Home > Environment > Global warming statement

Global warming statement

May 28th, 2007

The statement by academic economists on global warming that’s been discussed here previously has been released, with 270 (or maybe 271) signatures including at least 70 professors. There’s a media release here. The statement is over the fold.

A Statement by University Economists on Climate Change

1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that warming of the world’s climate is ‘unequivocal’ and that it is almost certainly due to human activity. It expects that further warming will occur, leading to sea-level rise and changes in weather patterns most of which will be adverse. This finding is supported by the leading scientific bodies of the world, including the CSIRO and the Australian Academy of Science.

2. The IPCC and the CSIRO anticipate that Australia will be seriously affected by climate change including more heat waves, fires of greater intensity, reduced soil moisture, declining water security, greater risks to life and property from sea-level rise and storms, risks to major infrastructure from extreme events and substantial impacts on agriculture and forestry.

3. Global climate change carries with it serious environmental, economic and social risks and preventive steps are urgently needed. Policy measures are available that would greatly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at modest economic cost. Credible estimates suggest that a 50% emissions reduction is achievable for less than one year’s economic growth.

4. Economic instruments – such as carbon taxes or emissions trading – should be an important part of a comprehensive climate change policy. Revenue raised from carbon taxes or the sale of permits can be used to reduce taxes elsewhere in the economy.

5. A major change in our emissions-related activities can be achieved over an extended period of transition. Australia has shown over the last two decades that it can manage significant change without major negative consequences for incomes or employment and, in fact, with change being a stimulus to improving innovation in the longer term.

6. Since developed countries are responsible for around 75% of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and are in a stronger economic position, they should take the lead in cutting emissions. It is fair that developing countries should begin reducing their emissions only when developed countries, including Australia, have led the way.

7. The Kyoto Protocol represents the first step towards a major international effort to deal with climate change in the long term. The refusal by Australia and the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is undermining global efforts to tackle climate change.

8. In addition to demonstrating international leadership befitting one of the richest countries in the world, it is in Australia’s economic interests to join the primary international effort to cut emissions and we call on the Australian Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without delay. This should be complemented by domestic initiatives dedicated to emissions reduction.

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. observa
    May 28th, 2007 at 23:27 | #1

    Don’t tell me. Let me guess? There’s a Federal election around the corner and a plethora of concerned middle class academics are getting more concerned.

    “Credible estimates suggest that a 50% emissions reduction is achievable for less than one year’s economic growth.” -Really makes you wonder why Kyoto has failed to reduce overall emissions by the signatory countries over the last 3 years. when it’s that easy now doesn’t it? Just one more surge and it will mission accomplished eh?.

    “Economic instruments – such as carbon taxes or emissions trading – should be an important part of a comprehensive climate change policy” -Weasel words juxtaposing two substantially different approaches to hide from the failure of one of them to date. As for revenue from the sale of permits to reduce taxes, would the economists care to share those Kyoto amounts with us and the amounts of other taxes thereby reduced?

    “A major change in our emissions-related activities can be achieved over an extended period of transition.” Why the need for such an extended period of transition when it’s only one years growth in GDP. Oh I get it- “Australia has shown over the last two decades that it can manage significant change without major negative consequences for incomes or employment.” Hmmm, makes you wonder what many of these same economists had to say about the perceived horrors in handling a GST a priori and consequently how good they really are at judging significant or insignificant change.

    ‘Since developed countries are responsible for around 75% of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and are in a stronger economic position,..” -still makes you wonder why with only 1 year’s GDP growth at stake we need to be in a stronger economic position now doesn’t it?

    “The Kyoto Protocol represents the first step..” A pretty poor choice from among many possible first steps and now that Australia and the US have the benefit of that hindsight, probably need to consider a completely different first step like a level playing field of carbon taxation for all perhaps? That way we could all play a part in an international effort which “should be complemented by domestic initiatives dedicated to emissions reduction” rather than the antithesis of this with 25 year tax exemptions for special exemptions and deserving cases like the Iemma Govt gave Bluescope Steel. Come to think of it I didn’t see any clause calling on the Iemma Govt to sign up to Kyoto, but then perhaps there’s no election just around the corner in NSW to arouse the morally concerned here.

  2. Ernestine Gross
    May 28th, 2007 at 23:33 | #2

    I read the list of academics. It includes also Professors of Finance, a Professor from a Business School and one Professor in Public Sector Accounting.

    I should think this is a clear signal that the era of doctrinaire market economics (‘economic rationalism’) is gone. (I am not suggesting the people in question have ever subscribed to it, but rather that in the age of ‘perceptions management’ such observations may matter.)

  3. May 28th, 2007 at 23:41 | #3

    I should think this is a clear signal that the era of doctrinaire market economics (’economic rationalism’) is gone.

    I don’t think such an era every arrived. A lot of people talked about it but we seem to be stuck in the same perpetual socialist time warp.

  4. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 01:09 | #4

    Let me say here and now that I firmly believe we need a Rudd Govt to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a cooperative wall to wall Labor approach. Why so now?

    As an Adelaidean I’m particularly interested in them fixing up the Murray Darling once and for all. They (Bracks in particular) will have their opportunity to do that, or set the wheels fully in motion and no excuses.

    As far as more money for education, health, welfare and feeling sorry etc, that’s the stuff of bean counters, priorities and budget tradeoffs, whereas talk’s cheap in Opposition.

    On IR they’ve run a good scare campaign and want to wind back the clock to more union controls. I’m not particularly worried about that, because it all flies in the face of our open globalised economy. Short of introducing exchange rate controls and tarrifs, the unions can only fight a rearguard action and have no real effect on sectoral wage outcomes. Nevertheless, the Howard Govt has made a right mess of what was really a simple story to tell. That was their undoing, because as Gerry Jackson has so rightly lamented, they have tried to do it on the cheap, They didn’t do the hard yards and sell the message quietly and diligently and bring the electoate along with them. They had a message to sell and Therese Rein and her company is a poignant reminder to us all of that fact. Nevertheless they took the short road and are paying the price for that.

    Which leads me to GW and supposedly some real differences between the parties. Howard is cast as the reluctant skeptic, but may be just the experienced pragmatist really. After all he has 3 years of Kyoto failure on his side to back that judgement of him and he may know deep down, that short of an international miracle of cooperative zeal, it’s really a case of adapt rather than mitigate. Not a very sexy position at present it seems and he may be philosophically resigned to that. Against that comes the party of real concern or is it? I have been inordinately skeptical that true believers in cap and trade like Kyoto, really believe they can ameliorate GG emissions on the cheap. Further that they can even envisage reducing our fossil fuel consumption by 60%, let alone 90% and firmly believe it will not have serious ramifications for our ‘oil’ society. I just think that’s fairyland stuff, but perhaps they do believe it. However, when one of their own in Iemma govt broke ranks with them, without a murmur, I know now they’re charlatans. If GW was really their great burning issue and Kyoto so important to them, they would have lynched Iemma. Their silence is deafening. Well they will ride to power on a scare campaign and like the Howard Govt on IR, will have done it on the cheap (that 1% of GDP growth only folks!)Baloney and like this Govt on IR they have not prepared the electorate for the true cost of amelioration. That will come back to bite them just like IR for the Govt. They have raised the fear stakes on GW(sorry ‘Climate Change’) very high however and soon they will have to deliver ever so cheaply.

  5. BilB
    May 29th, 2007 at 07:30 | #5

    Gosh, Observa, so many words, so little content!

    I, for one, welcome the collective statement. It says that once the environmental road block has been cleared there is a committed body of coherent focused effort ready to apply to the solution.

    As with all complex systems going wrong there are many hidden outcomes that do not become apparent until there is little chance to make corrections. In a computer that requires a reboot. In our earth system that requires an extinction.

    There is a very real possibility that in some hundreds of years from now the surviving generations could face a carbon shortage. As we saturate the atmosphere with carbon dioxide the environment scrubs as much of the CO2 out as it can, but deposits it in more out of the way uncollectible locations. ie the sea floor. Rather than in surface vegetation where it is recycled more effectively. So by overexploiting the available concentrations of carbon, simply because we can, we could well be creating a mammoth problem for future generations. Same story, slightly different twist.

  6. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 09:08 | #6

    “Gosh, Observa, so many words, so little content!”

    Well let me explain it to you more succinctly about Kyoto here http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21812265-1702,00.html
    Which is no doubt why the Iemma Govt has ditched Rudd’s preferred policy already. We know Kyoto cap and trade has failed for 3 years and Iemma has just shown us all why. I remain unconvinced Labor are fair dinkum about ameliorating GW, but they reckon they are. I think they need the chance to prove me wrong now. Vote wall to wall Labor in Nov and we’ll see.

  7. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 09:31 | #7

    Basically BilB, what I was trying to say, is when you boil it down, there’s not much difference between the parties except on GW. I deliberately excluded Iraq because Rudd is deathly quiet on that now, simply because he will soon face the inevitable good war/bad war quandary. That means it’s ‘don’t mention the war’ now for both parties. IR is both sides preaching to the converted, whilst facing the inexorable/inevitable. In that respect IR will always face the tension/compromise of a Rudd/Stein marriage. That means it’s all about the environment stoopids! IMO Labor should now have the once in a lifetime opportunity of total cooperative Federalism, to prove their credentials on that now. Vote 1 Rudd Labor and we’ll put them all to the test eh?

  8. BilB
    May 29th, 2007 at 09:36 | #8

    So what are you saying? Because each Indian who releases 1 tonne of CO2 for every 18 tonnes of CO2 that you, yes you, personnally release is not going to cut back on their emissions you don’t see why you should? That is like someone who sits at one end of the table woofing down 18 chickens in a sitting calling someone at the other end of the table picking at one chicken, obese. That is Howards view point, and frankly, it stinks.

    Yes give me wall to wall Labour, it will be a refreshing breeze from the wall to wall greed that we have had for the last decade.

  9. Andrew
    May 29th, 2007 at 10:53 | #9

    The point Observa is making – quite rightly – is that things like the Kyoto Protocol are next to useless unless the major polluters such as India & China are on board. BilB’s chicken analogy is ok to a point – and yes, we should take a lead on this if only to take the moral high ground – but the reality is if 1.2bn Indians are eating 1 chicken, that’s still a lot more chickens than if 20m Australians eat 18 each.

    Personally, I think the solution is a revenue neutral tax system. If we really want to cut CO2 without hurting the economy or individuals – we should introduce a carbon tax and make it revenue neutral by reducing corporate and income tax to make the net effect of income/outlay neutral. Once we have a price on carbon emissions then people can start making rational decisions about whether/how to reduce them.

  10. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 10:55 | #10

    What I’m saying is we should all face the same price for carbon and probably the same agreed proportion of GDP as mandated renewables, regardless of country. That is probably Howard’s point and also honesty about what carbon taxing means(the economy). Labor and our academics are squibbing the issue as to the real cost of what they propose. Tim Flannery gives us an inkling of that here http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200705/s1932728.htm
    Notice how he says we can all cop a 30% rise in power bills(due to Kyoto caps note) and then says it’s OK because we can all make 30% savings in our power use, presumably at the same time as we’re cutting back by 30% all our other carbon consumption like petrol and the inherent carbon in all the goods we buy. Then we have the Australian Climate Change Institute study showing that if we don’t take action now power prices could rise by 75% by 2020, which would be-wait for it- 10% higher than if we got cracking now. Hmmm, 65% more anyway, which according to Flannery (and at least he’s honest)probably means 65% economies for us all. Meanwhile what happens to the price Chinese and Indian businesses and consumers face? Well, that’s the answer we’re all supposed to leave to our betters in Iemma to work out. Bah phoneys!

  11. May 29th, 2007 at 11:14 | #11

    Andrew wrote:
    we should introduce a carbon tax and make it revenue neutral by reducing corporate and income tax to make the net effect of income/outlay neutral.

    I tend to agree, although I would rather see company tax stay the same, and align personal, company and capital gains tax rates at (say) 35%. A carbon tax is very similar to a consumption tax really, given that virtually everything we consume has some energy content. The Right could really own this issue and campaign on a “Big Tax Switch” if they wanted to. Problem is, they’re beholden to Big Coal and the mining companies.

    Of course, the equity issue would need to be addressed. A hefty carbon tax in return for a reduction in income taxes would hurt people on lower incomes. Negative income tax anyone?

  12. BilB
    May 29th, 2007 at 11:52 | #12

    A carbon tax is the way that it will go, but remember what the purpose is. The purpose is to give impetus to alternative energy sources. My power bill would be around 5 percent of my family income a 30 percent increase in that will have a marginal affect on my living expenses. I intend to power my vehicles on E85 (85% ethanol mixed with 15% petrol) fuel as soon as Howard has dropped politically dead. This will take my motive energy bill down 30% which will leave me cost neutral or slightly better off. The energy content of the goods that I buy will not increase as every thing available in Australia comes from China. The batteries that power my accessories will soon be sugar powered fuel cells so that will be a significant cost saving. So far it is all good news. Observa, your glass looks half empty. Fill it up, you will feel better straight away.

  13. BilB
    May 29th, 2007 at 12:52 | #13

    Andrew,

    Putting things into proper perspective. According to the United Nations 2002 figures each person in India emits 1 tonne of CO2 per year, each American emits 20 tonnes per year, each Australian emits 18 tonnes per year. Therefore America’s 300 million people emit 6 billion tonnes of CO2 or the equivalent of 6 billion people at 1 tonne, and Australia by the same measure equals 360 million people at 1 tonne per year. So America’s and Australia’s emissions are not so insignificant. It is clear who should act first. The Howard’s and the Bush’s of the world have acted almost criminally on this issue by staring down the international community.

  14. gordon
    May 29th, 2007 at 13:50 | #14

    George Monbiot, who writes for the Guardian (his columns are reproduced here) put up a plan for the UK last October. Interestingly, the centrepiece is allocation of individual carbon credits: “…use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If he runs out, he must buy the rest from someone has has used less than his quota(2). This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The rest is auctioned off to companies. It’s a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the Emissions Trading Scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies”.

    We don’t hear much about individual carbon credits as a strategy for reducing emissions. I wonder why?

  15. gordon
    May 29th, 2007 at 13:55 | #15

    If Terje thinks the era of “doctrinaire market economics” never even arrived, he might enjoy reading this interesting discussion of the “economics Mafia” at Economist’s View.

  16. Andrew
    May 29th, 2007 at 14:05 | #16

    Gordon – the personal carbon allocation sounds like an administrative nightmare. COmpletely impractical to implement.

    Whatever we do has to be measurable, effective, easy to administer and politically palatable.

    To me that points to a carbon tax at the source. Tax power production and refineries – but make sure that it is revenue neutral so that individual consumers are not out of pocket but are incentivised to consume products that are a relatively low source of CO2.

  17. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 14:39 | #17

    BilB, my or your glass is hardly the issue here. Knowing my middle class peers as well as I do, I’m supremely confident their pips will squeak long before mine with any emissions regime.

    You say “A carbon tax is the way that it will go”, but I have no current evidence of any international moves in that direction. Quite the contrary. Rudd wants to sign me up for Kyoto, while the US, China and India don’t want a bar of caps and when we do sign, apparently the State Labor Premiers will join that same stance in droves, if the NSW Govt’s action is anything to go by. If Howard and Bush have ‘almost’ acted criminally here as you say, what then do we make of the Iemma deal with Bluescope Steel? Surely that is criminal, given that he is presumably not acting from blinkered ignorance like the other two might be. Isn’t Iemma just acting like a James Hardie exec in trying to circumvent known social costs for Bluescope shareholders and workers? Wouldn’t Bluescope be doing similar if it offshored to China in the absence of this 25 year, social cost moratorium from Iemma? If New South Welshmen deserve protection from bearing the ‘draconian’ social costs of GW, why not we poor Croweaters too eh?

  18. observa
    May 29th, 2007 at 14:44 | #18

    ..err and signed ever so umbly and poorly at the end of the Murray Darling drain- Yours Truly, etc,etc

  19. SimonJM
    May 29th, 2007 at 14:57 | #19

    BilB it’s just selective morality, how else can they justify that we caused the mess but they should be just as accountable as us?

    I’ve still to see anyone how takes this line give a serious account why having created the mess -I think the figure is around 75%- that we shouldn’t make the biggest cuts and use the wealth we created from this pollution to aid the countries like India and China –not to mention the rest of the developed world- to leapfrog the polluting technologies that helped us get us where we are today.

    Observa want to have a go?

    These countries could simply take the stance that we did, so should they as well and we can all go down the gurgler.

    On a different tangent a few have questioned though, the morality of being worried about death and displacement of millions from climate change when many don’t give a damn about those same millions when it comes to preventable diseases and poverty.

  20. Andrew
    May 29th, 2007 at 16:22 | #20

    SimonJM – that’s a really interesting ethical question. Should I be worried about millions of potential deaths in Bangladesh from rising sea-level when millions of poor people die in the world each year from malnutrition? They are similar but not quite the same moral dilemmas.

    The poverty question is the old ethical dilemma about living well when others do not. Should I not buy a 50″ plasma screen – and instead make do with a 42″ screen and give the balance to Oxfam? Should I put up with the old TV and give the whole lot to oxfam? Should I just sell everything I own and give it all away to poor people overseas? How much do I have to give away to assuage my guilt?

    The climate change issue is different. Should I stop driving a large car because of its Co2 emissions and the risk it will result in sea-level rising in Bangladesh? Very different question – I’m quite comfortable in saying that the choice of car I drive has no impact on climate change and therefore I have no moral responsibility for death’s in Bangladesh. However – I do get a guilty feeling when I see starving kids on the news on my 50″ plasma screen.

  21. BilB
    May 29th, 2007 at 16:57 | #21

    Come on Andrew, give these people some credit for sense. They are not going to just stand there and drown. They will move to higher ground, ground that is owned by someone else. A lot of someone elses who will band together to fend off the refugees. Refugees who will eventually start talking about a big vacant land with hardly any one protecting it. A land so large that they could be there for a long time before anyone even knew that they were there. And that land would be Australia. And we are not talking about a few boat loads here, we are talking about tens of millions of people.

    And about that plasma, allow me to suggest a Sony Play Station Portable. If you are sitting across the room and you hold the PSP up at viewing distance you will see that it has the same visual definition as your plasma. And the good thing is that it is portable, so when some one else says (a lot of someone elses say) that they want your house, you might be allowed to take your PSP with you.
    If this seems far fetched do some reading on the GW security position as seen from the eyes of a number of countries now preparing security position statements.

    And the other good thing ablout the PSP is that it uses very little of the worlds resources for its manufacture and almost no power to operate.

    As for the guilt, you only have to answer to your children.

  22. Ian Gould
    May 29th, 2007 at 20:56 | #22

    You know Obaserva, you really need to work on your obsessive hatred of the middle class.

  23. SimonJM
    May 29th, 2007 at 23:44 | #23

    Ok now its working go figure.

    So Andrew are you driving an electric car powered by solar energy? Or are you like a litterer who thinks his one piece of trash cannot make a difference and forgets to universalize this?

    Ok regarding poverty I’ve been thinking about Singer’s Drowning child argument in that not helping people dying from preventable diseases when it can be done at little harm or cost to ourselves is morally equivalent to passing a drowning child in a pond where there is little harm or cost to ourselves to save the child. So you need not give the shirt off your back but many of us could give a great deal more and it would still not greatly impact on our lives.

    I’ve been thinking of a paper on the flip side of this concerning reciprocity-Reciprocity and low cost preventable harm. The short version : if we in a developing country and got into trouble that was life threatening but the locals refused to help us, at little or no cost to themselves, on purely moral grounds I’d think many people especially the person in trouble would think harshly of those locals. But if we cannot be expected to help others in developing nations from dying from preventable diseases at little cost to ourselves why should we expect life saving help from other peoples when abroad in these countries? Since I think most people would expect help I think they are open to charges of moral hypocrisy.

  24. Andrew
    May 30th, 2007 at 07:56 | #24

    SimonJM – the point I was trying to make was about the personal nature of charity.

    In fact – your (Singer’s) drowning child analogy neatly illustrates it as well. No reasonable person would walk past a drowning child in a pond – however, plenty of reasonable people buy 50″ plasma screens rather than give the money to save starving children in developing nations.

    Your litter analogy is also spot on – the problem with mobilising society to deal with climate change is that we can all nash our teeth about how bad it might get – but try getting individuals to cut back on their own CO2 footprint when a) it’s just one small piece of litter, and b) everyone else is littering. Ever noticed how litter attracts litter?

    Giving to charity is close enough to saving a drowning child that we all feel good about it. Driving an electric car just doesn’t have the same moral imperative.

    That’s why to tackle climate change we have to make the adjustment at the source – we need to introduce a carbon tax and force people to make an economic rather than moral choice.

  25. BilB
    May 30th, 2007 at 08:26 | #25

    I’m not sure that you can meaningfully philosophise about charity as it is less of an intellectual choice and more of an emotional reaction.

  26. gordon
    May 30th, 2007 at 09:19 | #26

    Andrew, since we spend our lives swiping credit cards and Medicare cards, would it be so hard to swipe a carbon card?

  27. Andrew
    May 30th, 2007 at 09:26 | #27

    Huh? the fact that it is an emotional reaction is exactly the point…. to get people to change their behaviour you have to engage them intellectually and emotionally. The problem with climate change is that it is difficult to do both at the individual level – it is not like saving a drowning child.

    Therefore – the solution has to be driven at the source. It needs a collective response not an individual one. I’m not about to go around planting trees, driving smaller cars or cancelling the overseas holiday – however, I’m very happy to pay more for my electricity because of a carbon tax forcing more of it to be produced from more expensive alternative sources. The reality is that it is not really more expensive when the cost of climate change is taken into account – even if you don’t believe in climate change, surely you wouldn’t mind paying just a little more for electricity as an insurance policy in case you’re wrong?

  28. BilB
    May 30th, 2007 at 12:04 | #28

    I agree completely that GW is a national problem and has to be dealt with in that way. With solar thermal, geothermal, ethanol, and bio diesel, there is a complete solution for Australia that will cost us nothing in the medium term, more likely produce a reduction in the cost of living overall while bring our emissions down by 80%. It5 is just going to take a while for the fog to clear. Meanwhile I have my air conditioner on full.

  29. May 30th, 2007 at 13:15 | #29

    Jeez BilB, still banging on about biofuels?! I thought you would have figured out by now that biofuels do more harm than good. I can absolutely guarantee you that ethanol and biodiesel will never be a “complete solution” to Australia’s transport fuel needs.

    Some combination of solar thermal, geothermal, wind, solar PV, hydro, a bit of gas and an awful lot of conservation might one day be a “complete solution” to our electricity generation needs, but it will be a helluva a task. It certainly won’t “cost us nothing in the medium term”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with your 80% emission reduction goals, but I also agree with observa that there is zero political will to do anything about it. Its all greenwashing ATM, from all sides.

  30. BilB
    May 30th, 2007 at 14:33 | #30

    Carbonsink,
    I think that you have missed something here, perhaps the whole thing. But let’s examine your concerns. If you are interested post a list of your concern points as one liners outlining what your doubts are with the ethanol and biofuel solution and I will put your points to our research scientist associate (it might take several weeks to get a written reply) and we will see if he will validate your assessment.

  31. MH
    May 30th, 2007 at 19:08 | #31

    The elephant in the lounge room still remains ‘we’ the ‘royal consumer’ who have to change and who need to be convinced that increases in costs via increased energy bills hence increased product prices to reduce emissions is critical and then the transition economically and socially as fossil fuels are replaced by renewable(s) which means a significantly new (or old) way if doing a whole lot of activities we take for granted. That taken if I may also throw into the equation the asset replacement costs of some very expensive and soon to be very expensive fossil fuel based ways of doing business still to be put into the forward estimates balance sheets (that represents a significant fiscal and monetary cost cahnge).

  32. May 30th, 2007 at 19:12 | #32

    BilB, I don’t think I missed anything.

    Lets start with yield per hectare for sugarcane ethanol: 6192L/ha.

    Annual petrol consumption in Australia: 19 billion litres.

    Total area of sugarcane in Australia: 410,000 hectares

    If we converted all our sugarcane production to ethanol (and there is one crop harvested annually) we could potentially produce: 2.54 billion litres of ethanol per year.

    Of course, ethanol has less than three-quarters the energy content of regular petrol, so in reality we’d produce less than 2 billion litres of petrol equivalent per year. For biodiesel we won’t even come close to meeting current diesel demand.

    To the best of my knowledge there isn’t much suitable land available in Australia to expand sugarcane production, unless we cut down the Daintree, which gets back to my point that biofuels cause more harm than good.

    ABARE has some stuff on this:
    http://www.abareconomics.com/interactive/ac_mar07/htm/a5.htm

    P.S. I don’t want to hear about cellulosic ethanol, or algae biodiesel, because these things don’t exist, much like “clean coal” does not exist.

  33. SimonJM
    May 30th, 2007 at 20:08 | #33

    Andrew I’d rather not get into what a reasonable person would do as it is partly a social construction and fraught with cultural bias, as reasonable people have been racists sexists eugenicists etc from a comfortable mainstream position. Reasonable people also often fall victim to the what the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t mourn -out of sight out of mind- problem with folk morality.

    Maybe when we have our screens full of millions of climate refugees driving that electric car will have the same impact. The fact remains if it is contributing to the problem it is part of the problem.

    I applaud your willingness to pay the true cost of your activities but as has been pointed out carbon offsetting isn’t about the 1st world offsetting their affluent lifestyles carbon impact, its supposed to be used as a last resort once you have seriously cut your consumption and done your best to address your carbon footprint. It will take more than just paying a bit more for our electricity, but serious lifestyle changes.

    The thing about climate change –that some are already starting to pick up- it isn’t just about Global warming it’s also about global living standards. Before the 1st world could ignore –with token or self serving efforts- what was going on in developing nations. Now with have a situation that if they take the same route of using cheap and dirty fossil fuels to raise their living standards they will take us down the gurgler with them.

    I can understand completely China’s and India’s stance completely why should their citizens not have the same living standards as the 1st world; most of them don’t even have a fraction of it and we expect them to make substantial sacrifices while we still enjoy the fruits of our pollution.

    Both morally and as far as policy towards a solution, developed nations will have to contribute serious monetary and technical capital to developing nations so they can leapfrog our polluting past.

  34. May 30th, 2007 at 20:41 | #34

    Just a point on the personal responsibility issue and the example of litter. I was in a tutorial today where someone expressed horror at the idea of litter on the beach and this was accepted unquestioningly.

    But historically, our personal attitudes to litter have changed quite radically and this may in large part be attributed to the efforts of a single person (Ian Keenan). Now the point is, that he’s not a saint, but he was the right person at the right time. There do exist tipping points in society where personal attitudes can be moved quite drastically due to a mix of emotional responses and political imperatives.

    So the idea that changing people’s attitude to energy consumption cannot possibly occur or will only happen reluctantly as bills increase, may be only half the story.

  35. SimonJM
    May 30th, 2007 at 22:23 | #35

    kyangadac quite right, there is an argument that slavery didn’t change due to moral reasons alone but economic and social circumstances that were just right for the change. I expect it won’t be until some quite major disasters befall us before the shift occurs.

    Some are also saying this will shift global morals as well both in respect to the environmentbut also regarding poverty as well.

  36. BilB
    May 31st, 2007 at 07:56 | #36

    Carbonsink,

    Thanks for the points and the challenge. I will pass the information along to see what reaction it achieves. Just going on your sources, however, Abare points to 1.2 billion litre ethanol (current and planned) from predominantly grain stock, and the ord river alone offers 440,000 hectares with a possible yield of 3 billion litres of ethanol. That is before you find other suitable North WA and Queensland areas or use the allusive (by your reckonning), although significant future potential according to Abare, cellulose cycle. By my guestimation that takes us one quarter of the way to the target. What will happen when the mood swings from obstructive disinterest to enthusiastic recognition of national (global) need? Consider also what that fuel replacement does to our balance of payments.
    I grant you that the biodiesel side does not look as promising. I will also accept that there are environmental costs in acquiring the additional land for the extra production (the Daintree is safe as well as unsuitable). The actual amount of land required is relatively small, it is just where it has to be is the problem. Aboriginals own much of the suitable land and it will take a lot of goodwill all around to make it possible.

    Anyway, I am working on it.

  37. Andrew
    May 31st, 2007 at 10:38 | #37

    SimonJM – I’m also quite prepared to make a switch to an electric car…. but only when the sacrifice involved is at a reasonable level (that word again). When the performance of electric cars is not too dissimilar to carbon burning machines and when battery technology allows for decent range travel then fine. The problem is how do we get there? Who’s going to invest in the technology when the alternative is so cheap? The answer again goes back to the issue of properly pricing carbon – bring in a carbon tax and then we’ll see market forces make the necessary changes.

    There are two aspects to how a carbon tax will help reduce C02 emissions – the first is to encourage alternative energy sources, the second is to provide an incentive for people to conserve energy.

    I agree with you and kyangadac that raising awareness of the issue will help in conservation efforts – and Al Gore is the GW equivalent of Ian Keenan in this respect – and all power to him. Conservation will certainly help – and I’m prepared to do my bit in ways that won’t detract significantly from my lifestyle. I’ll install energy efficient devices, put in solar panels, low wattage light bulbs etc…. but I suspect I’m like most people in that I won’t ditch the car, cancel the overseas holiday or downsize the house.

    I can reduce my carbon footprint by paying for it – I’m quite prepared to fund more solar, wind, thermal or nuclear power by paying more for my power bill. Bring in a carbon tax and let the market sort it out.

  38. BilB
    June 1st, 2007 at 10:42 | #38

    Carbonsink,

    Investigation well under way. Bad news for you I am afraid. I’ve just has a very exciting conversation with a Queensland cane/ethanol producer. Broad brush figures: Queensland cane yields 100 to 124 tonnes per hectare and 92 litres ethanol yield per tonne of cane (10,500 litres ethanol per hectare average). The cellulose conversion is projected to yield another 86 litres per tonne on top of the 92. There is a new technology being trialed now which uses neither sulphuric acid nor enzymes to break down the cellulose (technology secret at this stage). If the combined process comes to fruition then we only need 1 million hectares for all of our Australian ethanol needs. There are 440,000 hectares possible at the ord river, another 150,000 hectares already under cultivation and the possibility to expand that by as much again. The gap is closing. Australian ethanol currently sells at 70 cents per litre. Farmers are getting 25 dollars per tonne return for cane for sugar production but 48 dollars per tonne for cane for ethanol production (there is an arrangement that gives 2/3 of the end product to the farmer and 1/3 to the mill). There is a need for DE10 (diesel 90% ethanol 10%) which apparently burns very cleanly but there is a separation problem which will probably be solved with a pre injector pump mixer.

    Ethanol is lookin’ good.

    My advice? Buy shares, but look at the type of process before buying. There is evidence that Europe will take an increasing interest in Australian Biofuels.

Comments are closed.