Australian news, and some related international items

Tony Abbott’s deceptive spin about the Paris Climate Targets

Abbott-firemanAbbott’s smoke and mirrors before Paris climate summit, The Saturday Paper, 22 Aug 15 MIKE SECCOMBE

Tony Abbott’s emissions reduction pledge ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris smacks of statistical sophistry and deceptive deadlines………one of the several specious arguments Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been using to create the impression – the false impression – that his government is serious about acting to limit climate change.

After the announcement of the government’s long-awaited new target for greenhouse gas emissions last week – a reduction of 26 per cent, and possibly 28 per cent on 2005 levels, by 2030 – Abbott fronted the media to insist it was “foursquare in the middle” of the pledges made by other nations ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Paris at year’s end.

“It’s better than Japan,” he boasted. “It’s almost the same as New Zealand. It’s a whisker below Canada. It’s a little below Europe. It’s about the same as the United States. It’s vastly better than Korea. Of course, it is unimaginably better than China.”

Except, of course, none of this is true. The Australian government’s target is not in the middle of the range, and Abbott had no right to be satisfied,…..

Japan, as Abbott noted, has set a target slightly less ambitious in percentage terms than Australia’s: 25 per cent by 2030, compared with 26. But when you look a little closer, it’s immediately apparent that the percentage reduction is not the significant measure. What counts is the weight at the end of the process. In 2030, assuming it reaches its goal, Japan will produce the equivalent of eight tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita. If Australia reaches its 26 per cent goal, it will still produce twice as much. Sixteen tonnes.

The comparable figures for other developed countries, according to the Climate Institute, which crunched all the numbers to allow a real, apples-to-apples comparison of carbon dioxide per capita are: New Zealand, 11 tonnes; the European Union, six tonnes; Britain, five tonnes; the United States 10 tonnes. Only Canada will be anywhere close to us, at 14 tonnes.

So, what about the other countries Abbott cited: China and South Korea?

He is right in saying that in percentage terms, our target is more ambitious. Korea’s 2030 goal is to keep its emissions broadly as they were in 2005 – that is somewhere between a 5 per cent decrease and a 1 per cent increase. China looks a whole lot worse. Its emissions are forecast to increase between 72 and 96 per cent……..

In 2005, South Korea generated about 10 tonnes of CO2 per capita. China emitted about four tonnes.

Assuming they meet their 2030 targets, they will still produce only 50 to 60 per cent as much greenhouse gas, per capita, as Australia does…….

Deceptive figures

The statistics cited by Abbott in his media conference were not actual lies, but they were deceptive. And the prime minister, his environment minister Greg Hunt, and their supporters in the press, have sought to mislead in other ways, too.

For example, when Abbott says Australia’s target is “about the same as the United States” he relies on another bit of statistical sleight of hand. The US has committed to making its emissions reductions within 10 years, whereas ours are over 15.

“If you take theirs out to 2030, it becomes 41 per cent,” says Will Steffen, a councillor with the Climate Council and emeritus professor of earth systems science at the ANU.

Then there’s the matter of base years.

“By choosing different baselines you can make it appear your effort is much greater or much less,” says Steffen……..

What countries have been asked to do, when they advance their [Paris summit] targets, is show how they are making a contribution towards that commonly agreed two-degree goal,” says Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of the Climate Institute.

“Unfortunately, some countries, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, have ignored it altogether and provided no justification to argue their target is a fair contribution.

“Others like the US, EU, Mexico, South Korea, Norway, Switzerland – a whole range of countries – have actually put forward an argument.”

There are no prizes for guessing why Australia has not done as asked, Jackson suggests: “The Australian government just can’t pretend its target is a fair contribution.”……

Concocted reportsAnd the politics of this issue are very ugly. When it is not using dodgy statistics to pretend it has set an ambitious target, the government is using equally dodgy numbers to pretend that doing any more would be unaffordable…….


September 6, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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