Australia and greenhouse gas emissions

Two people (one friend, one student) have sent me this story about Australia’s bad environmental placing. I did, to be fair to them, see it first in the Sydney Morning Herald (i.e. before these two emails, by a long way, and before the BBC had it, I believe).

The story: a study/database, Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA – aren’t they clever?) has been stitched together for the purpose of figuring out, globally, whose industries are up to what. Alley-oop:

Australia’s contribution to global warming may be much greater than first thought. New research shows our power stations are the world’s highest per capita producers of carbon dioxide.

shows the two biggest producers of CO2 in Australia are in NSW – the Bayswater station at Muswellbrook and Eraring near Lake Macquarie, which each produce 18.325 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Their level of CO2 to power output is comparable to many of the power stations in China often criticised for being dirty plants.

The survey shows Australians each produce more than 10 tonnes of CO2 emissions for every person just through generating power, compared to nine tonnes for each American and two tonnes for each Chinese.

I’ll just assume they meant each Chinese person (wtf? Get an editor, people).

This is not news, really. Comparing ecological footprints, the US, Australia and Canada place 1st, 2nd and 3rd. It would stand to reason, then, that a rank of greenhouse gas emissions would replicate that. Canada manages to stay clean, though, or at least outside the top five (in emissions per capita):

  1. Australia – 10.0 tonnes
  2. US – 8.2 tonnes
  3. UK – 3.2 tonnes
  4. China – 1.8 tonnes
  5. India – 0.5 tonnes

That list from the BBC – I can’t get the CARMA site up. The list in total terms changes, of course: the US and China are the top two (unsurprisingly).

The SMH story closed on some interesting details:

Dr Wheeler said his data had been compiled from public records and by extrapolating from a commercial database used by the power industry. Where disclosures of CO2 emissions were not publicly available, the researchers used modelling based on the age and size of the power station.

“Information leads to action,” he said. “We know that this works for other forms of pollution and we believe it can work for greenhouse gas emissions, too. We expect that institutional and private investors, insurers, lenders, environmental and consumer groups and individual activists will use the data to encourage power companies to burn less coal and oil and to shift to renewable power sources.”

I would like to see which countries/power plants required that inferencing. China’s lack of any sort of pollution controls at the plant-level are well-enough known – do these numbers under-estimate their carbon-load? Method can make a lot of difference. Not that it matters a great deal. For us to even be on such a list is as great a shame as it is entirely not surprising.

Also, much as I like the idea that information leads to action, one can only hope: information has, one would think, been sufficent to prompt action before now, yet the likes of Australia, the US, China and the UK are clearly not giving up on coal. Hell, we’re building more plants at mines.

To the extent that this information has an effect, I would expect, just as cynically as is reasonable, to see more palliative efforts at pollution control (probably not including China), but no less use or demand for coal-fired energy.


3 comments so far

  1. Michael Fischer on

    I am just looking forward to the day when the big guys realy get it, I am very comfrotable here in CA, and at the same time I know we need to do something drastic, and we in the US and OZ need to start with an example, we have all the means, we just need to put them into action.
    Thank you for drawing my attention to the issue again.

  2. Tim on

    Should Australia be ashamed of its place in the world pollution charts? Have you say at:

  3. Emily on

    you need more information on rankings, it was difficult to understand

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