Greg Sheridan was upset about my piece in the Fin, attacking his claim that the effects of Australian action on climate change will “will have an impact on the global environment so tiny it will be unmeasurable.” I’ll respond to the details of his objections over the fold, but let’s first tackle the substantive question. Australia is currently responsible for a about 2 per cent of global emissions. Under business as usual projections, our emissions were expected to grow by 20 to 30 per cent between 2000 and 2020. If we achieve the target of 5 per cent below 2000 emission, that implies a reduction of 25 per cent relative to business as usual, 0.5 per cent of global emissions. That’s about 1 per cent of what is needed if the world is to cut total emissions by 50 per cent over the next couple of decades, as is necessary in a stabilisation scenario.
That’s a small step that is not going to solve the problem, but neither is it “so tiny as to be immeasurable”. In fact, it’s pretty typical of Australia’s weight in international affairs – small relative to the big players like the US and China, but large relative to our share of world population. As a comparison, Australia currently has about 1500 troops in Afghanistan, out of a total (ISAF and Afghan army) force of over 150 000. Would Sheridan want to argue that, since our troops are less than 1 per cent of the total, their effects are so immeasurably small that we might as well do nothing. Well, no. It appears that Australia is immeasurably tiny only when we are doing things US Republicans don’t like.
I’ve appended Sheridan’s letter at the end of the post. He has a legitimate though minor point in relation to Plimer. The first draft of the article included a discussion of Plimer’s absurdities. I deleted it for space reasons, but accidentally left in an allusion to Plimer in a summary paragraph, which might give the impression that Sheridan endorsed Plimer’s views. I have no reason to doubt his denial of this, and apologise for the unintentional error.
As regards the “immeasurably small” claim, I surmised he got it from figures produced by Alan Jones which have been floating around for some time, and which, as I showed in the article, are absurdly wrong. Sheridan denies this and says, instead that he “can produce no end of scientists making that point, in roundabout ways.” However, he does not mention any names, and I think the weasel words “in roundabout ways” are pretty revealing. In the absence of any actual source, I don’t see any need to apologise for speculating. Whether Sheridan got the claim from Jones, from misinterpretation of the statements of scientists or out of thin air, it is just as wrong.
John Quiggin has misrepresented what I wrote about climate change (“Truth gets in the way”, July 7).
He alleges my source for figures I quote on greenhouse gas emissions is the broadcaster Alan Jones. I like Jones but as I live in Melbourne I never listen to him. The figures I?quoted came from government documents and an uncontroversial BP statistical survey.
Contrary to Quiggin’s comments, I did not say our efforts would have no effect. I argued that the effect of a 5 per cent cut by us would be so small as to be unmeasurable. If Quiggin wants, I can produce no end of scientists making that point, in roundabout ways.
Quiggin also associates me with Ian Plimer, the scientist who rejects the consensus scientific view of global warming. I have never until today written a single word about, or inspired by, Plimer. I have never written a column about the science of climate change. I neither contest nor barrack for the consensus view.
Quiggin has every right to disagree with me, but he should pay me, and his readers, the minimal courtesy of accurately reporting views he condemns.
fn1. I leave aside the question of whether the entire war strategy is misguided, and will delete comments on this topic, as I don’t want the thread derailed.