Crunching numbers for a sustainable future

Night scene. Power house fogged by smoke.
Business leaders need to acquaint themselves with all perspectives of the climate change debate.

An open mind, a responsible attitude and an eye for the future should be the approach of choice for SEQ business leaders attending Bill McKibben’s Do the Math tour on Sunday (June 9).

This is the view of Dr Nick Barter, Deputy Director of Griffith University’s Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise (APCSE) which is sponsoring the Brisbane leg of Mr McKibben’s Australia tour.

“At Griffith University we are about higher learning and free speech,” he says. “We don’t deny climate change, and we encourage any responsible business leader to get across the full gamut of industry debates.

“Bill McKibben’s visit represents an ideal opportunity to do this.”

Bill McKibben will be officially welcomed at Brisbane City Hall on Sunday evening (6pm) by Griffith’s Professor Ian Lowe, and a Q&A session will follow his address.

A respected American environmentalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming, Mr McKibben’s argument gathered new impetus when Rolling Stone magazine published a 2012 article penned by Mr McKibben under the headline ‘Global warming’s terrifying new math’.

In it, he focused on three key numbers which form the bedrock of his argument — 2, 565 and 2,795.

He says scientists now estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some hope of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees. He says anything more than 2 degrees risks catastrophe for life on earth.

However, by burning the fossil fuel that corporations worldwide now have in their reserves, 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere.

Dr Nick Barter is also Griffith’s MBA Director and shares the position of APCSE Deputy Director with Professor Jeremy Williams.

Dr Barter says the university is not necessarily advocating Mr McKibben’s standpoint, although his number crunching is hard to contest.

“I’m focused on informing and empowering future business leaders. It is vital they are tuned into the debates and discussions that will inform and shape their future.

“University is a place of higher learning and all students — especially future business leaders — need to be open to ideas, and well versed on contemporary debates.”

He says Griffith University is respected for its research on environmental issues and has been the home of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) since 2008.

“Bill McKibben is not plucking data out of the air. The key numbers are based in scientific research, published in refereed journals like Nature magazine. It is simple maths that has a compelling argument for any objective observer.