Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

CEP gets up

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The government’s emissions trading legislation got up 74 votes to 72. The best legislation is the one that gets up so no complaints here and let’s move on.

My quick response to the Australian Science Media Centre:

It is good to see this legislation passed. Its main benefit will be in creating institutions and markets focussed on lower carbon technology, emissions production and in generating services for greater efficiency. It is clear from the number of industry comments so far, that this capacity is ready to go in many areas. The 2020 target is useful and can be amended but the critical target in the legislation is that of 80% reductions by 2050.

It’s also clear that the public wants to learn more about the legislation, what its benefits are and how both the costs and benefits affect them. A great deal of misinformation in the media and elsewhere has hindered this. The motives of those who cast doubt on the science in order to further their own agenda needs to be seriously questioned.

Some key points are:

  • The legislation gives Australia credibility in ongoing negotiations for international climate policy, where it is currently with Norway involved in crafting a proposal to move forward.
  • Australia is not going it alone. From a global business as usual case a few years ago that would have given a roughly 50% chance of exceeding 5°C warming by 2100, the current policy mix ends up at around 3.5°C but could go either way.
  • Australia faces an estimated reduction of 160 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to reach the 5% target by 2020. This is equivalent to a 0.0038°C reduction in global warming by 2100. A far more important figure is the 80% reduction by 2050 target. That would reduce global warming by about 0.02°C and sees 115 million tonnes CO2 equivalent emitted compared to 577 Mt in 2010.
  • In comparison, Kejun Jiang from the Energy Research Institute in China was in Australia last month and showed that current Chinese policies would save an estimated 1,800 million tonnes CO2e by 2020 and 3,800 by 2050 from their baseline. A more stringent set of policy scenarios they are looking at would double that benefit by 2050. China is also investigating a carbon price and are looking closely at Australia.
  • Similar plans are being developed in a number of US states, the EU, various Asian countries. Research in the US to reduce emissions is ongoing, even if it’s not influencing policy just yet. So Australia is not going it alone and stands to benefit from their own actions and those of other countries.
  • For example, the benefits to Australia by 2050 of their own actions could see somewhere between 23-55 square kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef kept below critical bleaching. The benefits bestowed by other countries would be far greater. However these benefits will only be realised if global warming is kept below 3°C. Preventing the bulk of the GBR from being critically affected would require a much lower peak warming.

Elsewhere: Larvatus Prodeo, Climate Spectator

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Written by Roger Jones

October 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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