Dear Prime Minister, here’s some emissions maths

Our Prime Minister is fond of declaiming that Australia accounts for just over one percent of global emissions – and by extension, that it’s not our fault and we can’t do anything about it; and so the richest country in the World should focus solidly on carbon-emitting power generation in the pursuit of cheap domestic power.

The global population is 7.2 billion. Australia’s population is 24.6 million. So that means that Australia has 0.34% of the world’s population – but contributes 1.8% (which by the way is not ‘just over one percent’) of carbon emissions. As is common, we’re punching way above our weight – in this case embarrassingly so.

Canada and a smattering of oil-rich, air-conditioning-running, Middle Eastern countries are the ones that come close to us in terms of per-capita emissions.

The other metric in which we are similar winners is that per-capita we’re just about the richest country in the World. Although in that select group, the other countries near us, Switzerland for example, tend to have tiny carbon emission footprints. Go figure.

Once again our government is using the statistics to blur the issue rather than shed light on it.

But there’s also other way of looking at this. If we were to read that China was reducing its emissions by 1%, we’d say that’s a good thing. Well that’s exactly the same outcome, in real terms, as us achieving the targets we signed up for under the Paris accord. We can make a difference simply because we’re a hugely rich country that’s contributing far too much to the problem.

I won’t belabour this point, but next time a politician waves his coal-stained hands around and drags out that one-percent factoid – bear in mind it’s just as out of touch with reality as the rest of the government’s climate policy.

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