Late on Friday, under the cover of the release of the first interim report from the Hayne royal commission into the financial sector and the day before a weekend of AFL and NRL grand finals, the government released the latest quarterly data showing greenhouse gas emissions had once again risen.
You can call this government many things – a bunch of dolts deluded into believing climate change is a global conspiracy, a bunch of feckless cowards lacking the intellectual ability or political acumen to stand up to those climate change-denying fools occupying positions on the backbench and in cabinet – but you can’t call them subtle.
Ever since they have taken office from the ALP, this government has sought to release the quarterly greenhouse gas emissions data at times when it will most likely be lost in the news cycle. The usual favourite is the week before Christmas. The previous batch of data was released late on Friday of budget week. That it is now more than four months since that last “quarterly” release serves to highlight how planned this past Friday’s release was.
The reason they choose to release the data at times when it is unlikely to get much attention is because the emissions data is continually awful and would be utterly shameful, were this government possessed of the ability to feel that emotion in relation to climate change.
In the past 12 months the annual level of emissions reached a record level of 559m tonnes CO2-e if we exclude the controversial component of “land use, land use change and forestry” (LULUCF), which includes a measure for the amount of forest and grasslands and the amounts of those cut down or converted to other uses.
Rather disgracefully Australia is allowed to count that use towards its Paris agreement to reduce emissions by 26% below 2005 levels. The reason this is disgraceful is because it means we are able to take into account the high amount of forest clearing that was occurring at the time, and to bank improvements merely due to us being less bad now than we were, not because we have actually improved our emissions.
We did the same thing for our Kyoto commitment, which had 1990 as the base year – a year in which we had a massive amount of land clearing:
But even if we include the LULUCF measure, our annual emissions rose in the past 12 months by 0.9% – and they are now at their highest level since 2011.
It is a terrible result, but one that is not surprising given our emissions have been increasing every quarter since the end of the carbon price period in June 2014:
The good news is electricity emissions have been falling recently, the bad news is so too has our level of renewable energy production. The only reason emissions in the national energy market have fallen is because of the drop in brown coal production:
And the problem is while emissions from electricity have fallen since June 2016, in that time emissions from all other areas have increased by more than that amount:
It’s the problem with focusing only on electricity emissions – they either need to come down by overly large amounts in order to meet our overall target, or we are not going to be able achieve it.
The prime minster, when asked about the figures on ABC’s Insiders program parroted the inane media release that accompanied the data. Rather than focus on the overall increase in emission, the prime minister boasted that: “We’ve got emissions per capita at the lowest level in 28 years.”
Whoop dee fricken doo.
Is anyone shocked to discover that cars and equipment made now are more fuel-efficient than those made in 1990? Out of the past 28 years, only seven times have emissions per capita not declined.
Not only is it a worthless boast, it says nothing about the impact on the environment. The atmosphere doesn’t react on a per capita basis, it reacts to the total level of CO2 emissions.
Boasting about emissions per capita falling while total emissions are rising is like a general arguing that it doesn’t matter that the number of innocent civilians killed in bombing raids has increased in the past year because the average number killed per raid has fallen.
At a political level it also doesn’t matter because our Paris commitment to reduce emissions to 26% below 2005 levels is total emissions, not per capita. But here again we find the prime minister in the land of obfuscation and outright fertiliser production.
When Barrie Cassidy asked Morrison on Insiders if he still believed we would meet our 26% reduction target “in a canter” he replied that “people choose and pick their figures to make their political arguments. We’re going to meet those in a canter our 26% target … All of the issues are pointing to that outcome so I’m comfortable with our 26%.”
So let us pause now as I choose to show the government’s own figures, which reveal not only that we are not going to make the 26% target in a canter, but instead by 2030 our emissions will be about 29% above the level they need to be:
If the prime minister has some data in his back pocket that leads him to believe that “based on our assessments” Australia will meet its targets, maybe he could give those assessments to the Department of Environment and Energy so they can then publish them for all of us to see.
Though, of course, given how the government hides its emissions data, they’ll probably publish it at a time for maximum exposure – say Christmas Eve at 4.50pm.