Prof Ray Wills

We must respond to climate change.
We must Act Now

Responses to climate change

The role of the science community is to establish what (and if) relationships exist between specific events.

An enormous amount of scientific research has established that during the Earth's 4.5 billion-year history, the climate has varied and changed on a wide range of time scales, due to natural causes and without human activities impacting

While the Earth's climate is dynamic and climate change is normal and continuous, the enhanced greenhouse effect is now theoretically and empirically well-established.

Almost all scientific opinion on climate change, reported by UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and endorsed by national science academies of G8 nations as well as national science academies of Australia and of Brazil, China and India, concludes that global warming is attributable to human activities.

As scientists, we do not presume to tell the community what to do - it is the community’s role to decide what is acceptable and what poses unacceptable dangers on the basis of the science advice.

But as scientists we are greatly concerned that the actions (and inactions) of governments and contemporary reports in the media do not appear to match the extraordinary high level of agreement in the scientific community on the cause of human-induced climate change and the high level of risk that will continue to grow if governments fail to act.

As a consequence the general public are not well informed, and are not yet empowered to assess the risks posed by global warming, and provide guidance to their elected officials on appropriate responses.

Past global warmings tell us what to expect from future climates and should help us get ready. It is with a sense of urgency that I call on the State and Commonwealth governments to make all efforts to inform the community about climate change that has already occurred and will increasingly manifest in a dangerous changes to global processes, to show strong leadership in practical measures to effectively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to reduce harm to future generations, and more particularly to prioritise efforts to adapt to the consequences of global warming.

Ray Wills - June 2006

A statement on Australia's commitment to a emissions reduction target beyond 2020.

A response to the UNFCCC Taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

What should Australia's post-2020 target be and how should it be expressed?

Australia should make a clear minimum commitment to limit emissions economy-wide to around 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025

What would the impact of that target be on Australia?

Responding to climate change will create new business, new employment opportunities, and a more sustainable economy in Australia. Many of these opportunities will of necessity be spread across the regions in rural Australia. Establishment of renewable energy generation projects will bolster a broad range of skills, particularly in agricultural regions extending beyond growing for the biofuels market - there will also be building, supplying and maintaining regionally distributed renewable energy generation plant, and for land required to be dedicated to wind farms and solar farms.

Further, responding to climate change will diversify our industry base. It will create new businesses that are taking up the challenge to take advantage of new opportunities, and the result will be a more sustainable economy

Which further policies complementary to the Australian Government's direct action approach should be considered to achieve Australia's post-2020 target and why?

Rapid developments in clean technologies and even more rapid reductions in clean technology pricing mean the nature of the electricity market is changing off- and on-grid around the world right now. Adapting to and taking advantage of these changes will be imperative for economic competitiveness and social development as commercial and domestic customers change the way they acquire and consume energy.

It is time to give serious commitment to establish real targets for energy efficiency to maximise national productivity measured by GDP per unit of energy, and develop renewable energy resources using strong, market-based financial signals to stimulate commercial investment.

Traditional energy utilities will need to adapt or face oblivion, with energy efficiency and self generation from distributed renewable both eroding the old models, and new clean tech-based business models quickly being the new normal. The views of incumbent administrators who may not accept the reality of change are most likely to make policy and investment decisions that lock in old technology that will then create an expensive legacy that may last for many decades – a bit like investing in a new typewriter factory to take advantage of the internet.

Added 30 April 2015

PAGE UPDATE 10 May 2014 - Information about climate change has been moved here

Bringing sustainable energy to Western Australia

The Western Australian Sustainable Energy Association Inc (WA SEA) calls for a clear and strong commitment from the Western Australian Government to support initiatives which will result in long term energy savings and develop a greater diversity of energy sources for Western Australia.

"The challenge of climate change should be the catalyst for changing the way we think about and plan infrastructure, changing the way we use energy and future proofing our economy by developing an array of sustainable energy solutions for Western Australia." says WASEA Chairman Dr Ray Wills.

Governments should be putting in place measures that promote energy efficiency across government, business and the community by directing tax relief buyers investing in energy efficient homes, buildings, appliances and vehicles. In directing such initiatives to both consumers and businesses, an enduring tax cut would be delivered via savings in energy costs, reduce inflationary pressures and of course reducing greenhouse gas emissions

"For example, we need to see initiatives such as the Building and Sustainability Index (BASIX) planning tool implemented which will mandate water and energy reductions on all new homes. These measures go beyond the very minimalist approach contained in the new 'Five Star Plus' Building Codes Australia standards." says Dr Wills.

"And the need to build bigger wires to distribute electricity can be displaced by more demand side management through energy efficiency measures for domestic and business customers alike. And developing distributed generation by bolstering renewable energy across the network rather than just building fatter wires would create better quality electricity networks, and help regional development and build stronger regional communities."

"Demand reduction and distributed generation is supported by measures such as the State Solar Water Heater rebate, and the implementation of a premium feed-in tariff to make solar energy more cost effective and stimulate commercial investment and market would also reduce the need to expand the existing generation capacity for peak energy."

"WASEA are looking for a real commitment from the Western Australian Government to bolster solar deployment across the network – the lowest in Australia. The WA Government need provide strong signals to stimulate the market, remove the barriers that exist to the commercial deployment of solar PV that includes slow approval periods and high connection fees."

Ray Wills, 19 May 2007, as Chair, WA Sustainable Energy Association.

Australia is not responding to climate change alone.

‘The Prime Minister John Howard is absolutely correct in saying we cannot respond to climate change alone.’ says Dr Ray Wills, Chair, WASEA.

‘But Australia is not being asked to – most of the rest of the world is well advanced in setting up strong measures, and Australia needs to catch up. Australia needs to put its shoulder to the wheel and contribute as much as we can, not just that which is convenient.’ says Dr Wills

‘The Prime Minister is also right to say that establishing emissions trading is the most momentous economic decision facing the nation for the next decade, and that the new measures created must last for the next century.’ says Dr Wills.

‘But describing calls for setting significant targets as unrealistic is off the mark – targets that create substantial cuts are not unrealistic, they are essential.’

‘Responding to climate change will create new jobs, not fewer – these will just be in new businesses that are taking up the challenge to take advantage of new opportunities, and the result will be a more sustainable economy’ says Dr Wills.

‘An emissions trading scheme will stimulate the economy and create a market for low emission and renewable technologies. And if Australia invests strongly in such technologies now, these will also be in great demand by the rest of the world striving for a low carbon future and hence stimulate export opportunities for Australia.’

‘Delays in responding are no longer acceptable. The time has run out for solutions to global warming that are merely convenient. We actually need to make an effort - a real, innovative, dedicated, economy-reforming effort. And we need to act today.’ says Dr Wills.

Ray Wills, 3 June 2007, as Chair, WA Sustainable Energy Association

Act Now - the inconvenient truth is time has run out for solutions that are simply convenient - we now need to do what is required.

A succession of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most recent in December 2007, describe increased certainty of dangerous climate change and underscore the need for an increased urgency for action on global warming created by human activity.

Climate change induced by global warming will change the distribution and abundance of a huge range of species, and impact on agriculture, forestry, tourism and a raft of other economic activities that contribute to the welfare of Australian communities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has increased the stakes by indicating a new level of emissions cuts of 85% from 1990 emissions levels is now required to combat dangerous climate change. The number rises as we delay, and the latest IPCC climate report essentially says any further delays on action are no longer affordable.

The IPCC will have been in operation for twenty years this year (2008). The warnings from the IPCC and the science community get more urgent each year not because of hysteria or conspiracy, but because every year for the last two decades we have failed to act on the warnings and the problem only continues to get worse

This has come about because governments all around the world have failed to act - if we do not act decisively now and put solutions in place within the next few years, dangerous climate change will become almost impossible to avoid, and most certainly inconvenient.

Combined with the scenarios released in November 2007 by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in their report Climate change in Australia: technical report 2007, the potential for further abrupt changes in Australia is alarming.

The single largest concern of climate change driven by global warming will be the sudden changes that occur. We have already seen one very clear abrupt climate change event in Western Australia - the loss of rainfall in WA in the mid 1970s, and with potentially a second step at the end of the last decade. Climatic changes are already leading tothe elimination of the northern wheatbelt as a wheat growing area, the demise of the best grape growing regions in the south-west is likely to follow. And abrupt climate change will cause havoc not just in our agricultural systems.

Global warming will ultimately result in climate changes in Western Australia that will, on the basis of the CSIRO report, will cause the extinction of many of our most recognizable species such as Banksia and Acacia. The damage reported in the Kalbarri National Park this year is the same event that is severely impacting on our farmers in the northern wheatbelt.

All of our infrastructure built in the last century is at risk, built to the specifications of one in 100 year storm events, which in this century will prove to be one in 25 or one in 15 or year events - or less. And within this century, sea levels rise will reshape our coastline.

But still we are not acting with urgency.

We do not have decades to respond to this - we have already had decades. It is time to take the heat out of this problem.

We should have acted on global warming in the last century when the first science based warnings were forthcoming. We are now out of time and significant climate change can no longer be avoided. We must act decisively now if the most dangerous of climate change is to be averted.

And the biggest danger from the ongoing work on the science of climate change is not 'pessimism' but the reverse - science is inherently conservative. It is likely future forecasts of climate impacts will be greater, not smaller, just as has occurred in the last six years. Interim targets set conservatively now are almost a guarantee of doing too little, of creating measures that are simply too small.

Ray Wills - 31 December 2007

Fuel imports continue to fuel Australia's trade deficit

As Australia increasingly debates responses to global warming, the key to managing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions is getting practical solutions to reduce our energy consumption.

Despite the resources boom, Australia continues to record substantial current account deficits following the record $15.1 billion in the December quarter, fuelled by imports and the failure of export industries to compete. A critical component of the trade deficit in December 2006 and now March 2007 is Australia’s growing importation of fuels and lubricants, seasonally adjusted in the March 2007 quarter up $342m (23%), with crude oil import volumes up 21% and prices up 6% .

Australia has failed to put in place measures to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels for transportation. Climate change is a result of our use of energy, and must strive to improve our energy efficiency and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Such measures will add to Australia’s energy independence and reduce inflationary pressures on the rising costs of fuel imports, particularly as Australia’s internal reserves are rapidly depleting.

Energy, like water, has always been cheap in Australia, but with increasing reliance on imported fuels, Australians must be prepared to be more frugal with energy, just as we are now addressing a similar issue with water.

The Federal Government to take stronger measures on National Average Fuel Consumption numbers for new passenger vehicles and introduce rolling three year targets on maximum fuel consumption. The Federal Government has been dragging its feet on setting mandated energy efficiency targets for the national vehicle fleet.

Separate targets should also impact on transport/commercial vehicles. Measures such as this will reduce running costs of Australian vehicles on imported fuels and reduce inflationary pressure on transported goods.

With climate change now rightly recognised as an urgent and pressing issue that must be addressed with practical solutions, it is logical that sustainable energy will play an important role in delivering a raft of affordable and immediately accessible solutions to both reducing greenhouse emissions and providing alternative sources of energy for the world. While technologies like carbon capture and storage will also be important in the longer term, those technologies are still more than a decade away.

The time to act on reducing emissions - and Australia's reliance on inflation-driving fuel imports - is now, and renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions are immediately available.

Ray Wills, 3 May 2007

Coal-fired generators knew a carbon price coming for over a decade.

Coal-fired power producers calling for compensation on emissions trading cannot claim to have been caught by surprise, and should not be compensated, according to the Western Australian Sustainable Energy Association Inc. (WA SEA).

A brief history lesson on carbon pricing:

  • the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been in operation for twenty years this year;
  • the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty from the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 signalled we needed to put a price on carbon fifteen years ago;
  • the Kyoto Protocol set mandatory emission limits to establish a mechanism for the pricing of carbon ten years ago.

“Investors and power plant owners alike have know a carbon price was coming for at least a decade since Kyoto, and some will have been anticipating this 15 years ago after Rio,” says Dr Ray Wills, CEO of WA SEA.

“Compensating investors for poor investment decisions seems a strange way to behave. But then governments have also stepped in to support the sub-prime mortgage market where banks and investors made poor decisions. Knowing that a price on carbon was coming, perhaps this is what some of those investing in coal in the last ten years have been gambling on – windfall compensation from Government. This is clearly something Professor Garnaut has been considering in his recommendations to the Rudd Government and to COAG.”

“While carbon exposed generators should not be receiving compensation, it is appropriate for Australian Governments to step up and provide support for structural readjustments that must come to hasten the move to lower emission energy generation.”

“Similarly, export-exposed industries need special consideration – but not through free permits to emit. Rather, we need strategies that can provide emissions free energy. The best way to support export-exposed industries is by Australia engaging in a nation building exercise that brings Australia’s world class renewable energy resources to projects and aspires to deliver carbon free exports for world markets.”

 “And the claim that investors will be reluctant to commit to new coal-fired plants will cause power shortages is scare mongering - the smart investors are already busy investing in operations that replace coal-fired power stations with more efficient gas-fired power stations and with building renewable energy generation right now.”

“Responding to climate change will create new business, new employment opportunities, and a more sustainable economy in Australia. The key is taking immediate action in Australia to ensure we improve thermal efficiency of existing plant, and start building all new electricity generation from renewable sources today, and ramp up work to take Australia to improved energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of industry.”

“Renewable energy generation, combined with measures for better energy efficiency, means future proofing our economy and will produce a sustainable economy with fewer inflationary pressures for all Australian homes and businesses,” says Dr Wills.

Ray Wills - 24 March 2008

Here are links to some radio interviews and presentations:

Perth Radio Station 6 PR with presenter Steve Gordon talking about renewable energy on 5 January 2008 - interview link here. (6PRSteveGordonwills5jan08.wma - file is 10 MB)

Perth Radio Station ABC 720 with Morning Show presenter Geoff Hutchison talking about sea level rise in Western Australia on 22 February 2008 - interview link here. (ABC720Mornings_geoff-raywills-sealevels.mp3 File is 6 MB)

A presentation to the PaperlinX Environmental Forum - 22 February 2008 - Paperlinx is a leading global supplier of paper manufacturing paper in Australia and commiting to FSC Australia standards.

A presentation to the WALIS Teachers Forum Thursday morning 13 March 2008 on Climate Change (large file - 16 MB) and a separate shorter presentation to the main forum on the afternoon 13 March 2008.

An interview on RTR FM Understorey - RTRFM's environmental program. Interview on 18 March 2008 with Matt Porter on renewable energy - interview starts about 5 minutes in...

Stateline speaks with Professor Ray Wills from the Western Australian Sustainable Energy Association to find out the local reaction to the Federal Government's policy announcement on climate change. 23 July 2010

Speaking at a forum on sustainable energy policy

Homes turn off green power (Australian Financial Review, 24-Jan-11)
Surging electricity prices are turning consumers off "green power", with a slump in the number of households prepared to pay a premium for power.
Continue reading

Rebuilding a sustainable Queensland after the floods (ABC online, 25-Jan-11)
They have brought heartache and loss, but the devastating Queensland floods have also created the opportunity to rebuild a much greener, energy efficient Queensland. That's according to the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEAA), which wants a different approach to the rebuilding of the flood ravaged state.
Continue reading

Green shoots after the flood (Climate Spectator, 27-Jan-11)
As the Queensland government makes plans for rebuilding after the recent devastating floods, it must ensure that change for the better is a part of its plan for renewal. And as the federal government steps in to provide additional financial support in Queensland, and undoubtedly across the flood-ravaged eastern seaboard, it too should ensure its aid rebuilds communities more sustainably.
Continue reading

World economy going green (The West Australian, 27-Jan-11)
Around the world, growth in renewable energy is now greater than any other energy investment but not in Australia.
Continue reading

Since 2006 I have given a range of talks on the Science of Greenhouse for a number of groups including:

  • The Western Australian branch of the Australian Institute of Energy - "The Science In Global Warming and the Consequences for Greenhouse Earth" presented Wednesday 15th February 2006.
  • The WA Sustainable Energy Association (WASEA) - Debate on journalism and greenhouse - Thursday 18 May 2006.
  • Doctors for the Environment Australia - "The Science In Global Warming - living on Greenhouse Earth" - Saturday 10 June 2006.
  • GHD forum on global warming and business on Thursday 29 June 2006 put together by GHD. I joined a panel discussion following presentations by Dr Chris Lund and Jake DeBoer from GHD on the topic "Greenhouse Gas - More than Hot Air". The forum was part of GHD's Sustainability Seminars for 2006.
  • Panelist on climate change and business at the Global Gateway Conference, 4 April 2007.
  • Invited speaker 'Optimising the contribution of renewable energy in the new market’ 8th Annual WA Power 2007, 2 May 2007
  • Panel facilitator. ‘Should we invest in a biofuels future for WA’. WA Biofuels Forum, 9 May 2007
  • Panel facilitator. ‘Thermal Comfort and WABASIX’ WASEA Fenestrations presentation, 10 May 2007
  • 10 Years to Change - Labor Party policy forum panel discussion of responses to the Climate Crisis, 29 May 07
  • Commentator at preview screening of 'Crude Awakening' for Luna Cinemas, 5 Jun 07
  • Panelist for Sustainability Practitioners Association’s - Australia’s Energy Future at the Crossroads: An interactive panel discussion, 24 Jul 2007
  • Invited participant, Science Meets Parliament, Parliament of Western Australia 14 Aug 07
  • Chief Executives Development Organisation (CEDO) function “Western Australia in 20 years – addressing sustainability.” Presentation on Sustainability and the impact of global warming in WA. 15 Aug 07
  • Climate change and the coast: think global act local. Invited workshop facilitator and rapporteur Climate change and the coast conference, Mandurah 20 Aug 2007
  • Global Warming, Spin, and The Republicans in the Whitehouse’ School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, The university of Western Australia, Seminar Series 1 Dec 2006.
  • The Gorey truth - sternly facing the spin of the naysayers to global warming. Presentation to Glyde-In Community forum, 20 Feb 07
  • Responding to global warming. Department of Industry and Resources presentation to Executive Management Group, 27 Feb 2007
  • Climate change – impact in Western Australia and implications for biological research. School of Biological Sciences, Murdoch University, 23 Apr 07
  • Climate change in Western Australia, and government policy responses – Chamber of Minerals and Energy NGO Industry Environment Forum, 29 May 07
  • Women of the West Environmental Breakfast - Climate change in Western Australia, 8 June 07
  • Keynote presentation Responding to climate change in Western Australia - Climate Change Seminar Series hosted by the University of Western Australia and the Western Australia Government 12 Jun 07
  • A changing climate – the truth is out there. Presentation for WALIS Advisory Cou ncil Workshop on ‘Spatial Information and the Insurance Industry’, 19 Jun 07.
  • Space invaders - changing levels, climate change and the sea - Spatial Sciences Institute Regional Conference, 19 Jul 07.
  • Impact of climate change on Western Australia – presentation for Department of Agriculture and Food, 24 Jul 07
  • A spatial look at climate change impacts and WA - NGIS breakfast, 2 Aug 07
  • Exploring the Risks and Responsibilities of Climate Change – presentation to MOSS workshop, 2 Aug 2007.
  • Climate change impacts and WA - seminar presentation Research Unit for the Study of Societies in Change (RUSSIC), Curtin University of Technology, 10 Aug 2007
  • How will climate change affect your business in the Peel region? 2007 Peel Economic Development Unit Breakfast Series. 17 Aug 07
  • Trading places – warming to a climate for sustainable reform of the carbon economy in WA - presentation to Conservation Council WA – Emissions Trading Systems: Preparing Australia for a Carbon Controlled Future? 7 Sep 07

On another dimension, on 22 July 2006, together with Johanna Gastevich from WA SEA, I also helped host a preview for 500 Western Australians of the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" at Luna Cinema for Kate Ledger at United International Pictures. The documentary, from director Davis Guggenheim, features former Vice President Al Gore and his actions over his long and exemplary career in US politics to raise awareness of global warming by exposing the myths and misconceptions that skeptics attempt to smother action, and highlighting the great threat posed by climate change and calling for urgent action by all individuals, by all communities, and by their nations.

I have also assisted Russell Woolf, Sarah Knight and the whole Perth ABC 720 team promote the film.

In my view, governments of all nations must make all efforts to inform the community about the climate change that has already occurred and will increasingly manifest in a dangerous changes to global processes, to show strong leadership in practical measures to effectively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to reduce harm to future generations, and more particularly to prioritise efforts to adapt to the consequences of global warming. See more here.

I present at 40-50 conferences and workshops each year - here are some examples

- various (shortened) powerpoint slides

Country Women's Association of WA - CWA talk July 2007

Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) - the national body combining the professional disciplines of surveying, mapping, engineering & mining surveying SSI talk July 2007

NGIS breakfast on 2 August 2007 - shortened powerpoint here.

Presentations to the MOSS Workshop in Perth 2 Aug 2007 are here and here

Presentation at the Critical Horizons Renewable Energy Seminar 22nd November 2007 hosted by the South West Development Commission on the topic of “Renewable Energy” and focussing on geothermal - shortened powerpoint here.


Presentation at the Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) - July 2008 conference Influencing Energy Efficiency with Spatial Analysis 24 July 2008

Mid West Science Forum in Geradton 13 August 2008 - Responding to climate change - challenges, responsibilities, opportunities

Australian Insititute of Energy 2008 Conference 14 August 2008 - PV or NPV: getting homes and small business to invest in renewable energy

Solco Conference 2011 - 7 April 2011 Energising the 21st Century

Oil Mallee Industry Conference - held at the South of Perth Yacht Club on Friday 15th April 2011- Renewables for Regions - energy from the bush

University of the Third Age (U3A) presentation 5 June 2011at UWA - 'The Ecological Implications of Climate Change' Address to University of the 3rd Age -- or online here

Business Leadership Forum, City of Rockingham 21 July 2011 - Neutralising the carbon tax

UWA Business School - 20 September 2011 -- The Australian clean energy industry - a global context. Environmental and Economic Sustainability for Business MGMT 8615

UWA Law School Centre for Minerals and Energy -- Adopting clean tech - how quickly will (can) Australia change?
A key part of changing the way we use energy in the 21st Century will be through the adoption of smarter technologies in appliances deployed in homes and businesses, better integration and smarter management of energy use, connecting smart meters to smart grids to smarter, more sustainable cities. The question is - what do markets tell us about how quickly can we swap to new technologies, and how soon will we actually reach this vision of the 21st Century City? powerpoint here large pptx file - 17 mb

Smaller version of the same talk presented at the Sustainability Panels Launch and Climate Change Declaration Signing Ceremony hosted by WA Local Government Association (WALGA) on 15 May 2012, and other events in Perth in May.

National Year of Reading - Sustainability in September at the City of South Perth Library on 12 Sep 2012 - updated powerpoint here.

Presentations in Africa on Australian Science Diplomacy mission to Ghana, South Africa and Kenya -November 2012.

Presentations in Israel at the Eilot-Eilat Renewable Energy Conference -November 2012 - keynote, and sustainable cities.

Presentation in Australia to the WA Environmental Protection Authority

7th Kimberley Economic Forum to held in Derby, hosted by the Derby Chamber of Commerce where I presented the following as invited keynote speaker:

Adopting clean tech - how quickly will (can) the world change - has all been moved here.

It covers:

A key part of change in the 21st Century is through the adoption of smarter technologies in appliances deployed in homes and businesses, better integration and smarter management of energy use, connecting smart meters to smart grids through social media and smartphones to smarter, more sustainable cities. What do markets tell us about how quickly disruptive technologies will change how we live, and how quickly change comes? How soon will we actually reach this vision of the 21st Century City and a clean economy?


Information on climate change

Adopting clean tech - how quickly will (can) the world change

Climate politics in action

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Created: 23 July 2006

Last updated: 20 August 2016

This page has been visited times since 23 July 2006.