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Monday 17 August 2015

Apropos CC

I just came across the paper   National Contributions to Global Warming  published admittedly a year ago by researchers at Concordia University in Canada. I am not sure why it has hit the news recently. Perhaps with the release of Australia reduction target, commentators have gone back for some material.

Irrespective, I found the paper most informative. In some ways it highlights one of the concerns I have had about the misleading claims by many CC advocates trying to amplify Australia's contribution to global warming, no doubt in order to pressure the government to increase their reduction target.

This paper puts things into perspective and I recommend anyone trying to gain a complete picture to read the paper.

For the present let me just reproduce Figure 3 from the paper.

This picture encapsulates the relative contributions of each country to climate change in the period from 1900 to 2005. In particular note the following;-
  • Europe is by far the greatest contributor to global warming over this period and should therefore make the largest cuts in their emissions.
  • US and India are in the next group. USA should make significant cuts and India needs the power infrastructure to enable quality of life to improve yet reduce its GHG emissions.
  • Australia and Canada are the lowest contributors to CC. Consequently on an equity basis their reduction target should be the lowest. 
  • While China had minimal contribution for much of the period, its GHG emissions over the past 20 years have grown and continue to grow at a great rate.
  • My calculations indicate that Canada and Australia are net absorbers of Greenhouse Gases. Australia and Canada are helping to mitigate the impact of the large polluters of Europe US and China. (See post Is Australia one of the worst net emitters?)

What is a fair reduction target?

As we approach the Paris CC conference the focus is on reduction targets. How much reduction will each country target over the coming 10-15 years. It is in this context that the 'commentariat' is banding about a variety of CC measures, emphasising those which best support their case. Look at 'per capita' figures, or look at 'today's gross emissions'.

But is there an indisputable 'fair' target for a country? While I guess 'indisputable' is a rather ambitious aim, I suggest the following two principles.

1. A country's reduction target should take into account that country's contribution to CC to date.
2. Over time each country has to totally mitigate their own GHG net emissions.  

These principles eliminate the oft cited disputes between developed countries and developing countries, by providing an equitable weighting on the clean-up load on those who contributed most to the problem.

Moreover they can be used to derive a 'fair' target for any year. But I will leave that calculation for another day.

Perhaps these 'fairness' principles could make agreement at the Paris conference more likely.

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