In the Australia in Wonderland in which we are now living, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Like the time-travel budget surplus arriving in 2019 from the 2020 budget, the Prime Minister has declared that Australia will meet its Paris Climate Change promise ‘in a canter’. (Or is that ‘at a canter’?) Curiously, the Department of Environment and Energy reports total emissions for the year to September 2018 increased by 0.9%. What, then, is the true State of the Nation’s greenhouse gas emissions?
Start with the Department’s Factsheet; the link to the PDF with this graphic is here:
‘Australia’s target—Australia will reduce emissions to 26–28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
This target represents a 50–52 per cent reduction in emissions per capita and a 64–65 per cent reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030.’
What are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s goals? The IPCC 2018 PDF Report on limiting Global Warming to 1.5 Celsius is here:
The key finding is at Section C:
‘Emission Pathways and System Transitions Consistent with 1.5°C Global Warming
In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050.’ (Author’s bolding.)
The Australian Government’s goal – Australia will reduce emissions to 26–28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 – is not qualified by the size of the population, nor the emissions relative to GDP, so while inclusion of bar-charts of these reductions in its publications is curious, it is misleadingly irrelevant, especially when compared with the IPCC’s estimate that net zero CO2 emissions will be required by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius.
This assessment leads to the conclusion that Australia’s only emissions goal is 441 Million Tonnes (Equivalent) of CO2 (Mt CO2-e) by 2030.
Here is how are we travelling on our quest to reach this goal:
This graph of quarterly emissions measured in Mt CO2-e obtained here:
Because these are quarterly measures, the current rate – 134 Mt CO2-e – must be multiplied by four to ‘annualise’ the measurement. 134 * 4 = 536 Mt CO2-e. That’s 95 Mt CO2-e, or 21.5% more than Australia’s Paris target of 441 Mt CO2-e per annum.
What of the future? Perhaps the reason the Government included population and GDP measures is that both are expected to grow, making a 441 Mt CO2-e by 2030 emissions increasingly challenging.
The greatest growth in greenhouse gas emissions is ‘fugitive emissions’:
The 7.3% increase between 2017 and 2018 is likely to accelerate as large projects such as the Northern Territory’s onshore-gas extraction proceeds:
The Government could be much more transparent and truthful about Australia’s greenhouse gas emission. This is the only graphic in the Preface to the Department of Environment and Energy’s Quarterly Report on emissions and is simultaneously true and misleading:
A reader must scroll down several pages to find the graph of total emissions, and the truth is further obscured by presenting emissions on a quarterly, rather than annual basis.
To present a truthful assessment, the Government could, for example:
- declare that to meet its Paris Climate Change promises, Australia must reduce total emissions to less than 441 Mt CO2-e per annum by 2030;
- publish Australia’s emissions as an annual rate, using a seasonal adjusted and weather normalised rolling sum of the past year’s emissions and include this measure as the sole graphic in the Preface to the Quarterly Emissions Report;
- advise Australians that the Paris promises are currently not being met, as emissions are more than 20% above what is required, and that total emissions are increasing not decreasing; and
- forewarn Australians that decisive affirmative action is required to reduce the rate of emissions to less than 441 Mt CO2-e per annum by 2030, in order to position Australia to reach the IPPC assessment of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 to contain global warming to 1.5 Celsius.
To participate in humanity’s race to extinguish the existential threat of global warming, the Government must urgently change its policies and action on climate management. If it fails to do so, the prediction is that Australia’s position in humanity’s race for survival will be dead last.
Chris Mills, AM, is a MSc in Systems Management and is a systems designer and builder.