Thursday, March 29, 2007

Climate-boffin Howard struts his scientific stuff

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced a bold and ambitious plan to decelerate the rate of deforestation in South-East Asia.

“And, as everybody knows, if you can do that, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the PM.

Well, clearly Mr Howard actually meant to say it would offset greenhouse gas emissions, but obviously he has to couch the idea in terms that we simpletons can understand.

The initiative, he says, will “make a greater contribution to reducing [sic] greenhouse gas emissions than in fact the Kyoto Protocol” — and all that “in a shorter period of time,” no less.

This is a truly exciting prospect, for which Mr Howard — being the cautious empiricist and climate-change sceptic he is — will undoubtedly have commissioned a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study to substantiate the claim.

Um ... okay, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of such a study in his media release, but no doubt this will be forthcoming. Still, it’s evident that the Government has done its arithmetic:

Globally, more than 4.4 million trees are removed every day or 1.6 billion trees each year — almost 1 billion of which are not replaced. An area twice the size of Tasmania is currently cleared each year — this is the equivalent of removing around 71,000 football fields of trees every day.

If the world could halve the rate of global deforestation we could reduce [sic] greenhouse gas emissions by three billion tonnes a year — more than five times Australia’s total annual emissions and about ten times the emissions reductions that will be achieved during the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Aside from the Government’s dazzling command of the data (e.g., Tasmania = 31.5Kff), the overall strategic plan is a devilishly clever masterstroke. The Howard Government aims to get the rest of the world to halve the rate of global deforestation, offsetting the resulting “carbon credits” against Australia’s reduction targets that would have applied under the Kyoto Protocol.

And all this for a cost to the Australian community of only 200 million dollars.

And with no need to curtail Australia’s profligate carbon-spewing ways. Hell, Australia could probably afford to indefinitely shelve those expensive plans for geosequestration of carbon emissions from its coal-fired power plants.

Note also that the cost of $200 million could be spread over several years of budget cycles, as planning and implementation for this initiative unfolds:

The contributions that other countries may make will obviously be a matter for them, but we will be talking to key countries about the initiative over the next few weeks. Those discussions will also address the most effective means for countries to mutually identify areas and projects for joint activity, and how best to form clusters of partners to undertake those activities.

As soon as we have a good initial picture of the views of key countries and others, we will decide how best to proceed with this initiative, including through engaging key Ministers from these countries.

Okay, so it all seems just a little bit sketchy at the moment, but ... um ... from little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Too good to be true? Oh, ye of little faith.


Blogger Caz said...

Oh dear, our PM isn't exactly across the subject is he?

If he's going to reject the need for certain actions, or at least insist that "we" are doing enough, you'd hope that someone would go to the trouble of making sure that he is sufficiently briefed to understand the difference between a carbon offset and a carbon reduction.

A bit shabby really.

29/3/07 11:58 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

It's just plain embarrassing, to put it mildly.

The media release quoted is a joint release with Ministers Downer and Turnbull.

This is being touted as a "whole of government effort".


30/3/07 12:04 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Oh, and I should point out that I had my own math malfunction where I noted "Tasmania = 71Kff".

I've now corrected it to 31.5 kilofootballfields.

30/3/07 12:07 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Oh crap - I assumed it was an off the cuff comment, not a carefully crafted and written by 50 public servants press release.

30/3/07 9:53 PM  

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