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Greenhouse demands change in economic thinking: Coulter

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PR 89/049 CANBERRA February 21, 1989


Senator John Coulter, Australian Democrat senator from South Australia, said at a public meeting in Melbourne tonight, that the looming greenhouse effect shows that the current economic growth approach adopted by governments is untenable.

Senator Coulter said that while it is not yet possible to prove unequivocal evidence of greenhouse, a highly statistically significant number of indicators are consistent with it. He warned that a common misconception was that in 40-50 years when temperatures had risen

between 1.5° and 4.5° and the sea-level by a metre, that this would represent a new plateau to which we and other species could adapt.

"Unless the composition of the atmosphere is stabilised well before this, the 40 year reference will be merely one point on an ever-steepening curve of temperature and sea-level" said Senator Coulter. "But the consequences are

far wider than modest temperature and sea-level rises. Although in the past greater changes than these have been experienced, the rates of change were significantly slower than the current greenhouse warming.

"The world is now very different from those earlier epochs" he said. "It is now dominated by human impediment to the migration of species. Most reserves set aside for species protection will be in the wrong place and major extinctions can be predicted.

"National parks were set up by industrialised societies as a sop to nature protection. Meanwhile, all the rest was open for exploitation.

"Industrial civilisation has regarded industrial development and economic growth as the most important goals for society. The attitude has been that the environment is something you look after if it does not cost too much and does not interfere with mainstream economic growth.

"This approach is no longer tenable" said Senator Coulter. "The looming greenhouse effect demands that we adopt a holistic approach. We are custodians of the planet and we must manage it in an environmentally responsible way.

"The most fundamental factor which which must be changed is the economic model. The growth model must be replaced by a sustainable economic model, where the role of the environment is central and not peripheral" he concluded.

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