The preservation of the environment is necessary for a variety of reasons, such as to preserve our clean water, air and food sources, to avoid extinction of species and preserve genetic diversity, and to ensure that the world remains an enjoyable and comfortable habitat. The Science Party acknowledges, however, that humans have advanced by manipulating and controlling the environment and life around us. The Science Party believes that the existence of humans requires some impact on the environment we live in. It is important, however, that when a decision affecting the environment is made, options that minimise the impact on the environment should be given precedence where it is feasible to do so.
1. Protect Native Forests
1.1. Policy: The Science Party believes that native forest logging should end.
1.2. Discussion: It has been estimated that 22% of Australia’s native woodlands have been felled since settlement ("Indicator: LD-01 The proportion and area of native vegetation and changes over time"). Clearing of native forests threatens biodiversity and increase the chances of extinction of species. Land clearing also reduces the carbon stores of land, which add to the greenhouse effect. The Science Party sees native forest logging as being of low value to the economy, while having significant impact on the environment. Hence the Science Party is against the logging of native forests and sees the future of the Australian timber industry being primarily based on farmed forests.
2. Global Warming
2.1 Policy: The Science Party is in favour of moderate, sensible action to mitigate the potential grave risks associated with climate change:
- Carbon pricing mechanisms as the main way to achieve control over our carbon emissions at the lowest cost to society. All major alternatives to Carbon pricing are well known to cost more for consumers, or taxpayers, or both.
- Given the global political inertia in achieving prevention, more work needs to be done on adaptation and mitigation to climate change. We would fund more research into the specifics of how climate change is likely to damage various sectors of the economy and the environment. We would fund greatly increased research into geoengineering – with the caveat that we would unequivocally oppose any attempt to conduct large geoengineering experiments or interventions until very thorough research had been complete on the safety, costs, side effects and alternatives.
2.2. Discussion: The science on Global Warming is not settled – because that’s not how science works. Scientists weigh evidence, balance probabilities, make predictions, construct and falsify models, and try to come to the most accurate possible picture about the world. The answer is never perfect; even the laws of gravity are subject to revision.
The best current picture science gives us is that the Earth is undergoing long term warming. This is true beyond what you might call reasonable doubt. So at a minimum, we need to start making preparations for the world getting warmer.
The best current picture also tells us that humans are responsible for most of this warming. Again, this is very, very likely, although not quite so far beyond doubt as the fact that the Earth is warming. Exactly how quickly the Earth is warming, and exactly what share is because of humans, is again, less certain.
Warming is going to cause some benefits, and some costs. There’s good reason to believe that the costs are going to be worse than the benefits – especially for large amounts of warming. Larger and more abrupt changes are harder to adapt to, for both us and the natural systems we rely on.
"Climate skeptics" will argue there is a lot of doubt and uncertainty in all of the above. While there exist uncertainty in results and conclusions of science, the existence of uncertainty is not an argument specifically for doing nothing about climate change.
It is important to remember that the main purpose of having a carbon price in place now is not to make massive cuts in emissions straight away (although obviously every tonne of emissions avoided helps). Rather it is to:
- Enable the research that will solve this problem to become viable. Huge private investments in technological solutions – renewable energy, smart grids – and an end to capital funding of the worst technologies such as new brown coal plants – will occur with even small carbon prices.
- Lay social and regulatory groundwork for reductions in carbon emissions. If and when we do need to make drastic cutbacks, it will be much easier to go to a heavy carbon price from a modest one than from none at all, with the legislative framework in place and companies familiar with its operation
- Make global political compromise possible. It is simply absurd to expect countries that are much poorer and emit much less per capita than us at the moment (let alone historically) to begin making serious efforts before high polluting, wealthy countries such as Australia. Cutting our emissions now is the absolute minimum gesture required to establish good faith for negotiations for them to limit and cut theirs.
3. Genetically Modified Organisms
3.1. Policy: The Science Party believes in the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research and industry use. GMOs must conform to:
- Standards for environmental protection:
- Genetically modified organisms should not be introduced into areas where they are likely to interact genetically with native species in environmentally protected areas. It is important that protected areas remain protected from all kinds of pollution, and this includes genetic pollution.
- Food safety standards:
- Organisms used in food production will not be genetically modified to produce compounds that are poisonous to humans. Food production includes grains produced as feed for animals.
- Organisms that are genetically modified to produce poisonous compounds or drugs will be required to be secured in such a way as to prevent cross pollination to other crops.
3.2 Policy: Organisms are not to be genetically modified to create weapons for biological warfare or to create intentional harm. Such modifications may include, but are not limited to, using genetically modified organisms to produce poisons for warfare, or modifying infectious agents to create new viral weapons.
3.2. Discussion: Genetically modified organisms represent the next step in the agricultural revolution (or 'green revolution'). The green revolution allowed great leaps in the ability to produce food in the 20th century which prevented widespread starvation previously predicted to accompany the growth in population seen in the 20th century. Genetically modified organisms, if used correctly, hold the promise of creating greater quantities of more healthy food for the whole of the world. They also hold the promise of solving other problems, such as creating plants that can produce new drugs.
While the Science Party believes researchers should be free to research genetically modified organisms, there should be limits on this research (just as there is on all types of research) where harm to humans or the environment is possible.
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) is the body currently responsibly for approving the release of GMOs from the lab into the environment.
4.1 Policy: a new agreement between nations all over the world to further the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NNPT) and achieve greater reductions in the number of nuclear weapons.
4.2. Discussion: Nuclear weapons are highly destructive and indiscriminate weapons. The Science Party has a policy of encouraging the reduction of nuclear weapons (such as nuclear bombs and other weapons such as depleted uranium bullets). Australia should encourage a new agreement between nations all over the world to further the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NNPT). Further agreements are needed to accelerate disarmament.