Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Garnaut on emission changes: too late?

In commenting on the Garnaut report, the Herald's Ross Gittens points to the obvious elephants in the room: the economic growth of India and China.

Yes, we knew this. But he also provides an breakdown of carbon emissions increase.

Garnaut notes that global carbon emissions grew at an average rate of 1.1% per year through the 1990s. This would have been what was taken into the 1997 Kyoto talks.

However, from 2000 to 2006, the rate of increase surged to 3.1% per year.

This change has been attributed to the following:

  • Global economic growth was 5% per year rather than the anticipated 3.3%
  • Growth became more energy intensive. In the 1990s, the "energy intensity" of global gross domestic product fell (improved) by 1.4% per year; however this decade, the energy intensity has been falling by only 0.2%
  • Energy use became more emission-intensive. Through the 1990s, cleaner fuels were used and the emission-intensity of energy use dropped 0.2% per year; however this emission-intensity increased by 0.4% per year this decade.

And all of this is said to be due to India and China coming on-stream in the economic world.

It remains difficult to begrudge those countries their due, although it makes the job that much harder.

Simulations run for Garnauts team require global emissions to peak by 2010 if atmospheric carbon is to stabilise at 450ppm.

Unlikely? It needs leadership from the developed world: to cut emissions by example, and to forge partnerships with those emerging nations to tip the balance in the right direction.

Two years is too short. Ten years might have done it. And that's what we lost with George Bush being declared winner in the 2000 presidential election. And officially, that's 537 Florida votes.

You couldn't write fiction like this.

Mass extinctions in earth's past, when due to climate change, have taken much longer than we're taking.

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