Carbon chicken-and-eggery?

15 Dec

I was interested to hear Tim Flannery on Lateline articulating what had (believe it or not) occurred to me quite independently – that the recent “cooking the books” accusations against the Australian government over the 82% rise in our emissions since 1990 are an example of chicken and egg confusion rather than dishonesty. The Times of India reported it thus:

MELBOURNE: Australia has allegedly wrongly presented its carbon emissions report by ignoring a massive rise in polluting gases from its agricultural and forestry industries, a report said on Monday.

This “misrepresentation” by the government has led to severe criticism from all quarters at the summit in Copenhagen. Australia has ignored a massive rise in polluting gases from agricultural and forestry industries, and has managed to make its overall emissions seem much lower than they actually are, the ABC said in the report.

While under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is allowed to up carbon emissions by 8% compared to the 1990 levels, figures supplied to the UN earlier this year say that between 1990 and 2007, the nation’s real carbon emissions actually rose by 82%, the report said.

This dramatic increase is a result of emissions from rural lands, caused by bushfires and drought. But those are the very same agricultural, grazing plains and grasslands that political parties hope will help offset the country’s rising industrial emissions.

Australia has led the charge on proposed land use rule changes to the new global climate deal. The changes will open the door to the bonanza of green carbon that can be stored away in the world’s rural lands, the report said.

But the move is deeply dividing the Copenhagen conference. Christine Milne, climate change spokesperson for Australian political party, the Australian Greens, said in Copenhagen that the country has been trying to “cook the books”.

“The United States has always wanted to use Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry as a mechanism for not having to do as much in its fossil fuel sector, and Australia has always been the fall guy for the US,” she said. “So I think what you are seeing is the umbrella group, chaired by Australia, including the US and Canada, trying to really cook the books in some dodgy deals on land use.”

Flannery rightly sees the additional emissions as typical RESULTS of ongoing climate change rather than causes – though there is that feedback loop going on there too, pretty much as explained by James Lovelock among others.

There is no doubt though that there is much potential for Australia in land management issues as a way round some at least of the climate change problem, but it is far from a panacea as Flannery also notes.

Jim Belshaw has been teasing out this one just lately; I commend what he says to your attention.

On the other hand in part of their book which is online Brian Dawson and Matt Spannagle (2009) have this to say:



See also: Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists for much relevant material: especially 1270 Optimising_Terrestial_Carbon PDF

  • OK, I am off to continue some therapeutic reading of Jane Austen – much needed after all this debate!
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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in Australia, climate change, environment



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