. and Australia, to live within that carbon
budget, we’d need to reduce by around 90 percent
our emissions. Fortunately, that’s
our government’s plan. Right? Right! Every day. They remind us. Both of us. And Canada, by the way, Prime
Minister Harper loves this too. So the fact of the matter is, we have an incredible
amount of work to do. And we’re not even
trying yet, after all. But we have committed to reach a
new agreement by December 2015. And if our governments
understood that there are technological
options that are real, that are within reach, that could dramatically
transform the carbon landscape, but at the same time
improve the quality of life, maybe they would go with it. They will not come up with it. We need to come up with it. We need to show that this
transformation is manageable. It’s not good enough,
by the way, to say we need a carbon tax,
or we need a permit system. We know that the political
process won’t hold on to that. Because that’s not a future. That’s a tool. That’s a trick. That’s a gimmick. That’s not a plan. It may be part of a plan, but
we don’t have the plan yet. We need a strategy,
not just a tool. And nobody’s come
up with that yet. Because that requires
more work, by the way. That requires really laying out carefully Australia’s
energy future. And it’s options. It requires weighing nuclear
power carefully, by the way. Because that probably should
be part of the solution. It requires understanding
what kind of power grid, what
kind of options. And those plans have not been
made either in this country or in my country or in most
countries of the world. Now, the fact of the
matter is that we are way above where we need to be, and
Australia can’t duck the issue. It’s the eighth largest
emitting economy in the world, and it is the fourth
largest holder of coal reserves in
the entire world. So you’re inevitably a
fundamentally important player in this issue for the
future of the planet. There aren’t too
many, by the way. Because while we have 193
countries whose well-being is at stake, only a few are really
going to determine the future of the planet in this regard. It’s the U.S., it’s the European
Union, it’s China, it’s India, it’s Australia, it’s
Canada, it’s Russia, and it’s the Gulf countries. And that’s 90 percent of
the fossil fuel reserves. That’s where the action is. And this is where the
decisions need to be taken. And this is where the
responsibility needs to be shown. So what’s actually needed to achieve a 2 degrees
Centigrade limit, the promised safety zone,
to keep us from destruction? We need a massive transformation
of our energy systems, starting with low
carbon electricity, whether it’s renewables, or
nuclear, or carbon capture and sequestration,
which is a promising, but unproven, technology
at scale. It’s proven at small scale. It’s completely unproven
at large scale. Could we safely store
billions and billions of tonnes of CO2 per year? We don’t know. But we need to find out. We require massive
energy efficiency, and there are many pathways to
that that are easily identified. And we need to electrify
our vehicles, because we cannot succeed with
the internal combustion engine. There’s just too many cars, and
China is filling up too fast with automobiles to go on with
the internal combustion engine and stay within the
carbon budget. It’s not possible. We need biological storage to
protect the carbon that’s stored in our forests and the soils,
in the Savannahs of the world, including in this country. We need to phase out
coal almost entirely, except if it’s combined
with carbon capture and sequestration, and we need
a moratorium on exploration and development of
unconventional oil, like Canada’s oil sands,
unless carbon capture and sequestration permit it. All of this is tough. And we are not at all
taking this seriously yet. And one of the things I’m
proposing is massive global cooperation on research and
development around key areas, and I’m really suggesting
that Australia take a lead on carbon capture
and sequestration, and get together the other major
coal economies of the world. That’s the U.S.,
Canada, China and India. Russia is also, but it doesn’t
touch its coal for the moment. I don’t want to disturb that. Don’t give any ideas. Mr. Putin is preoccupied with
seizing territory for new oil and gas reserves, I’m afraid. Extremely dangerous. But Australia should
mobilise the world’s coal producing countries. It is your future if you want
coal to be part of your future. If you want it to be part
of the future world economy and your own economy,
it will not be if there is not carbon
capture and sequestration. The world will not have it, even though it might seem the
world doesn’t care right now, believe me, it’s going to care. It’s going to care a lot. And I’d advise this country,
for the sake of the world, and for the sake of Australia,
get on this case to prove that coal can be used safely
with advanced technologies, or find out that it can’t be,
in which case we really need to do things very differently. But we need these technology,
global cooperative roadmaps, and demonstration programmes. That’s probably a $20
billion dollar project over the next eight
to ten years. Maybe half can come
from industry, the other half from governments. It’s a pretty small amount, by
the way, for macro-economists. And I’ll tell you the truth,
25 hedge fund managers in New York City took
home $21 billion dollars in personal paychecks
this past year. And two of the top
three are crooks. That’s how weird the world
is, so when we say 20 billion, and your Prime Minister says
“How could we afford that?” Are we really going to lose the
world on these decimal points, tiny numbers, and not
find out what we can do? So this is an area where Australia could make an
absolutely huge difference. Finally, let me say a word
about universities in this. Of course, a lot has been
said, and I don’t have to belabour the point. Universities have a
unique role to play. They are repositories
of technical knowledge. They are institutions
that look ahead. They’re institutions that are
long-lived and have the capacity to think about the
future, and the assignment to think about the future. Fortunately, while we
are partly commercial, and partly commercialised, we
have drawn some limits at least to keep the commercial
short-termism a bit at bay. And so I believe that universities have a unique
responsibility and a unique role to play, and this field of
sustainable development is both about practical solving and
inventing a new way to teach, see and research the world. And I saw that Professor
Peter Newman in his book had almost
exactly the same diagram of overlapping bullion
circles here. We have to learn as specialists
of sustainable development to understand the
integrated systems, the techno-economic systems,
the technological bases of the world economy, the
physical Earth systems, the geo-political systems,
and the social dynamics. It’s a different
kind of learning. A different kind of training. A different kind of expertise. It’s not found in the
economics department. It’s not found in a
climate science department. It’s a new, integrated,
non-linear systems dynamics that needs to be taught in
a new intellectual approach. And it has to operate
in real-time, facing the real issues
and the real challenges. Global-scale production systems,
the computational revolution, massive demographic change,
geo-political upheaval, and of course, the
mega-environmental disruption. This is the field that
universities need to create. And finally, like it
or not, this is it. It’s not in the newspapers
necessarily. It’s not in the political
speeches yet, but every young person
senses this is the reality. This is the challenge
of this generation. That’s why all over the world
young people are demanding to be able to study and
master skills in this area. Put up a sustainability or sustainable development
programme, and hundreds or thousands of young
people will come to apply because this is the future, and
young people, at least, know it. And finally, I’ll
end with one more bit of wisdom of President Kennedy. You know, he was a
great goal setter, and one of the most remarkable
and inspiring goals that he set in his brief time as President,
that changed the world, was the goal to go to the moon. And it’s quite a remarkable
phenomenon, by the way, he stood in Congress
in March 1961 and said, and challenged America,
“Let us go to the moon, put a man to the moon
and bring him back safely to Earth before the
end of the decade.” Unbelievable. There were no plans
to do it yet. It took NASA a year and
a half after that call to determine a strategy. Quite remarkable. No political leaders,
surrounded as they are by swarms of political advisers, would
ever be allowed to make such a statement today. They’d tell, “Oh,
you can’t do that. Check out the focus groups! That’s not proved!” You have no– we’re
not allowed to dream. We’re not allowed
to say these things. But President Kennedy stood
there, said before the end of the decade, which of
course was achieved in 1969. And when he was asked about it, he made one of the most
remarkable speeches of his life. You can watch it online,
the speech that he gave at Rice University in 1962, and he made this wonderful
statement that I’ll close with. He said, “We choose
to go to the moon. We choose to go to the
moon in this decade and do the other things,
not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to
organise and measure the best of our energies and skills,
because that challenge is one that we are willing to
accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one
which we intend to win. And the others too.” It’s our turn to
win the challenge of sustainable development. Thank you very much,
Curtin University. [ Applause ]>>Well, it was worth coming. And I believe we’ve
heard the call to arms. Curtin will be certainly doing
our bit, and we now are linked in this UN Sustainable
Development Support Network. We’re off to Melbourne tonight
to pursue it on a global scale. We have a new Doctorate in
Sustainable Development, which we are launching. And which we want to make part of that whole network
around the world. And it will be managed
through Curtin.>>Bravo to Curtin [applause].>>Yes, right. [ Applause ]>>But mostly, bravo to our
man from Columbia University. We’ve got a gift for him, which
I’m sure he’ll be really pleased to put into his bag [laughter]. It’s a cobra hat. Now, we’ll send it
to New York for you. But let me at least
give it to you. There you go. [ Applause ]>>And please, now, go down,
have a look at the showcase. Down the stairs to
the left there. And we will have to
head off to the airport. So thank you very much. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] [ Music ]

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