Tech alone won’t fix climate change: researchers

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Tech alone won’t fix climate change: researchers

Engineers warn “the modern equivalent of magic” can't heal the planet.

The successes of IT have led policymakers to become too reliant on technology to solve the world's climate change woes, academics say.

Monash University's Patrick Moriarty said no combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency, nuclear energy or geoengineering could achieve what humans demand.

"We're engineers, so we have a pretty good idea about what technology can and can't do," said Dr Moriarty, whose book, Rise and Fall of the Carbon Civilisation, was recently published.

"The success of IT and its widespread use has driven the idea that technology can do anything," he told iTnews.

"Technology functions as the modern equivalent of magic."

Last month, the Australian Information Industry Association presented the Federal Government with a whitepaper touting technology's potential to cut national carbon emissions by 21 percent (116 megatonnes) within the decade.

The IT industry group forecasted up to 70,000 new jobs from a market for more efficient information technology in energy, transport, building, health and education.

But Dr Moriarty said only a fundamental, global shift away from traditional measures of economic growth would produce an ecologically sustainable society.

He highlighted the Jevons Paradox, by which any technological progress that increases efficiency tends to increase the rate of resource consumption.

"The world has been improving its energy efficiency," he said, noting that OECD countries such as Norway were still using 1000 times the electricity of nations like Rwanda.

Should all countries reach today's OECD energy-consumption levels, world consumption would balloon to 159 billion oil barrels a year, compared to 31 billion barrels currently.

Estimated global reserves were only 1409 billion barrels.

"What we have to do is change the name of the game and concentrate on human welfare rather than GDP," he said.

"The climate problem and our lack of real progress in mitigating it is a direct consequence of our global economic system.

"Solving the climate problem will require us to completely alter the way we run our economies. While important, carbon taxes are only transitional instruments to the deeper changes needed."

Dr Moriarty likened the emphasis on GDP to the emphasis on religion in previous centuries: "We're trying to dethrone economic growth".

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