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Climate Change is the Biggest Driver of Disruptive Innovation

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So Australia wants to become innovative. The Lucky Country wants to become the Smart Country. It wants to embrace disruptive innovation, face the future boldly and feed the teeming masses of Asia with our clean and green food. Yet, when the choice was there for Australia’s leaders to either choose to grab the opportunity with both hands or to pretend ‘she’ll be right, mate’, they chose the latter. In fact, they chose the latter with such alacrity that at least three Prime Ministers have fallen over the issue. Yet, now our leaders are telling us that we have to become more ‘risk-taking’, ‘entrepreneurial’ and willing to tolerate failure. All good sentiments, but our leaders have been found wanting on the greatest economic challenge of our time: climate change.

You see, climate change is going to drive broad-based change throughout the global economy whether you like it or not. Most obviously, it will require big changes to our energy system to move from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to renewable energy. This will have further impacts on our transport, buildings, financial and our food system. To many people in the affluent West, this will mean some unacceptable changes to their lifestyle. But what is the alternative? If you want to see what a lifestyle in a future with unfettered carbon emissions is like, you should go and visit Beijing. There are many rich people in Beijing, funnily enough, many of them want to migrate to Australia, USA, Canada or UK, partly because their kids won’t risk getting a respiratory disease at a young age. And that is before factoring the impact of climate change on weather patterns.

The previous Prime Minister infamously remarked that “coal is good for humanity”. Sure, it has helped power our energy system in the past but now that we are so much more knowledgeable about the impacts of a coal-fuelled energy system, why would you persist with such outdated and inferior technology? It isn’t like renewables aren’t becoming cheaper and more efficient. Yet now under the current Prime Minister, they want us to believe they now believe in renewables, as long as Australia can continue to export coal to China and India. Cognitive dissonance anyone?

Yet, even developing countries are looking to adopt renewables. This could be a huge opportunity for Australian clean energy technology companies to export their world-class solar panels and wind turbines to these growing countries. Wait, we don’t actually produce them. Instead the leaders in clean energy technology are from Germany, Denmark and even China. Looks like it is another case of Australian business and political leaders letting a golden opportunity slip. In fact, some of the brightest minds were educated in Australia, but they had to leave because there were no opportunities here. We have seen this before with the myki schmozzle. Australia is very good at exporting ideas overseas. We’re just not so good at capturing it’s economic value.

So as much as I would love to support PM Turnbull I can’t see how Australia will be a leader in innovation when our leaders have failed the biggest test. I can’t seriously see how this current crop of political and business leaders who have come to believe that the only way to become rich in Australia is from commodities and

can rise to the challenge. These people don’t understand innovation, they are scared of it. They will fight a guerilla war to stop change by lobbying governments to entrench the status quo. They don’t want to innovate, because it doesn’t have the sure payoff of subsidised property speculation. The thinking goes that if Australia needs to, we will just import the technology when someone else commercialises it overseas. But what is going to happen when Australia’s term of trade collapses as the world transitions to a low carbon future? How are we going to pay for it? If you think our debt problem is big now, just wait until this happens.

So Happy New Year guys! Looking forward to Australia being disrupted in an innovative manner!