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Nation Building - Climate Change's Silver Lining

Climate change's silver lining

Climate change offers Australia a unique opportunity to build the nation, according to a University of New South Wales (UNSW) researcher.

Professor Michael Pusey from UNSW's School of Social Sciences and International Studies will discuss the social impacts of climate change at a public lecture on nation building in Canberra this week.

"It is likely that a constructive adaptation to global warming will give rise to structural and cultural changes of a kind that we last saw in the aftermath of World War Two," says Professor Pusey, who is known for his critique of economic rationalism and for his Middle Australia surveys.

"Economic history teaches us that War transforms the relations between the economy, political culture and the state," he says.

World War Two brought changes including the concentration of income tax powers at a national level, mass immigration and infrastructure projects like the Snowy River schemes, according to Professor Pusey.

"Facing up to global warming has the potential to focus our national imagination in the same way," he says. "It presents us with challenges that obviously call, not only for incremental changes at the household level, but also for whole-of-government action at the national level."

The challenge posed by the exhaustion of the Murray Darling River system could break up the 'rusted, stalemated framework of current Federal-State relations' and could bring rural and urban Australia closer together, Professor Pusey claims.

Other opportunities which climate change affords include carbon trading markets, huge investments in water conservation, changes in land and forest management and investments in alternative energy.

While Professor Pusey concludes that the time and mood are right for nation building, he suggests that the Rudd Government has some difficult decisions to make.

"The Prime Minister is going to have to make some hard agreements in Bali, otherwise he won't have any credibility," he warns. "We have to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas targets. We can't be vague about this. We have the capacity to do something and it needs strong leadership at the national level."

What: Public Lecture - In the wake of economic reform ... New prospects for nation building?
When: 6pm, Wednesday 12th December
Where: Manning Clark Centre, Theatre 3, Australian National University (ANU)


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