Friday, 21 March 2008


Provided you 'believe' emissions are a threat and should be cut; what does a 60% reduction of 1990 levels mean?

According to the Nation Master Database, current worldwide CO2 emissions are 22.8 billion-tonnes [excluding land use] per year. Discussing individual, national or state emissions does not seem to make much sense. If they go way down in one country, but shoot up on another, not much good will come of it.

The estimated global population is in the neighbourhood of 6.68 billion.

So the worldwide average annual per-person emissions are about 3.41 tonnes CO2 per year. I don't know what this figure was in 1990, but let's see what it would take to cut emissions worldwide by 60% of this more recent value.

To achieve this reduction, global emissions would come down to 9.04 billion-tonnes per year. However, the population is predicted to grow, and by 2050 should be about 9.40 billion. This means our per-person emissions must be around 0.96 tonnes per year.

So, on an individual basis that averages out to a 71.8% reduction.

At the moment [all in tonnes CO2 per person per year]

  • The USA spews 19.5
  • Australia is sitting pretty at 16.5
  • Russian Federation 10.7
  • Denmark 9.44
  • France 5.99
  • Sweden 5.4
  • China 2.66
  • India 0.93 (pretty much on target)

So to do our fair share - we'd have to cut from 16.5 down to 0.96 tonnes per-person per year. In per-person terms, that equates to a 94% reduction [from current levels]. The population of Australia is about 20.1 million but is estimated to be 28.2 million near 2050. So we have to achieve these cuts while accommodating 40.3% growth. It's an even greater challenge if one considers cuts from 1990 levels.

So, what does this work out to in bulk, Australian emissions cuts?

My math is:


The result is a 91.8% cut in total CO2 emissions. This is our fair share. I beleive this is why experts are calling for such aggressive cuts - includidng complete carbon neutrality.

This does not mean we will have to reduce our energy consumption by nearly 92%; only that we must dramatically cut our emissions and still maintain the same energy quality, reliability, safety and affordability. Efficiency, conservation, renewables [where the technologies are demonstrated and make sense to deploy], clean coal [I am being kind, but not hopeful], investing the emissions trading 'windfall'* into some aggressive emission reduction infrastructure such as no/low carbon public transport, and a lot of nuclear power can help achieve such an ambitious goal.

In case you were wondering; based on the numbers I've collected for this post, if Australia achieves a 60% reduction in bulk emissions, that will put us at about 4.7 tonnes per-person in 2050.

But we had better get started. Orders are backing up.

*[This 'windfall' is nothing more than a not-so-cleverly-disguised tax. All costs will be passed on to consumers by energy generators, farmers and other large commercial emitters required to purchase emissions credits.]

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