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Coastal erosion and king tides

Coastal erosion and king tides

Coastal erosion is a significant problem in Australia, as with many other nations, and it's set to
get worse. Reinhard Flick is studying the problem at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in
California. But he's also an expert on king tides. He says they can be predicted well into the
future, which is pretty useful to know if you live on the coast.


Robyn Williams: We're actually sitting on the beach in Southern California looking at the Pacific
Ocean on a very flat beach, very pleasant, good running beach. Very good beach indeed right now.

Reinhard Flick: Bit over a mile long.

Robyn Williams: Have you done that?

Reinhard Flick: Oh absolutely, when I was a young man I ran here regularly, couple of miles, down
and back.

Robyn Williams: Have you noticed any rise or fall of the ocean and the erosion of this beach?

Reinhard Flick: The California coast, especially in Southern California, is retreating. Perhaps up
to a foot or two per year. Most of that can be attributed to lack of sand. Now there are other
places, the Los Angeles area, the Santa Monica bay area and these beaches are familiar to everybody
that watches Baywatch, right, so the most popular TV show in the world. The Baywatch, beaches have
been artificially enhanced and widened and stabilised.

Robyn Williams: Just like the actors.

Reinhard Flick: Just like the actors may have been enhanced and stabilised. That's right. I hadn't
thought of it that way, but there is a parallel there. There's two ways that the beaches have been
widened and stabilised, first of all by placement of hundreds of thousands, some places millions of
cubic yards of sand over the last 50 years, and the construction of jetties and breakwaters like
the Marine del Rey breakwaters in Santa Monica, these engineering structures that have inhibited
the movement and therefore the rate of loss of sand.

Robyn Williams: Are these effects very costly? Billions, trillions?

Reinhard Flick: Well I don't remember the number that ah is attributable to coastal tourism, but
it's the largest, the single largest coastal dependent activity in California. I mean it's larger
than shipping, larger than the military, larger than ah manufacturing. It's very important
economically to California. So up there in the billions, easily in the billions.

Robyn Williams: What about the figures of maintenance that you've worked out yourself of the cost
per year?

Reinhard Flick: Well as far as sea level rise is concerned, this was a little surprising to me. But
if we assume a 50 cm rise in sea level over the next 100 years, of course the actual amount may be
larger, might be smaller, but 50 cm over the next 100 years seems to be a plausible mid range,
calculations of how much sand it would take to maintain the beach with in Southern California
ranges between round $1.5 to $2.3 or $3 billion over 100 years.

Robyn Williams: That doesn't sound much at all.

Reinhard Flick: No, well I guess it's $15 million to $30 million a year, say. That's a lot of money
for me, maybe not for you. But in terms of the budget of California, the value of the beaches, it
really isn't that much money.

Robyn Williams: Which would imply that it's affordable?

Reinhard Flick: Well I think it's affordable. I think it's more than affordable, I think it's
actually encouraging. I mean let's face it, when you say California, the first thing people thing
about are the beaches, right? So in view of the value both culturally and historically and
recreationally in tourism, I think it's actually a very small amount of money.

Robyn Williams: When you tell your colleagues about that, are they pleased or are they sceptical?

Reinhard Flick: I think people were surprised. I mean everybody I mention this number, these
conclusions to, except for folks I recently talked to, some engineers I talked to on the east coast
in the last few weeks, have come to similar conclusions about east coast beaches, especially in
Florida for example, that even to a greater extent than California depends on their beaches for
their economic livelihood. I mean let's face it, what else is there in Florida? At least in
California we have a more diversified economy. It really is much more heavily dependent on coastal
tourism than even California is. And therefore these same kinds of considerations are very
important for Florida, as they are for some countries including Australia.

Robyn Williams: Of course, the first thing that we think of in Australia is very high value real
estate, which you have here of course in La Jolla, California, especially. Are you taking that into
account, peoples' beach houses getting swept away?

Reinhard Flick: No, no, absolutely not. That's not part of this equation at all. And I would add
the very important thing that a lot of people overlook when they think of coastal property adjacent
to the beach that's in danger of being swept away from storms, is they think of the private
property, the private development, in many cases inappropriately sited private development. But I
have to point out that it's not just private homes, it's a lot of public facilities and public
infrastructure, I mean you just look at the building my office is in. It's protected by a seawall.
The entire frontage of Scripps Institution of Oceanography from one end to the other has a seawall.
It's very old, it's 50 or 60 years old.

Robyn Williams: It's quite short too.

Reinhard Flick: Well it's quite low because the sand level is pretty high, but ah when the sandy
road's 5 or 6 or 8 feet, you know that can be 12 or 14 feet high. And it's not just places like
Scripps, there are highways, there are railroads, there are piers, there are street ends, there are
lifeguard towers, there are restaurants, clubs, you name it. There's just a myriad of public and
publically accessible places, not to mention the military up here at Camp Pendleton, famous place
because a lot of their ?? in Afghanistan troops or marines are from Camp Pendleton. The Coronado
North Island Naval Air Station, the seal team training facility down there, all of these public
facilities are as valuable, if not more valuable, and as susceptible to damage from storms and
increasing damage as sea level rises, as any of the expensive private residences that you

Robyn Williams: Reinhard Flick at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

And so, retiring to his lab, virtually on the beach, he shows me figures for which he's famous,
working out when the king tides and the lowest tides occur, so that we can plan for big floods.

Reinhard Flick: Well of course a lot was known about tides since the 1600s when Newton figured out
what caused the tides, you know the motion of the earth, the sun and the moon. What was not so well
appreciated were some of the regular changes in tide range and especially the timing and occurrence
of the peak high tides, were not well understood until I and another researcher started to actually
look at the patterns in the early 1980s following the 1982/83 El Nino storms. During that time,
especially in January 1983, that happened to be the highest peak tides of about a four and a half
year cycle, the high tides on this coast occur in the summer and in the winter, and of course
occasionally during the winter high tides we have storms that coincide with the high tides. So
storms coinciding with high tides, that's when most of the beach erosion, that's when most of the
coastal flooding and the coastal structural damages occur. So describing the occurrence of peak
high tides, because they're so predictable, in principle you can predict tides hundreds of years
into the future, based on that we can make calendars that can give people windows for when the peak
high tides will be large, and therefore be able to anticipate when it's most likely that storms
will be able to do damages to the coast. So that's a very useful thing.

Robyn Williams: Why is there a difference between the two high tides during the day and indeed the
two low tides? Why aren't they the same?

Reinhard Flick: That has to do with the tilt of the earth and the tilt of the orbit of the moon.

Robyn Williams: And if you do have a storm coming and you're worried about the high tide, I suppose
it's useful to know which time the highest tide happens?

Reinhard Flick: Right, this is another thing that we've discovered and we're able to explain as a
coincidence, the relative motions of the earth to the sun and the moon. And one of the interesting
things about Southern California is that the highest tides of the day occur in usually early
morning in the winter time and in early evening or late afternoon in the summer time. And so if
there are storms that occur in the winter, it's in the early morning that we have to be alert to
this, because it's during this period of peak tide that those storms can do the most damage. And
those are early in the morning often in the winter time.

Robyn Williams: So you need to have good notice?

Reinhard Flick: Yes, you have to have good notice. And if the first time you hear about a pending
storm coming to the coast is on the 11 o'clock news at night before you go to bed, well then you
have a very short time to prepare and you have to sandbag or board up your windows or whatever at
night. And that's pretty inconvenient. So that's that's the value of having these ah peak tide
predictions far enough in the future, at least for a winter at a time, so that property owners and
coastal managers can anticipate when these windows of high tide will occur.

Robyn Williams: What big difference does an El Nino make?

Reinhard Flick: An El Nino, besides bringing more storms to the coast of Southern California also
tends to raise the sea level by up to 10 or 15 cms for a year or sometimes a year or two at a time.
And the past century's mean sea level rise was only about 20 cms, and so 10 cms is essentially 50
years worth of mean sea level rise. So during these very large El Ninos of which we've seen two or
three in the past century, we can have significant fractions of century's worth of sea level rise
all at once for a year or two.

Robyn Williams: You talk about your office being surrounded by a low seawall, now that's the sort
of thing that you need to protect an area, not least around Australia where most of our cities are.
What is the penalty of building a seawall for the beach?

Reinhard Flick: Well of course the seawall is built for the purpose of protecting development
behind the beach, so nobody says that it's built to protect the beach, it's not done for that. But
one of the negative consequences of seawalls which keep the back beach from moving or the cliff or
dune from retreating, if the shoreline retreats and nothing is done to maintain the beach with,
then the beach between the shoreline and the seawall will over time narrow and eventually
disappear. So that's the penalty.

Robyn Williams: So you build a seawall to protect your property and the beach disappears?

Reinhard Flick: Well if the shoreline retreats, so you have to have shoreline retreat, either
because of sea level rise or because of insufficient sand supply. But the answer for this is to
bring sand to the beach, to nourish the beach for modest rates of beach erosion, modest rates of
sea level rise. As we've talked about, sand nourishment is an effective way over many decades and
even a century or so to maintain the beach with in the face of sea level rise, even with seawalls.

Robyn Williams: The subtleties of saving your shoreline. Reinhard Flick does research on coastal
erosion at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

Business tackles Copenhagen

Business tackles Copenhagen

How to deal with science-driven upheavals in board rooms around the world? Why not ask the A-Team
for help? The Smith School of Environment and Enterprise in Oxford has an international team
especially equipped to explain what's involved to cope with climate, sustainability, and all the
other headings demanded by looming legislation. They include Sir David King, former Chief Scientist
in the UK, as well as experts from many nations. In the lead-up to the UN's Climate Change
Conference in December, we meet some of the school's key people and hear about their big plans for
our future.


Robyn Williams: Well the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment has been open for a year as
part of the University of Oxford. Sir David King is the director, and he looks quite pleased.

David King: I think we've taken off remarkably quickly. For example, we held our first world forum
on enterprise and the environment here in the university in July and it was simply superb. Two
heads of state, leaders of global industry, leaders from around the world in the academic sense as
well, so I I think we have taken off. We've got a wonderful group of young people crossing the

Robyn Williams: And the countries from Germany, from Nigeria, from Switzerland?

David King: Yes. And from the United States and from Canada. We have managed to go global
immediately and we were very keen to do that from the start. But if we then look at what these
young people are doing, we have created for example weekly seminars which draw people in from
around the whole of this vast University of Oxford, and from outside. And these are unusual
seminars because they're dealing with a topic, climate change, its impacts, sustainability. But
they're dealing with it, drawing in people from all disciplines. So this is extraordinarily
unlikely to happen in a university like Oxford where people come to study chemistry or medieval
history, and they're stepping outside their area of specialisation and coming along and getting
enormously enthusiastic. This is what we really are all about.

Robyn Williams: Sir David King himself comes from South Africa. He's a chemist, was Britain's chief
scientist, and has no illusions about the size of the problems they're trying to tackle.

David King: We're going to have to defossilise our economies as we move forward in time, and we're
going to have to move forward and become sustainable with nine billion people on the planet. That's
the challenge, and I think it amounts to no less than a new 21st century renaissance. We need a
rebirth. We need to recover from the complacency of development in the 20th century, so that we can
move into this 21st century and deal with all of the consequences of our behaviour in the 20th

Robyn Williams: And of course that change over has been somewhat awkward as you can see with the
politics leading up to Copenhagen. Not least in Australia, the tremendous hopes, the ambitions, and
then you get to the practical realities and the carbon tradings, talking to business. Business has
got particular requirements. How are you managing that interaction between the lofty academics and
the brass tack business people?

David King: The key is to talk to them about opportunities. And it's the opportunities that arise
when a business minded person understands the direction of the future ahead of his or her
competitors. And so what we're saying to them is, if you can move towards a defossilised economy
and take your business in that direction, you are going to make a packet out of it. Now that's the
only way you can appeal to business, because their shareholders want to see a return on their
investment. And they want to attract shareholders. So while social responsibility has to be a key
in our working with the businesses, we also have to appeal to this drive to innovate into a low
carbon economy.

Robyn Williams: Do any business people see you as an enemy at all? Has there been that
manifestation at all?

David King: We haven't experienced that. I mean what is interesting is that you take a whole range
of companies from the energy sector as well, who are coming to us and working with us. This is the
private sector recognising that we are able to work into the future because of this vast
inter-disciplinary resource that we have access to. So we are now working up a futures laboratory,
and the first programme of work is on the future of mobility. What will mobility look like, not
only in terms of us human beings getting around the planet and getting around our cities, but also
in terms of how we move goods around. What is the future of mobility out at 2050? And what do we
need to be doing now to be optimising each one of our businesses to manage that future? Let me give
you a bad example of a company that did not look into the future properly, and that would be GM in
America. Imagine in a century where we need to go low carbon, where fuel costs are soaring, and
then you take on the Humvee and develop that as a new line, this totally petrol hungry vehicle.
What does it do? Seven, eight miles to the gallon. Now of course the company's gone bust. The
danger to the private sector is becoming the white elephant of the future. In other words,
investing heavily down a direction where it becomes irrelevant to future regulatory systems
introduced by governments.

Robyn Williams: Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Sir David King. And
on transport, Dr. Oliver Inderwildi from Switzerland is the scientist tracking that one. And his
first concern is aviation. Can we keep planes flying if oil is running out?

Oliver Inderwildi: Actually there are already alternative aviation fuels. SASOL in South Africa is
converting coal into a liquid fuel, and that works very well. It's already certified, so if you fly
back from Johannesburg you're flying on fuel made from coal. The problem is that the carbon
footprint of exactly that fuel is about two and half times as high than the carbon footprint of
regular kerosene. However if you could use let's say rubbish or biomass to convert that into fuels
using the same process, a Fischer-Tropsch drop process, then you could get a fuel that has a lower
carbon footprint than regular carozene.

Robyn Williams: How do you get the fuel out of the coal? Is it a straightforward process?

Oliver Inderwildi: It's a pretty straightforward process. You first gassify the coal, you heat it
up really rapidly and then you get a gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and this you
can use in the so-called Fischer-Tropsch touch process, and what comes out is a mixture of
different hydrocarbons. And that's pretty similar to carozene. It's actually advantageous from the
local pollutant emissions point of view, so nox (nitrous oxide) and sulphur oxides, because those
fuels emit less of those local pollutants.

Robyn Williams: And can you produce enough? Because the fleet of aircraft is gigantic around the
world, and they need an awful lot, especially with the inefficient means of going round in circles
and wasting fuel all the time, can you produce enough?

Oliver Inderwildi: I think so, because people are arguing that we are running out of oil. We're
definitely not running out of coal, so for the short and medium term we could definitely use coal.
And also as you probably know, most of the swing states in the United States have coal, and they
have lots of it, so it's a political question. And I think we can produce quite a bit of fuel from
coal. I doubt if we really want to do that just because the carbon footprint is 2.5 times as high.

Robyn Williams: Could it be brought down with more efficient methods?

Oliver Inderwildi: Yes, absolutely, it could be brought down. But then you still have a carbon
footprint that is twice as high, because you're not only using a fossil fuel, but you're treating a
fossil fuel before you burn it, and that just increases the carbon footprint. And coal is obviously
of the dirtiest fossil fuels we have.

Robyn Williams: How do you see in say 20 years time with innovations such as the silent aircraft
from Cambridge, will we fly as much as we do now? Will it be different?

Oliver Inderwildi: I definitely hope that we fly as much as today, because it's just an economic
factor. If we want to continue our economic growth, we have to keep it up. We just have to find
alternative means, and I think Singapore Airways for instance is operating its London to Singapore
route with 30 percent less emission, using the Airbus A380. And if we come up with more concepts,
the next one is Boeing, the Dreamliner, who is a low emission airplane. So if we can combine
efficient airplanes, good air traffic management and alternative low carbon fuels in aviation, I
think we can even let the aviation sector grow while reducing emissions.

Robyn Williams: It's often seemed to me a good idea to augment planes with trains, cause intercity
fast trains, which we don't have in Australia, could reduce the need to go out to those airports
and wear delays and all the rest of it. But when you analyse the efficiency, the carbon efficiency
of trains and stations, if you do the sort of overall look, some trains are efficient, other trains
are not. How do you view it?

Oliver Inderwildi: You're probably talking about diesel trains who are less efficient, absolutely.
I think we should electrify trains in general, and basically it was Germany's and France's
transportation policies in the '80s and '90s to provide a high speed train network, to reduce the
amount of domestic flights. And they're pretty successful for it. So if you today want to travel
from Paris to Mannheim, or from Hamburg to Berlin, then you go for the train because it's just much
easier, especially with the security at the check-in after 911, it's quite a hassle to get on a
plane. While if you have an efficient high speed train, commuting between two major cities, then
that's an efficient means to get traffic out of the air onto the rail.

Robyn Williams: Especially when they're integrated. But I see this week the Dreamliner from Boeing
that Dr. Inderwildi just mentioned, is having production trouble in Seattle and is falling behind

So anyway, we shall keep flying using different fuels and planes. As for cars, hybrids, electric
cars and adjuncts to the grid.

Oliver Inderwildi: I definitely see the plug in hybrid as something that we'll have in the future,
so basically you recharge your hybrid overnight and then it runs the first 20 or 30 miles purely on
battery. And then your combustion engine kicks in, if you need to travel more than that. Probably
most people won't need the combustion engine, because their commute is shorter than that. The
problem is there were quite big incentives in the United States for hybrid cars, and hybrids only
make sense if you have stop and go, if you are driving in a city. Now in the United States lots of
people are driving around in the mid west where you don't really have much stop and go, but you
drive on freeways. And there the hybrid doesn't really make sense because you're just carrying
additional weight around.

Robyn Williams: What about the cost of putting all that infrastructure for plug-in all over the
country and all over the town? Is it straightforward?

Oliver Inderwildi: I don't know if you have a power plug in your garage, that's probably all the
infrastructure you need. It's a bit more of a problem for cities where cars park on the street.

Robyn Williams: And how will that electricity grid mesh with electric cars? We've done stories on
the Science Show coming from Perth, Curtin University, talking about ways in which smart grids can
be augmented by those very batteries in motor cars. Now how will that work?

Oliver Inderwildi: Exactly, it's sort of a buffer for the grid, which is a minute amount of
electricity if you're talking about one car. But just think about how many cars there are in
Melbourne or Sydney.

Robyn Williams: The point is that these electric cars will have batteries with four times the
capacity that they need, so they can back up the grid, even storying energy obtained from other
sources such as wind and solar. Dr. Oliver Inderwildi is from Switzerland.

Another of the Smith School's experts is from Germany, Dr. Bettina Wittneben. How does she feel
about fronting a boardroom full of tough minded business types with her theory and techno advice?

Bettina Wittneben: Well I have to admit it was a bit intimidating. It was a brand new boardroom at
the University of Calgary, and the room was packed. Now the professor who had invited me, Professor
Frances Bowen, had said to me, probably nobody will come, it's the middle of August, it's Friday
afternoon. But the room was packed and the assistant had to bring in chairs, and everyone was
looking at me in anticipation. People have come up to me to introduce themselves and I was really
surprised, because I've lived in Alberta ten years ago and I thought it would be a very
conservative audience, very defensive. But in fact everyone was very curious what I had to say.
People were telling me, I work in sustainability, I'm bringing these issues to our company. It's
difficult for me, I'm looking for answers, I'm looking for ways forward. I'm hoping your talk will
inspire me. So it was kind of intimidating to be faced with this, coming from an academic
background and having all these people looking at me. You know, they've taken out the most
beautiful day of the year to come and, yes, they were looking for solutions.

Robyn Williams: And what happened?

Bettina Wittneben: Well, I started out with theory actually. I told them, look it's only going to
be two slides, but I need to give you a theoretical background on what I do, because I can't say to
business, I know what you should be doing. I can only say to them, look, this is the research I'm
doing, this is why I think I can inform the field, and based on that I can give recommendations, I
can talk about my findings. So I tried to spice it up a little to make it understandable, but
because the audience was mixed, there were also academics in the audience, I wanted to give also
some references on literature. So that's how I broached it.

Robyn Williams: And when you'd finished, were they pleased? Were they smiling?

Bettina Wittneben: Oh they were full of energy. Actually I had a whole stack of business cards, I
said you know whoever's interested. I ran out within the first five minutes of people asking me for
my email. I got all these emails afterwards, you know, where can I find more information on this?
You mentioned this publication, can you tell me where I can find that? Because I had opened the
discussion, my last slide was okay, now questions to you. What is it like in your organisations?
What sort of challenges are you facing? What are the barriers to implementing climate change
mitigation and adaptation measures in your business? They really wanted to give me this
information. They said, oh by the way, my organisation, this is what we do and this is the barriers
we face. And people send me emails about their workplace and I thought that was really great,
because it was an actual exchange and I learnt a lot from them. And they seemed to be happy with
the information I gave them.

David King: One of the things I'm most proud of when I was in the British government was talking to
the department that deals with planning and deals with housing, saying what we need is progressive
regulation on new houses. So that after a certain year, every new house going up has to be zero
energy usage from outside its own environment. So after 2017 every new building go up in Britain
has to be effectively zero carbon. Now that sounds impossible, but the construction industry are
now getting on with it. They know they've got a finite time to develop it, and they know that it's
not just consumer demand, it's a government demand that they have to achieve that. If I'm a
sensible constructor, I'm going to start investing in R&D right now to see that I can build the
appropriate homes. Because then I will knock my competitors out of the business. And that's exactly
what's happening.

Robyn Williams: When is this future lab up and running? Because the school's up and running, but
the future lab is going to be one day.

David King: So the next stage is to appoint a futures programme director. We very much hope that we
can attract somebody from Australia. It's time we had a few more Australians in the Smith School.
The future of mobility director will then take this programme on the future of mobility to its next
phase, which will be a two year in depth study of the current state of knowledge on where mobility
will go, and then scoping the future in terms of scenario building and advice to governments and to
the private sector on how they need best to position themselves into that future direction.

Sir David King, and before him, Dr. Bettina Wittneben. Dr. Mick Blowfield's remit at the Smith
School is particularly confronting. He's working with iindustries sometimes seen as the old
fashioned villains of traditional enterprise. But it doesn't faze him one bit.

Mick Blowfield: It's palm oil forests and coal fired power. And what units those three industries
is that they are what I'd call incumbent industries, they're very strong industries within their
countries. They are very well positioned, and yet they have been highlighted for being quite
problematic in a climate change context.

Robyn Williams: Yes Mick, I would imagine that if you were in Yes Minister, they would say 'very
brave, very brave!'

Mick Blowfield: Well I think you can start cherry picking and say, well I'm going to only work with
hybrid cars and I'm only going to work with solar powered companies and so on. And I think there's
perfect validity in that. But if you really want to get to the nuts and bolts of the kind of change
that we've got to make over the next 20, 30 years, then you've got to deal with these industries.
You can't just wish that they weren't there.

Robyn Williams: You in other words have got to do business with the bad guys. But are they bad
guys, do you think?

Mick Blowfield: I wouldn't portray them as bad guys. I think that they have an image in many cases
of being bad guys. Certainly timber in Indonesia has had a rocky historical record, its involvement
with the Suharto regime and so on and so forth. But I think overall you could say that these are
industries, whether you think they're bad guys or good guys, they're industries that are there,
they are industries that are faced with enormous change challenges, some very, very difficult
management issues, social, political, economic issues that they've got to confront. And so it makes
a lot of sense to work with that kind of industry rather than on the side of the angels.

Robyn Williams: Palm trees, palm oil, knocking down forests to make a product that doesn't
necessarily go to the essentials of life. Starting with palm oil, what do you tell those people
about how they've got to change and face a new world?

Mick Blowfield: Well first of note that I don't have to tell them that they've got to change. I
mean they invited me to come and work with them. They're an industry that has recognised for
several years now that the idea of sustainable palm oil is something that has to be thought about
and dealt with quite seriously. I think a company like Unilever which depends heavily on palm oil,
is not going to feel comfortable putting its reputation at risk by having unsustainable production.
At the same time, Unilever doesn't have 100 other places where it can go to find substitutes for
palm oil. You say palm oil isn't an essential thing, well you're going to have trouble spreading
things on your bread. So it's something that, rather than non-essential, it's something that's
invisible. We don't realise. Now where we begin with them quite simply is to say, where can you
envisage the industry being in 20, 30 years time? And then working back from there. Whether they
want to be in that situation, we set out different scenarios, some more desirable than the other.
And then we take back the ones that they feel most comfortable with, scenarios that they would like
to see their grandchildren inherit, and we work back from there and see whether, given where they
are today, given what the realistic options are, the trends, the political developments and so on
over the next few years, whether realistically they're going to be there. Where are the forks in
the road that they need to take? What are the key decisions where the needs to be change for that

Robyn Williams: Do those three industries accept that they're going to have to change and have to
change dramatically? Or do they think they can somehow scrub around it and do the same as usual?

Mick Blowfield: I wouldn't want to put any one of those industries on the spot. They are in very
different political contexts, there are certainly individuals and quite powerful individuals that
would say we have to change. That might be different from their public stance where they're often
more defensive. But I think they are wrestling with it. But these are very, very big changes. If
you take for instance coal fired power in South Africa, that is 95 percent of energy for South
Africa. All of that comes from old style power stations. So it is if you like the spawn of the
devil from the average climate change specialist. But you can't wish that industry away, unless
what you're saying is, well economic development, particularly the post-gold era, economic
development of the country is going to be put on hold while we figure out what other sources of
energy we can get. And we also say by the way to the poor townships and so on that keep the current
government in power, by the way we're going to take you back to an apartheid era level of
electricity supply, or perhaps even worse than apartheid era level of electricity supply. How do
you do that? So that industry there may be seen as something that is very dangerous from the
outside, but from inside, from South African policy perspectives, from economic perspectives and
from the perspective of the most needy, it is an essential industry to have. How do you transition
with that industry without putting these other things in jeopardy?

Robyn Williams: Well, let's take those two examples. Forests in Indonesia and coal in South Africa.
Imagine they take this exercise seriously. In the best of all possible worlds, how would you see
them in say 20, 25 years time in South Africa, having moved away from coal?

Mick Blowfield: Well, have they moved away from coal? I think that's an enormous assumption. It's a
question of what percentage they can move away from coal. But it's what kind of coal industry that
you can have. Is it a coal industry that you can get foreign investors to buy into? Because at the
moment foreign investment into that industry and indeed to the nuclear industry which some would
say is the alternative, has almost dried up. I would really resist answering it myself, because I
think what my role is and what the role of the research we're doing at the Smith School is, is to
work and collaborate with the industries and with other stakeholders to find the solution that
enables them to meet their vision of what a satisfactory future is going to look like.

Bettina Wittneben: What I'm trying to push business to think about is their role within the
economic system, because there are changes they can make in their operations or even when you look
at the carbon coming from the supply chain or the product usage and disposal. But really to tackle
the emission reductions that we need to tackle according to the IPCC report, we have to look beyond
the business as a unit. And actually look at the business within the system of production and
consumption, and then to make much greater changes. And I'm trying to push business leaders to
think about their role on the greater whole of society, in order to then come up with solutions
that would work.

Robyn Williams: That's a challenge for them, because you don't necessarily cooperate on that level,
you're going to have to cooperate in future though.

Bettina Wittneben: That's right. And I think that's why businesses like my approach, because I've
talked to businesses also in Europe and people say, you know, you don't have to tell me anything
about my strategic management, I can figure this out myself, I know my market, I know my product.
But to have the sort of big picture approach and to look at the economy as a whole and the role of
their company within that economy, that's something that pushes their thinking, and it's actually
refreshing I think. And that's where we as academics can come in, because I'm not a consultant, I'm
not going to go into the company and help them sort out their carbon emissions. But I can help
people sort of think further along the line, even before regulation comes in, so that businesses
can direct their future operations into way that actually would be helpful in regards to
environmental performance.

Robyn Williams: How do you know in the long run that what you're doing works?

Bettina Wittneben: Well I don't! I don't know whether what I'm suggesting works. I know that what's
happening right now doesn't work. What I'm seeing is so many companies are going carbon neutral,
but we're still having increasing emissions, so there's a mismatch here. Something is not right.
And I'm hoping that my insights from organisation theory will help propel the field. How that will
work, we'll have to see and we'll have to adjust our strategy as we go along and see what works and
what doesn't. I don't think there's one silver bullet solution, so it will be a makeup of small
solutions. But we have to work towards that goal of reducing emissions, a substantial level.

Robyn Williams: Bettina Wittneben of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. She's from
Germany. Dr. Chucks Okereke, Chuck to his friends, is from Africa. His research puts climate and
justice together in a way that can seem confronting.

Chucks Okereke: That's a very important question. And the simple answer is that people who are
responsible for pumping billions of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere should be responsible for
cleaning it up. In practice, this mean forging a very robust global deal that allows the developing
countries to get the right kind of incentives and finance advice, technology, their needs to
develop while at the same time reducing emissions. So the principle dilemma if you like is that on
the one hand developing countries still need to grow. But at the same time, emissions worldwide
need to come down drastically.

Robyn Williams: So they grow in a different way, in a modern way.

Chucks Okereke: They should grow in a different way, what we call low carbon way. Most developing
countries, especially the ones I've spoken with, they express a desire to grow in a low carbon
pathway, they don't necessarily want to replicate the mistake of the western world. But here they
are, the most pressing problem they have is poverty, is development. Millions of their populations
are living on less than $1 a day. And here you are trying to tell them of the need to take care of
the environment. You must be coming from Mars or the moon or wherever! So they say to me, we really
want to take this problem seriously, but we lack the financial muscle. There are more pressing
problems. And so we need support, we need help from the advanced countries, particularly because
this is their problem. They caused it in the first place.

Robyn Williams: How do you apply that to a country like Nigeria which has had clearly an obviously
turbulent political scene in the last 15, 20 years?

Chucks Okereke: That's really a very good example, especially because I am from Nigeria. That leads
onto the second aspect of my research, which is actually looking to see how corporate actors,
companies, industries operating in developing countries can actually do their businesses in a more
responsible way. That leads us to Shell. Shell employs more people in Nigeria than any other
corporate actor. I have heard Shell employees almost [inaudible] like the federal government in
Nigeria. But Shell flares most of his gas; about 600 cubic metres of gas is flared every year in
Nigeria. The country produces about 12.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum. This
is unacceptable. Now in other parts of the world, gas flaring has been stopped by Shell and other
oil companies. Why is it still occurring in Nigeria?

Robyn Williams: Yes, of course we see it on television, famously, these great big flames going up.
Why do they have to do it technically? What's the reason for this flaring?

Chucks Okereke: Well the standard argument is that nobody needs it, but it's completely nonsensical
because 70 percent of Nigeria doesn't have access to electricity, it can very well be converted.
But then the argument goes that they don't have the infrastructure to do that, they don't have the
right political environment to do this. And you have to be sympathetic sometimes with Shell's
argument, because sometimes in the past Shell has said, okay we are willing to harness this gas and
turn it into electricity or energy. And Shell has shown that they are quite willing to do that by
putting some money on the ground. But of course what Shell does, is a joint venture, which means
that the Nigerian government has to match Shell's money. But the Nigerian government has not done
this because of partly corruption, partly lack of knowledge on what to do. So that's again where
myself and my team we come in. On the one hand we try to educate the government, just not Nigeria,
but South Africa, Rwanda, on what they can do. Because often times in governments people think that
taking any action equals losing money, but that is not necessarily always the case. If you have a
clever policy, clever institutional framework, you can actually find that you can on the one hand
take action that will be beneficial for the environment, while at the same time creating jobs and
saving lives and giving people access to clean energy. But it also means talking to organisations
like Shell and getting them to apply these same standards that they do in developed countries, in
developing countries. So we kind of talk with both parties to see what can be done to move forward.

Robyn Williams: And what sort of reception do you get, both from the leaders in Nigeria and in
Shell itself?

Chucks Okereke: Wow, wonderful, we should do this, they all say. But in practice they don't
actually do that for a range of reasons. I mean it has to be recognised that the logic of business
is increasing bottom line. This is very simple. I mean angels don't do business, okay, so you have
to understand that Shell most important priority is how to increase its bottom line. So the buck
for me actually does fall back on the government. Without the right regulatory framework it's
difficult for Shell to act. But I do say, given the fact that it is widely recognised in business
and management circles that companies should also be good citizens. I do say to Shell and to other
companies, you also need to clean your act, even if the public pressure is not high, even if
government is not writing regulations in the way that would force you to do something. At least for
the sake of your reputation, at least for the sake of the global brand. But also for the sake of
the environment, as a good citizen I think that corporate actors should also do something.

Robyn Williams: Assuming that we really have a big problem with climate change, let's accept that
for a minute, and that the urgency is clear and obvious given the science. Do the government, do
the people you talk to in Africa, the people in government, really understand? Do they have a
picture of how urgent change is, and how they must actually get on with it? Or do they think, well
you know we can do deals, we can muck about, we can do the usual?

Chucks Okereke: I must be honest, I sometimes feel frustrated, because they don't need to look far
to see the impact. In developing countries things are already happening. Millions are dying on a
daily basis from drought, crop failure, low crop yield, cyclones, all sorts, increase in tropical
disease. So you don't actually need to look far to see the impact of climate change on the ground.
The problem is not the areas are different between the main town accent to something, and that
passion or zeal to do something about it. And you also see the same attitude in developed countries
where the actions do not always match the rhetoric. So it seems to me that on the one hand
developing country governments understand the need to do something, the impact of climate change.
But I must be honest and say that their action don't always match same in knowledge.

Robyn Williams: Some people have said in Australia actually that what it requires is the same sort
of attitude that happened after Pearl Harbour. There was a great global shock. Do you think that is
what it takes?

Chucks Okereke: I hope that it doesn't get to that extent, but sometimes you kind of feel that
perhaps that might ultimately be the only way. What is it then that's going to shock people to do
something? Maybe some form of big catastrophe. But again I say, I hope we don't get to that level.

Robyn Williams: Dr. Chucks Okereke from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, just
opened in Oxford. Building a bridge between business and the environmental future.

And a final word from Sir David King. Are they really only consultants?

David King: We work with a bunch of associates, about 100 professors from around the university who
are embedded in their disciplinary subject area, so whether they're engineers or chemists or
economists or philosophers, we're working with all of them. They're publishing their papers, doing
their heavy research. The Smith School's focus is unusual for a university. We're focussed on
assisting to find solutions, so working with the best academic researchers from across all
disciplines to assist governments and the private sector to find low carbon solutions into the
future. That's what we are here for. So when you describe us as potentially good consultants,
marvellous, that's actually what we're trying to do.

Robyn Williams: Sir David King from the Smith School in Oxford. Next week on the Science Show, the
future of coal without burning it. Production today by Nicky Phillips and Charlie McCune, I'm Robyn