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Foreword from the Chair
This is a vast topic: the energy-water-carbon intersection is the cradle of life and sustains all
ecosystems and all human societies. It is also perhaps the most important arena for the
continued prosperity and quality of life of the entire world, including Australia, as we enter what
can be called the ‘century of the finite planet’. In this era the world is fully connected in many
ways: by trade, by information technology, and most fundamentally by sharing a common
planetary home with finite natural resources. The twenty-first century will be shaped by the finite
nature of our planet and its resources, just as industrialisation shaped the nineteenth and
technology the twentieth centuries.
For the whole Expert Working Group charged with preparing this report, it has been a privilege
to work on what we believe is the central challenge of our age.
In addressing this task we have been led to base our work on two underpinning concepts. The
first is the need for an integrative approach to energy, water and carbon, which together play
essential and intersecting roles in the total system formed by the natural environment and
human society. The second is the concept of system resilience, embodying the abilities to
recover from shocks, to adapt through learning and to undergo transformation when
necessary. All of these abilities will be critical as Australia faces the challenges of coming
decades, many of which will require transformative changes.
It is inevitable that a study of this nature cannot explore all important issues in the necessary
depth. We have had to take a broad approach to important technical questions on the costs
and benefits of specific strategies, and the interactions between strategies. Many other high-
level questions are worthy of further intensive exploration, including risk analyses of climate
change, approaches to the problem of sharing emissions reductions, the effects of potential
global oil shortages, and the reliability and longevity of land-based carbon sequestration. Our
recommendations include development of the integrative approaches that are needed to
answer these and related crucial questions.
We wish to record our appreciation to our colleagues, who have taken up the burdens of day-
to-day working life as we have been engaged on this project, and above all to our partners and
families, who have supported us throughout and accepted our absences and distractions with
Michael Raupach (Chair)
on behalf of the PMSEIC Expert Working Group on Challenges at Energy-Water-Carbon