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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