Sunday, 18 July 2010

Comparing emissions performance

I found a detailed statistical report [data up through 2007] that some may find interesting.

Without going too deep into statistics [a topic I enjoy, but understand if others do not]; lets just compare Australia to the USA with respect to emission performance. The report contains data going back to the 1970's; but is framed to compare data from 1990 through 2007 as a measurement against the Kyoto Protocol.

So, where to start? "How can a nation of just over 20 million be compared to another with a population 15 times greater?" One way is to level the data. Comparing emissions per unit GDP [per $ made in our economy], per unit of energy supplied, or per capita [per person] are fair means to level the pitch.

So, just looking at total emissions; how did both nations perform?

In 2007, the USA released 5,769 million tonnes of CO2 to Australia's 396 million tonnes. This doesn't sound too bad for Australia, right? But compared to 1990 data, the USA's emissions increased 18.6% while Australia's leapt by 52.5%; not so respectable.

"But, Australia's economy was booming then, population was growing and, while we were building coal and gas stations during that time, the energy industry told us they were super efficient, designed to reduce emissions, right?" Let's see.

The USA's total primary energy supply in 2007 was 97,969 petajoules, up 22% from 1990. Data for Australia is 5,194 petajoules, up 43.9% from 1990. "So what? Australia's energy demand grew faster, but this was necessary to keep pace with the economy, etc." We must compare emissions per unit of energy supplied to determine if this growth was managed responsibly.

So, the USA cranked out 59 tonnes CO2 per each terajoule of energy supplied in 2007. Australia produced 76 tonnes CO2 per terajoule; not good at all. Looking at performance since 1990, Australia's emissions per unit energy supplied grew by 6%,. The USA beat us here as well, cutting their emissions per unit energy supplied by 3%. This means the USA is installing new capacity that generates less emissions to make the same amount of energy, while Australia headed in the opposite direction, actually getting worse. In my opinion, Australia fails the responsibility test.

"Okay, we've lost the efficiency battle, but what about the growth of our economy?"

The USA's 2007 gross domestic product [GDP] was $11,468 billion while Australia's was $667 billion [US dollars equivalent to the value in 2000 - for data of both countries]. Growth from 1990 was 63% for the USA and 81% for Australia. Looking at emissions per unit GDP is a measure of enviro-economic efficiency, i.e. "Can we make money without generating emissions?" The good news is that both nations improved in this area, the bad news is the USA's emissions per unit GDP fell by 27% while Australia's came down only 16%. Bested again.

The final metric for this post is a simple, man-to-man, toe-to-toe size up. Divided into equal shares for each man, woman and child; what is your share of emissions? Sitting in the USA, you were responsible for 19.1 tonnes of CO2 in 2007 [a large number] - down 1.8% from 1990 [but headed in the right direction at least]. Watching the footy in Australia, you cranked out 18.8 tonnes in 2007, up a whopping 23.9% from 1990. Shameful.

I could have cherry-picked a comparison between heavily nuclear France or Sweden. Had I done so, the results would have been even more embarrassing.

Complete details may be found in the OECD/IEA report - CO2 Emissions From Fuel Combustion.