One of the guest speakers at the WHEC conference, underway in Brisbane at present, was Dr Barry Jones, former Science Minister in the Australian Government, who related back to how the world has moved towards urbanisation and that 50% of the worldwide population were now living in cities of 100,000-plus inhabitants.

The concentration of people as a result of urbanisation means that transportation has become even more important and that the general population has moved away from the sources of food. As a consequence of this migration - cities have become large CO2 generators!

He went on to say that he raised the issue of global warming or climate change way back in 1984. He said that sometimes it does not pay to have the foresight as he was lambasted with the theories. Dr Jones enlightened us on the fact that in 1824, a French mathematician, Joseph Foutier raised the prospect of the ‘Greenhouse effect’ and that cellular life on earth would not have started unless there was an atmospheric blanket to warm the earth up as the positioning to the Sun was not close enough for the warmth needed for cellular growth and development.

It was in 1859 that Irish Physicist John Tindall identified that actual elements in air that helped maintain the temperature of the Earth, such as water vapour, CO2 and methane as oxygen and nitrogen played little role as a blanket. The ‘Greenhouse Effect’ was formally recognised by a Swedish Scientist in 1986.

However, in 1976, while greenhouse gases were or had been recognised, the focus was on the Ozone Layer and depletion had begun due to CFC’s. The chemicals industries had been in denial that CFC’s had caused such damage and it was only reacted upon after they had ‘invented’ a replacement that did not impact on the ozone layer. Now, he says, we must ensure that CO2 and greenhouse gases are focused on and reacted to. It essentially came down to whether there were any vested parties and that to date energy and global warming had too many consequences for tragically important industries such as petrochemicals and refining.

There is a sense of urgency now to get things right, with Jones referring to a presentation made last year by Lord May in the UK, a Lowy Institute Lecture, that explains very simply the causes and effects of global warming. It points out that CO2 levels have risen from 330 ppm in the 1970’s to a current level today of 380 ppm - and the expectation is that it will reach 500 ppm by 2050 unless significant changes are made.