Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Australians named worst emitters

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According to BBN News (source http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7092989.stm) Australia is the world’s worst emiiter of CO2 gases. Well I have 2 basic responses to this:
1. So what? And…
2. Why should that be surprise?
The first issue is whether Australia is threatening the globe by producing more CO2. Its an over-simplification to say that CO2 is pollution, when it exists naturally in the atmosphere and is a fertilizer for plants. They need it to live. Are we not then greening the planet? The argument will be made that we are upsetting the natural balance. But the earth was never in balance. The Earth’s CO2 concentrations have been bouncing around for years without any threat to man. Are we too powerful now? There is too little evidence to say? We could be on the precipice of an Ice Age, which occur every 5000 years. So maybe Australia producing CO2 is actually a good thing. The computer models run by the climatology ‘experts’ are so out of sync with reality, that they are not worth the paper they are printed on. They are truly on a steep learning curve. So what should we do to on a policy level:
1. Increase awareness of the benefits of saving energy
2. Create incentives for people to buy energy efficient light bulbs, eg. Information on packaging that tells people which bulb is the cheapest over its economic life
3. There are easy way Australians and everyone else can save energy. The next issue – should we be surprised Australia is the worst emitter per capita?
4. No, its logical. There are several reasons why we have high energy consumption:
5. Travel distances are huge – big issue
6. Australiians live on larger 600-1200m2 suburban lots compared to 60-250m2 in Tokyo, Manila or elsewhere, so our cities are big relative to their population –big issue
7. Australia doesn’t have a very good train system
8. Australia has a lot of cows that produce methane
9. Australia has a high proportion of coal-fired power stations because it has ample cheap coal up the east coast where the population lives – big issue
10. Australia has no nuclear power stations
11. Australia is the driest continent in the world, so we have the lowest capacity to generate hydro electric electricity
12. Australia's natural gas resources (until coal seam gas was recognized) have historically been very remote and offshore for power generation
13. Australia consumes a lot of energy in metal processing, eg. Alumina refineries, etc.

Australia did not select the determinants of ‘pollution’. Consider water vapour, its also a greenhouse gas, and Australia has scarcely any of that, but that is not considered in these studies.
Yet there are several reasons why Australia should be better:
1. It spends a lot of money on air conditioning when in fact most of the population lives in a mild climate
2. It hardly produces anything – it is a service economy

3. It could invest more in rail than cars – rail is more efficient, safer, yet its taxed more harshly

But Australians are mostly paying the price for factors they have no control over. The sillyness of the argument is highlighted by the statement “Australian power stations are the least efficient on a per capita basis”. You don’t measure power station efficiency on a population pro rata basis. That’s lunacy. That would imply virtue lied with the poor who used none. Not necessarily you say - we could embrace technology. But we do. We just do it when it makes commercial sense. Alternatively fuelled cars and solar cells are still not efficient enough, so we delay the expense, but I am sure when they do make sense, Australians will embrace them faster than mobile phones. The best way to measure efficiency is compare the energy produced against the cost or lost energy to produce a unit of energy. By those ‘realistic’ measures Australian plants are very modern. We have the electrostatic precipitators to remove particulates and scrubbers to remove nitrous and sulphur dioxides. China has scarcely little of this equipment, and is the world’s worst emitter with the USA (which has the equipment). More incredible is that most new industrial capacity - that consumes the great bulk of energy - is going to be based in China, which will not sign on to Kyoto, nor is it required.
The BBC, a big greenhouse advocate gets its stories from The Carbon Monitoring for Action (Carma) - a green lobby group. So that’s the quality of their journalism. None of the arguments I made above were considered in the BBC article. Their agenda instead is to spread fear where it counts. Not in China, where the people couldn’t care and politicians have no ‘green’ conscious, but in western nations where there is this ‘guilt’ for being human.
Statistics are very easily manipulated. Consider that South Africa produces as much CO2 as Australia, but because of apartheid the bulk of the black population live in poverty, so this lowers the per capita CO2 emissions from South Africa. India is perhaps the most impressive – but that’s because they need to be – they have little energy or money to buy it. Hence they have few trees. Should they not be penalized for lack of birth control? If we are going to talk about carbon footprints – why don’t we look at those countries that burden the world with too many kids? Eg. Catholic and Muslim countries like the Philippines and Nigeria. And what about energy efficiency? The third world is spewing out millions of tonnes of particulates from poorly maintained trucks, tricycles, jeepneys, and what about those oil-fired power stations, using cheap high-sulphur fuel. So why don’t these countries rank highly. Because they have the good fortune to be over-populated and poor, oohh and most of their governments couldn’t care a shit. Emissions are not an electoral issue there. Surprising power failures are not even an electoral issue in the Philippines, but that’s good news right? It saves the environment.
I think it is folly to lack critical analysis of such articles, and at a political level it is folly to apply costs on the economy which undermine productive output, as we are only undermining our capacity to deal with real problems based on ‘real’ evidence. Having said that – there are low cost measures that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions, and that’s mostly a ‘energy cost’ that people should consider more. People don’t think about the lights they leave on, the energy rating of their houses. But that’s because they rely on governments to do it. Governments only get points for the cheap shots. So it comes back to our system of government – democracy sux!
But despite not considering the points above, CARMA has this to say: “We feel quite confident that no-one else has [this power plant] information in such detail”. “In this website, we do not push a particular agenda or outcome”. "In fact, we are very interested to see how people choose to use the data” explained Mr Ummel. I don’t think I have ever seen such blatant misinformation in my life. This guy posits as a scientific authority. It just supports my view that you can’t trust the media, nor even scientific authorities to deliver ‘facts’. Its all lobbying to reach baseless goals, and the problem is our system of government.

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Reason is the standard for debate.

- Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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