Climate action’s biggest threat is misinformation

Sven Rogge 683x1024 1

Scientia Professor Sven Rogge, Dean of Science at UNSW Sydney

Two years ago at COP26 in Glasgow, Australia and the world agreed that urgent action was required to reach net zero by 2050 and keep a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit within reach. At COP28 in Dubai, the oil sector joined a heated debate focused on the challenges in achieving our emissions reduction targets.

There is no doubt a large shift away from fossil fuels is the answer, but the debate at COP28 has again proven this is easier said than done.

The biggest issue to resurface in recent weeks is misinformation, which continues to derail the debate about the best pathway to net zero. It is an issue that is wasting time we do not have, given the tight deadline we are on to build large-scale alternatives to coal-fired power – regardless of our ability to innovate and implement these technologies by 2030.

The path to net zero – and understanding any risks – must be embedded in scientific facts, so that we can make swift decisions with accurate, validated information.

Four coal-fired power stations in NSW will shut by 2035. One of the largest, Erasing currently supplies 35 per cent of all coal-fired power for the state and will close by 2025.

Community support is one of the key ingredients for the choice of technology and where it is installed, but it is alarming how these decisions have been severely politicised.

Large infrastructure projects are complex and bring risks, and these risks must be mitigated by a well-informed, decision-making process. Misinformation is not only highly contagious, but it is responsible for our delayed response to mitigating climate change.

For example, look at the consideration of offshore wind farms in the Hunter and Illawarra regions. The wind turbines proposed for these regions – which have been identified as ideal for such projects – are already in use in other parts of the world, which makes it very possible to gauge their environmental impact.

Detailed environmental impact studies are still required, given the scale of the proposed projects are larger than what has been implemented overseas. But opponents choose to ‘inform’ Australians of the potential environmental catastrophe associated with the project.

An extreme example of this manipulation is a previous claim about the impact of wind turbines on whales and other marine life, citing an article in a journal called ‘Marine Policy’. Disturbingly, the article does not exist.

Scientists from UNSW and the University of Wollongong – who are experts in environmental impact assessments in the region – point out the lack of evidence to suggest offshore wind turbines impact marine life. On the contrary, while humans have devastated the reefs of New South Wales for 100 years, wind farms have been known to form artificial reefs that can repair some of that damage.

As with any theory, there are still unknowns that needs to be scientifically established. But misinformation continues to erode facts to the detriment of our planet. Even worse, it is more challenging to correct misinformation once it has spread.

We must not forget that offshore wind is just one alternative for renewable energy, but whichever alternative we pursue, it must be rigorously explored.

We must acknowledge each alternative’s timeline to achieve net zero, and the cost and environmental impact. It must be tested with a robust risk analysis.

Above all, we must remember that delayed or no action, will almost certainly deliver a negative outcome for all life. This will be the ultimate cause of misinformation.

And this is why it has no place in our world.


  • Professor Rogge is an internationally recognised experimental physicist who has pursued major research that underpins technology of silicon-based quantum computation.
  • He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Australian Institute of Physics, Royal Society of NSW, and is a program manager at the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.

  • Oceania Luxury Travel Co Luxury Travel Australia Banner 728x90 1