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Key to future is innovation and smart technologies

A ground-breaking report has found that Australia is well placed to secure prosperity over the coming decades despite the challenges of an uncertain and possible resource constrained future. Source: Timberbiz

However, this prosperity is not a given, instead Australia’s future will be shaped by innovation and technology uptake and the choices we make as a society will be paramount.

The just-released Australian National Outlook is the most comprehensive quantitative analysis yet of the interactions between economic growth, water-energy-food use, environmental outcomes and living standards in Australia.

CSIRO Executive Director Dr Alex Wonhas said National Outlook focused on the ‘physical economy’ that contributes to about 75% of natural resource use and produces about 25% of Australia’s GDP.
“The National Outlook is a first attempt to understand and analyse the connections in Australia’s physical environment many decades into the future,” Dr Wonhas said.

“It has a particular focus on understanding two aspects: The ‘water- energy-food nexus’ and the prospects for Australia’s materials- and energy-intensive industries.”

National Outlook finds a number of key insights and potential opportunities across the Australian economy.
“For example, we find strong growth prospects for Australia’s agri-food production, which are forecast to increase at least 50% by 2050, provided long term productivity improvements can be maintained in line with historical rates,” Dr Wonhas said.

“There’s also the possibility of a win-win for farmers with potential growth in agri-food exports and new income sources for rural landholders through carbon farming on less productive land.”

The results of CSIRO’s first National Outlook show that energy and other resources could remain a pillar of the Australian economy well into the future, and that energy intensive industries could be well positioned to continue to grow, even in scenarios where the world is taking global action to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“The key to this success will be innovation and application of smart technologies,” Dr Wonhas said.

The National Outlook explores over 20 possible futures for Australia out to 2050 against the backdrop of the past 40 years.

A team of 40 CSIRO experts and university collaborators undertook the work and it draws extensively on observed data and analysis.

It utilises a world-class suite of nine linked models, includes input from more than 80 experts and stakeholders from over 10 organisations, and has undergone rigorous international peer review.