Friday, January 21, 2011

Tim Blair’s epic bean-counting fail

On the question of the purported ‘liability’ of the Australian coal industry for the floods in south-east Queensland, Tim Blair has been doing some number crunching:

Australia’s annual contribution to global carbon output is just 1.5 per cent, which works out to .000225 per cent of the overall human component. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the coal industry generates an entire third of Australia’s amount — a mighty .000075 per cent of the carbon emitted globally which ends up hanging around in the atmosphere.

On current estimates, the floods may result in damage worth $13 billion. The total bill owed by the Australian coal industry (and this assumes that the floods are entirely due to carbon-driven climate change): $9749.99.

I admire a dude who spreadsheets stuff, but Blair has, for his own silly argument’s sake, fluffed at least one significant factor, completely ignoring the contribution to global emissions of Australian coal exports.

Australia’s annual coal exports are around 263.4 million tonnes per annum. Around 2.93kg of carbon is emitted for each kilo of coal burned. Assuming global carbon emissions per annum of 29,321.302 million tonnes, Australia’s exports of coal would alone contribute 771.762 million tonnes, or 2.632% of global man-made carbon emissions.

So, employing the figure of 2.632% (rather than 0.000075%) would increase the “total bill owed by the Australian coal industry” to at least $342,171,231.

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Anonymous harry Heidelberg said...

I would like to wish you guys a Happy New Year! None of us quite know where 2011 will take us but I wish you well. I know, it's not like me but I mean it.

23/1/11 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Best wishes for the new year to you too, Harry, appreciate the thought. Hope you're travelling well wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

23/1/11 8:05 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Most of the carbon emission reductions in Europe can be attributed to off-shoring high carbon emission stuff ...

It's no different to decades ago, when we Western folk got all sniffy about clean air and water: off-shored the worst of it, which worked out super well for big business, because it turned out to be cheaper - a fraction of the cost of polluting locally!

So, in this instance, Blair is correct, since no one counts their off-shored emissions, which, for example, would include every cheap plastic thing, and piece of clothing or shoe manufactured in China for the US (in particular) and the rest of the world.

It's a handy little thing that no one wants to talk about.

Happy new year and new decade, where ever you may be Harry. Hope you're well and happy.

30/1/11 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

I suppose the formula could be further refined...

- factor in the economic utility of imports from China et al of stuff we used to manufacture here.

- factor in the social goods from Australian coal production, e.g., jobs, injection into local economies, taxes & royalties paid, etc.

- factor in a one-off, limited-time-only Gillard levy or two, telling John Q Taxpayer it's a small price to pay for all the social goods he's reaping.

- factor in X divided by the number you first thought of.

Which comes to... oh, exactly $9,749.99

Perhaps that's a reasonably sound approach to a solution no-one can agree on for a problem no-one wants to take responsibility for. (Or should that be the other way around?)

1/2/11 3:06 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Exactly $9,749.99?

Holy crap! That's the exact same amount (taking inflation into account, and converting to NPV) it costs to make every movie! Minus the advertising budget.

1/2/11 4:15 PM  

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