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Is the climate change debate being hijacked by the ongoing search for a technological fix, the idea that will solve all our problems? US commentator Auden Schendler certainly thinks so, and has railed against this view in a recent column.
But is this view fair? The strongest argument against a movement away from our current high emissions technologies in Australia is the price of alternative technologies. Whether we like it or not, coal, gas and oil are cheap and the alternatives are still expensive. Proponents of alternative technologies argue that the price of these technologies will fall rapidly with volume, scale and experience. No doubt this is true, but these prices do need to fall to be competitive in the long term.
But maybe, just around the corner, there is the breakthrough technology, the clean energy technology that has the clear potential to replace dirtier technology. In the early 20th century, one of the world’s important industries was the distribution of natural ice. Engineers worked long and hard on improved means of preserving ice. Then one day, in Geelong, mechanical refrigeration was invented to help ship meat to Europe. Sometimes breakthrough technologies matter.
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