Environmental protection is necessary to preserve our clean water, air and food sources; avoid extinction of species; and to ensure that the world remains an enjoyable and viable habitat. We acknowledge, however, that humans have advanced by manipulating our environment. The existence of humans requires some impact on the environment we live in, but it is important to minimise the impact on the environment where it is feasible to do so.
1. Climate Change
1.1 Policy: Swift and decisive action to mitigate the risks associated with climate change.
Australia must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and ideally export technology to assist other countries to do so. Emissions from all sectors must be addressed, and consideration should also be given to carbon sequestration methods. Given our current climate trajectory, we also need to direct some resources to climate adaptation.
- We support a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme to efficiently incentivise low-carbon alternatives and reduce emissions. We are open to discussion regarding whether the collected revenue should be spent on environmental initiatives or distributed to all citizens.
- Given the global political inertia in reducing emissions, more work needs to be done on adaptation to climate change, here and overseas. Australia should be open to substantially supporting our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region who will suffer some of the most extreme effects of climate change despite contributing very little to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Our commitment to increasing research funding extends to research into the specifics of how climate change is likely to damage various sectors of the economy and the environment. This should include increased research into geoengineering — large scale climate modification. We unequivocally oppose conducting any large geoengineering interventions until very thorough research is complete on the risks and alternatives.
1.2. Discussion: Our planet is warming at an accelerating rate, correlating closely with release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to human activity.
Climate change should not be viewed as a purely environmental problem. The cost of climate change will be, and is already, human. Our health and economic productivity is already suffering from changes in climate that we are not prepared for.
The 2018 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global Warming of 1.5°C, projects dramatic changes to our natural and built environments, even if we immediately take drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The carbon price that was in place in Australia in 2012–2013 was intended to transition to a cap-and-trade scheme, but was repealed before the transition was made. While the carbon pricing scheme was in place, though, it was associated with a reduction in Australia’s carbon emissions.
A cap-and-trade emissions scheme need not be introduced with high prices to begin with; the aim is to lower the cap and raise the price of polluting over time. While every tonne of emissions avoided right now helps our environmental position, economic incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also:
- Incentivises private investment in technological solutions to reducing emissions, and disincentivise investment in the most intensely-polluting technologies (such as thermal coal mines and power stations);
- Lays social and regulatory groundwork for reductions in carbon emissions. It is easier to go to a high emissions price from a modest one than from none at all; and
- Makes global political compromise possible. We cannot expect countries that are poorer and emit less per capita than us to make serious efforts to limit their emissions before we do. Cutting our emissions now is the minimum gesture required to establish good faith for negotiations for other countries to limit and cut theirs.
2.1. Policy: End logging of native forests.
2.2. Discussion: It has been estimated that 22% of Australia’s native woodlands have been felled since European settlement ("Indicator: LD-01 The proportion and area of native vegetation and changes over time"). Clearing of native forests threatens biodiversity. The Science Party sees native forest logging as being of low value to the economy while having significant impact on the environment. We see the future of the Australian timber industry being based on farmed forests.
3. Genetically Modified Organisms
3.1. Policy: Support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research and industry use. GMOs must conform to:
- Standards for environmental protection:
- GMOs 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 pollution, including introduced genetic material.
- Food safety standards:
- Organisms used in food production will not be genetically modified to produce compounds that are harmful 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 GMOs to produce poisons for warfare, or modifying infectious agents to create new viral weapons.
3.2. Discussion: GMOs represent the next step in the agricultural revolution (or 'green revolution'). The Third Agricultural Revolution of the mid-20th century allowed great leaps in the ability to produce food, which averted the famine previously predicted to accompany the population growth of the 20th century. GMOs, if used correctly, hold the promise of creating greater quantities of more healthful food for the whole world.
GMOs also hold the potential of solving other problems, such as by creating plants that can produce new drugs.
While researchers should be free to research GMOs, 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: Support a new agreement between nations worldwide to further the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NNPT) and achieve greater reductions in the number of nuclear weapons.
4.2. Discussion: Nuclear weapons (such as nuclear bombs and other weapons such as depleted uranium bullets) are highly destructive and indiscriminate weapons. 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.