Australia's Emissions in Context: Our Present Responsibility

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 5 June 2011
Filed under Carbon Reduction

Australia's sum total of historical emissions places us near the top of the world's polluters. Despite our small population and the relatively small size of our economy, across history, we have emitted more CO2 from burning of fossil fuels than 94% of all other countries.

This fact provides some much-needed context for the present debate surrounding a price on carbon.

There is however, plenty of further context that needs to be provided for our emissions. For example, we should examine how our use of renewables has been evolving over time. The figure below, taken from a report for Environment Victoria shows how the share of renewables—such as wind or solar—in generating electricity in Australia has actually declined since 1960.

Yes, whereas we generated 19% of our power from renewables in 1960, we are now down around the 7% mark. Lest one think that this is inevitable, the next figure shows our share (from 2008; thin red line) against the trend for Denmark (the solid data points).

This graph leaves little doubt that it is possible to increasingly rely on sources other than fossil fuels to power an economy. Just in case you are wondering, during the period shown in the graph above, Denmark's economy grew by around 44% altogether. So "green" energy and economic growth are fully compatible, although one will be forgiven for not realizing this by relying on the Australian media alone.

There is one more interesting context that we should consider for Australian greenhouse gas emissions during power generation. And that is the amount of CO2 emitted during the production of a kWH (a kilowatt hour, worth between 20c - 40c at current power prices). This is an important statistic because it goes beyond simply stating the share of renewables by also considering how "dirty" the non-renewables are. Coal is never "clean", but it can be more or less dirty, depending on its quality, and the relative share of coal vs. gas also determines how much CO2 is emitted during power production even if the share of renewables is constant. So how much CO2 do we emit per unit of power generated?

The answer is shown as a large red data point in the figure below, based on data from the International Energy Agency.

 

What this figure shows is the approximately 140 countries in this data set rank ordered from worst emitters to least, based on grams of CO2 per kWh generated. There are three countries that emit more CO2 than us; they are Botswana, Cambodia, and India. The remainder use less—sometimes considerably less.

Yes, we beat Botswana, Cambodia, and India. All other developing countries, and of course all industrialized nations, beat us, sometimes by a considerable margin.

For example,New Zealand emits nearly 5 times less than we do to generate the same power—remember, this is the same unit power; we gain absolutely nothing from polluting more.

We emit 20 times more than Sweden—and Swedes don't live in caves, unless you consider Volvos and Saabs to be caves.

If that weren't bad enough, we emit 128 times more than Norway.

Let's summarize the context of our emissions:

  • Our historical burden of per capita emissions places us within the top ten polluters.
  • We have decreased our share of renewables during the last 20 years whereas many other industrialized countries have increased theirs (together with GDP).
  • We emit 128 times more than Norway per unit power generated and 20 times more than Sweden
  • But yes, we beat three developing countries.

While this may not be much reason to celebrate just yet, the good news is that unless we consider ourselves inherently inferior to Skandinavians, we have a very clear precedent to follow. Being at least as sun-drenched and wind-swept as any other country on this planet, there can be no stopping us once we decide to catch up.

Bookmark and Share

67 Comments


1  2  Next

Comments 1 to 50 out of 67:

  1. Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here.
    twitter followers
    youtube subscribers
  2. This one is good. keep up the good work!..
    free gems for clash of clans
  3. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it..
    kosten hochzeit dj
  4. Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!THANKS!!!!!!
    publish academy bonus
  5. This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it


    laevehiclerental
  6. I really thank you for the valuable info on this great subject and look forward to more great posts. Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty article with me. I am appreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article. Good luck to the author! All the best!
    Venus Factor Review
  7. The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing...
    facebook likes
    youtube views
  8. Very nice article, I enjoyed reading your post, very nice share, I want to twit this to my followers. Thanks!.

    electrical contractors Birmingham
  9. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commentators here!
    Profit Canvas
  10. Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this. Are you aware of any other websites on this subject.
    Escort Agency in Delhi
  11. You know your projects stand out of the herd. There is something special about them. It seems to me all of them are really brilliant!
    Scale Social Review
  12. The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing..
    Amazing selling machine
  13. I really thank you for the valuable info on this great subject and look forward to more great posts. Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty article with me. I am appreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article. Good luck to the author! All the best!
    Build My List 2.0
  14. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
    http://hamptonbayceilingfansblog.com
  15. Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post.
    Commission Gorilla review
  16. Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going.... I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource...
    exhibition stand design
  17. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.
    get aadhar card
  18. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Appreciate it.
    SociSpot
  19. Thanks for this article very helpful. thanks.
    http://kaylaitsinebikinibodyguide.kinja.com/kayla-itsines-review-finding-the-motivation-to-lose-we-1737279465
  20. brad.haddon234 at 17:29 PM on 7 December, 2015
    Wow i can say this is another extraordinary article of course of this blog.Bookmarked this website.. future technology
  21. brad.haddon234 at 23:34 PM on 5 February, 2016
    Amazing and intriguing article. Extraordinary things you've generally imparted to us. Much appreciated. Simply keep making this kind out of post. transfert vhs
  22. amsbosstoolsmobi at 23:34 PM on 7 March, 2016
    Your own feedback and listed below are excellent in my opinion.
    Angel investors in India
  23. amsbosstoolsmobi at 23:35 PM on 7 March, 2016
    You have a very inspiring way of exploring and sharing your thoughts.

    Buy High Pagerank Backlinks
  24. including reasonable comments here...
    Weight Loss For Women
  25. I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
    Commission Machine
  26. This is an awesome article much obliged for sharing this educational data. I will visit your web journal consistently for some most recent post. I will visit your web journal routinely for Some most recent post. followers kaufen pay for views on youtube
  27. Wonderful illustrated information. I thank you about that. No doubt it will be very useful for my future projects. Would like to see some other posts on the same subject!
    car for cash los angeles
  28. This blog is really great. The information here will surely be of some help to me. Thanks!.
    car title loan los angeles
  29. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.
    alphacorps.us/security/executive-travel-security.html
  30. Very useful info. Hope to see more posts soon!.
    work horse plugin review
  31. Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts.
    Marriage Wedding Photographers in Chennai
  32. Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.
    SchemaNinja
  33. Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.
    www.spartagenxtforsale.com
  34. Excellent information on your blog, thank you for taking the time to share with us. Amazing insight you have on this, it's nice to find a website that details so much information about different artists.
    Dreamworldescort
  35. Love what you're doing here guys, keep it up!..
    instaviral
  36. Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this. Are you aware of any other websites on this subject.
    vintage clothing sale
  37. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing.
    Aafreen (1920 London) - KK Antara Mitra
  38. The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.
    Musically stars
  39. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    dalyanvillarental.co.uk
  40. Wow, this is really interesting reading. I am glad I found this and got to read it. Great job on this content. I like it.
    Slither.io Hack
  41. Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article.
    seo los angeles
  42. I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us.
    adderin
  43. Thanks for providing recent updates regarding the concern, I look forward to read more.
    cogniflex for sale
  44. i am for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to present something back and help others such as you helped me.
    geniux
  45. Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information..
    adderin brain supplement evo
  46. nice bLog! its interesting. thank you for sharing....
    fridge repairs
  47. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info! I am looking forward to see more postsby you!
    loftplan
  48. Great post, and great website. Thanks for the information!
    musically star
  49. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.
    affinitybag custom paper bags
  50. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well..
    miracle bust breast development pills

1  2  Next

Comments Policy

Post a Comment

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or register a new account.