Other countries are failing to meet their targets, but we’re not only achieving them, we’re overdoing it. And this is despite our obvious handicaps: like that we have rapid population growth, are further from everywhere and anywhere* except for Antarctica, and we’re the largest coal exporter in the world.
The latest Australian Greenhouse emissions figures are out, and the Energy Minister is very excited:
Emissions are now the lowest on a per capita and GDP basis in 28 years, having fallen 34 per cent and 58 per cent respectively since 1990. Just as Australia beat its first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, we are on track to easily surpass our 2020 target.
The latest data indicates we will overachieve by 294 million tonnes, a 30 per cent improvement on the year prior. When one considers one million tonnes of carbon abatement is equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road for a year, this is substantial.
Substantial?- Don’t undersell this — that’s like taking 88 million cars off the road! Holy hat! That’s 7% of the global fleet.
In the war of Big Numbers, let’s fight back with Very Small Ones.
Two hundred and ninety-four million tonnes sounds so impressive. But read the fine-print (so fine it isn’t usually printed) and it’s spread over eight years, not one, so it’s really a 37 million tonne a year “saving”. Even if the IPCC were right, and CO2 mattered, even if we wanted things to get colder, and we ignore that half of what we emit goes straight to Davy Jones Locker, even then that’s all of two ten-thousandths of a degree.
See the calculations by Dr David Evans below. If miracles happen, we just made the world 0.0002C cooler. Which is zero degrees C if we round that number to the nearest thousandth of a degree.
Was that $8 billion dollars good value?
Minister Frydenburg is still bragging about how much he’s spent. Hasn’t he learnt?
The Turnbull Government is also supporting innovation which is driving down technology costs. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has made more than $4 billion in investment commitments, around $3.5 billion under the Coalition, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has made more than $1 billion of grants, around half under the Coalition. There is much work to be done, but it is clear policy measures are working.
As a curious aside, actual emissions from Australia are the same in 2000 as in 2020. There are some allowances for bits n pieces in there which means that 551 mt in 2020 is a “reduction” from 551 in the year 2000. See this table in the Fin Review:
We’re schmucks, but effective ones.
Fairly dry dull emissions facts and calculations below
- Total global manmade emissions of CO2 (of all man-made GHGs) in 2014 (but not from land use changes) = 9855 million metric tons of C (Boden et al)
- Total Australian emissions (excluding land use): Australia’s annual emissions in 2016-17 are estimated to have increased 0.7 per cent on the previous year to 550.2 Mt CO2-e.
- Total “saved” or overshoot of what was aimed for = 294Mt. Sounds big, but is quite deceptive. This is spread over eight years to 2020, which really means only 37Mt a year.
- The “2020” target is for the second commitment period, 2013 – 2020. The third is 2021 – 2030 (the “2030 target”). First period was 2008 – 2012, and Austalia was “allowed” 8% over the 1990 total.
Thanks to Dr David Evans for the calculations:
- So 294 million tonnes of “2020 reduction” means 294 / 8 = 37 Mt CO2-e per year over 2013 – 2020.
- Alleged saving is 37 Mt CO2-e per year for each year in 2013 to 2020.
- World emits 9855 * 44 / 12 = 36,135 Mt CO2-e per year.
- “Saving” = 37 / 36,135 = 1/1000 th of world emissions for eight years in a row.
- So instead of CO2 level going up[ by 8 * 2 ppmv = 16 ppmv, it goes up by 16 * .999 ppmv instead
- Without savings, starting from say 410 ppmv average over period, number of doublings of CO2 would have been about log2 of (426 / 410) = ln(426 / 410) / ln(2)
- With savings, number of doublings of CO2 would be about ln((426 – 16 * 0.001) / 410) / ln(2)
- So number of doublings of CO2 “saved” is
(ln(426 / 410) – ln((426 – 16 * 0.001) / 410)) / ln(2) = 0.000054 doublings.
- Equilibrium climate sensitivity ECS is 3.0 deg C warming per doubling (2013 IPCC), so expected warming “saved”: is
3.0 (deg C per doubling)* 0.000054 doublings = 0.0002 deg C.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), Australian Demographic Statistics, pub. no. 3101
Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres, R.J. (2017). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2017.
Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2017 (incorporating September 2017 quarter emissions from the National Electricity Market)
*Not to forget New Zealand, of course.