Saturday 4th of February 2023

who is polluting where?........

In the 30 years since the world began negotiating the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, no one has identified exactly where all that pollution is coming from. That will begin to change next week when Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions)—a nonprofit coalition of artificial intelligence (AI) specialists, data scientists, researchers, and nongovernmental organizations—releases the first facility-level inventory of the largest known individual sources of the 162 million tons of GHG pollution emitted into the troposphere every day.


With thousands of businesses, banks, investors, and 88 nation-states committed to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, comprehensively tracking progress toward that goal is essential. This is especially important given last week’s United Nations Emissions Gap Report indicating that the world is far behind pace for reducing emissions by 2030.

Scientists have long known the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The Keeling Curve—a daily record of global atmospheric CO2 concentration—leaped from 313 parts per million (ppm) in March 1958 to 2021’s staggering 414.72 ppm global average. Likewise, the component parts of the emissions puzzle are well understood—the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, industry, conventional agriculture, deforestation, and other sources are continually adding to the accumulation that lingers in the atmosphere. But until now, it has not been possible to precisely map and track the specific sources of GHG pollution. Climate TRACE’s global database of the most substantial individual sources of emissions across two dozen sectors of the global economy will be free and publicly available.

Why is this information so essential? As the eminent physicist Lord Kelvin said nearly 140 years ago, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.” Efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C are currently informed by rough estimates principally derived from self-reported national inventories submitted intermittently to the United Nations (UN). As of last month, no nation has submitted a complete accounting of its emissions for 2021. Indeed, 52 countries have not submitted any emissions inventories covering the past 10 years. Moreover, the inventories that do exist often have large omissions and fail to provide the granular data needed to make decisions. For example, last year, Climate TRACE found the actual emissions from global oil and gas production collectively were around double what was self-reported to the UN in 2020. Even more oil and gas emissions went uncounted by countries that are not required to report these data.





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global warming economy........


BY Alan Kohler


Far from implementing the vision of COP26 in Glasgow, as intended, COP27 in Egypt signed the death warrant for 1.5°C.

That number was the ambition of COP21 in Paris: Keeping warming to 2°C above pre-industrial age global mean temperatures, and preferably 1.5°C.

Over the seven years since then, the world’s politicians and business leaders have been quietly slinking away from that while saying the opposite. It’s suicide by politics.

That has been exposed in Egypt with a deal on cash bribes to poor countries, but little else.

Keeping warming to 1.5°C now looks impossible, and according to David Karoly, one of Australia’s leading climate scientists, there’s an 80 per cent chance of 2°C, while 3°C is 50/50.

What’s more, says Karoly, given that the sea is cooler than the land, a global mean temperature rise of 2°C means at least 3°C on the land, where we all live. And 3°C global mean equals an unliveable 4°C on land.

Last year the Australian Academy of Science published a report co-authored by David Karoly, titled: Risks to Australia of a 3°C Warmer World.

It makes confronting reading, especially considering this is now a 50 per cent likelihood.

What’s the plan?

So the question is: At what percentage likelihood of disaster, agreed by most scientists, should a government seriously prepare for it? Wait till it’s 100 per cent? How about 80 per cent? If you knew there was a 50 per cent chance of a cyclone hitting your house, would you at least board up the windows?

Australia’s exports of fossil fuels represent about 17 per cent of GDP and the tax revenue from the companies doing it would come close to paying for the defence budget, or the Commonwealth public service.

Over the next 20-30 years, this revenue will disappear as the world heats up and switches to renewables at the same time, with increasing urgency.

What is the plan to deal with the consequences of 2-3°C of warming, as laid out by the Academy of Science, along with the loss of one-sixth of the national GDP and a big chunk of government revenue?

The answer, apparently, is that Australia will be a “renewable energy superpower”, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been saying for a few years now.

It is a meaningless slogan.

The only realistic prospect for renewable energy exports is hydrogen, and in that product Australia has nothing like the scale or competitive advantages it has in coal and LNG.

“Green hydrogen” is produced by applying renewable energy to water through electrolysis that separates the oxygen and hydrogen. It requires an enormous investment – a desalination plant, electrolyser and a machine to combine the hydrogen with nitrogen to produce ammonia for export, plus another machine at the other end to split the ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen again.

We have no greater access to water and nitrogen than anybody else, and while we have a lot of sunshine, that’s unlikely to offset the disadvantage of distance from the main markets.

The “green steel” industry that some are pushing for the Pilbara, using hydrogen to replace coking coal in furnaces, would cost between $700 billion and $1 trillion, according to a mining CEO who has done the numbers.

Australia urgently needs to start planning to replace 15-20 per cent of GDP over the next two decades, and it won’t be achieved by the repetition of a political slogan.

The hard grind

It will only be done through hard, sustained policy grind, detailed planning, careful focusing of taxpayers’ money and benchmarking Australia against its competitors, and then doing better than them in costs and tax.

Fundamentally, politicians can’t afford to think too far ahead. Australia’s ridiculous two- to three-year terms are shorter than most, but even four- to five-year terms are too short for the gap between political cost and the political benefit in dealing seriously with global warming, as opposed to appearing to.

But even leaving aside the reduction in GDP and tax revenue, the long-term cost of inaction is chilling, as set out by the Academy of Science last year.

Here are a few quotes from that report:

  • “Under 1.5°C of global warming, heatwaves would occur three times a year with each event lasting on average 7.5 days. With global warming of 2°C, heatwaves would occur at least four times a year, on average lasting 10 days. At 3°C of global warming, heatwaves would happen as often as seven times a year, with events lasting 16 days on average.”
  • “The average lifetime of a cyclone is likely to extend by 12 to 24 hours as global mean surface temperature increases from 2°C to 3°C of global warming.”
  • “Fire risk (driven by record heat, dryness, and fuel, see case study, p.34) will increase by 30 per cent or more in south-eastern Australia.”
  • “The majority (approximately 70–90 per cent) of the world’s tropical coral reefs are projected to disappear at even low levels of warming of 1.5°C.”
  • “A 3°C global temperature increase would reduce yields of key crops by between 5 and 50 per cent, depending on crop and location”.

So, scientists are being quite specific about what we’re facing … with a 50-80 per cent probability.

It’s time to consider removing decisions about climate change from the short-term political cycle. Perhaps increase the funding of the Climate Change Authority and give it the power to make independent decisions like the Reserve Bank, or at least public recommendations.

An independent statutory body, perhaps the CCA, needs to be responsible for preparing Australia for extreme weather and more disasters, including the problem of flood insurance, or the lack of it, which is with us now.

As for developing a plan to replace Australia’s fossil fuel exports, that lies with Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic because money will be needed, as well as long-term planning.

To direct the spending, they should set up a process, perhaps a royal commission, to establish priorities and, yes, pick some winners.

After COP27, there is no longer any doubt about what’s coming.


Alan Kohler writes twice a week for The New Daily. He is also founder of Eureka Report and finance presenter on ABC news.







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