Australia is feeling the heat this summer, and climate change is in everyone’s minds. However, not everything that’s deemed green benefits the environment — some even do more harm than good.
Electricity from hydropower is clean and doesn’t harm the environment, right? Wrong. Hydropower plants produce massive amounts of greenhouse gases, sometimes even more than coal-fired power plants. The construction of a hydropower plant involves submerging extensive tracts of land, destroying plants and vegetation, and displacing the existing wildlife. The decomposition of submerged plants and animals produce methane, which is then released into the air as water passes through the plant’s turbines. Advocating for more hydropower plants might be tantamount to advocating for the destruction of the environment and the eradication of entire ecosystems.
A better alternative is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is clean, and the fears of radiation and disasters are largely unfounded. Modern nuclear plants have virtually no chance of melting down, and the radiation they emit in a day is lower than what you receive from watching an hour’s worth of television. Australia already has an abundant supply of uranium (third largest in the world). However, policies that prevent the use of nuclear power are in place. Nuclear power is safe and efficient, but its undeserved reputation of being dangerous has made its use in Australia almost impossible.
Eighty percent of Australia’s electricity comes from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil). Electric vehicles may keep the roads free from smoke, but charging them requires electricity. In a way, having an electric car keeps your carbon emissions off the road, but doesn’t eliminate it. Producing an electric car also produces massive amounts of carbon emissions — close to three times that of a regular diesel or gas-powered car.
In Australia, an electric vehicle will never offset the carbon used in producing it with the reduction in emissions throughout its use, especially since the country still relies on fossil fuels for its energy. Maintaining your existing car is still the best option — even if it’s an Australian Ford Mustang or a bulky RAV4. Just use exhaust filters to minimize particulates and reduce carbon emissions.
Recycling is a noble undertaking if only the facilities can deal with the massive number of recyclables. Only 10-12 percent of all recyclables you place in your bin gets recycled in recycling facilities. Most of them are just discarded or moved to another location. For the past years, Australia has been spending close to $3 billion to export 4.5 million tonnes of recyclable waste, most of them landing in Asian countries.
In August of 2019, Australia’s various leaders (federal, state, and territory) agreed to set a timetable to end cross-border disposal of recyclables. Note that this did not put an end to the practice immediately, and Australia is still exporting its recyclables to this very day. Reducing one’s consumption is a far better option than recycling.
There’s nothing wrong with going green. However, make sure what you’re doing is beneficial to the environment and not just hollow virtue-signaling.