We have been told for twenty or more years that carbon dioxide is the villain, and that unless we change our way of life the planet will warm to levels catastrophic for our species. It must be true, for President Obama has been saying so again quite recently. I came across a most interesting piece by Ed Hoskins, an Englishman who has written on climate matters before, and in this case he built his essay around some data released by British Petroleum in its Statistical Review of World Energy 2014. Other sources, including The Guardian, provide a similar picture.
Let’s leave aside the alleged villainy of CO2, about which I have written many times before, and look simply at the pattern of emissions over the past fifty years, by considering the following graph.
It seems that cumulative emissions from the developed world levelled out in the late 1980s, and are lower now than they were then, while cumulative emissions from the developing world have grown dramatically, especially in China. Hoskins has put Australia alongside Canada, Russia and Japan in a small bracket of countries with what Hoskins called ‘distinct attitudes to CO2 control’. In fact, the Australian group’s emissions are simply in parallel to those of the USA, which suggests that they have nothing much to do with ‘carbon pollution’ policies.
I can hearing a Green sympathiser saying, ‘But what about emissions per head!’ So let’s look at those, in the second graph.
USA emissions per head have come down from a high point that coincides with the start of the OPEC oil price increases in the mid 1970s, and are now at much the same level that they were in 1965. Much the same can be said about EU emissions per head. The rapid decline in emissions per head for the Australia group in the 1990s suggests to me that the decline is due to the collapse of the Soviet economy, but the emissions are now at the same level that they were in the early 1970s. Emissions per head in the rest of the world are advancing steadily. The third graph shows this plainly.
In Paris next year the representatives of the countries interested in the global warming scare, which is practically all of them, will meet to talk about a binding treaty that will govern carbon dioxide emissions. If it were held today, I think it fair to say that there is no earthly chance of such a treaty being agreed to.
Hoskins put these data forward to explain to the American President exactly why Mr Obama’s notion that the USA must cut its use of fossil fuels, the main source of carbon dioxide emissions, was simply silly, given that China and India were passing the USA in emissions anyway, and were not subject to his rule. But Hoskins made a number of other points that are more relevant to those of us in Australia.
Remember Kyoto, and how Australia just had to sign it, and how Kevin Rudd (remember him?) basked in the glow of approval for finally doing so? Well, according to Hoskins, just by using shale gas for electricity generation, the USA has already reduced its CO2 emissions by nearly 10 per cent since 2005. That alone, he says, has had more effect on global CO2 levels than the entire Kyoto Protocol.
Remember all the fuss about our carbon tax? Well, Hoskins says that if you look at developed economies that ‘rejected action on CO2’, their emissions have hardly grown. It doesn’t seem to matter what the policies are: economic downturns like the GFC, and improvements in technology, like shale oil and gas exploitation, seem to do the work better than treaties and laws.
And I would like the Greens leader here, and those in the ALP who still support emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes, to explain just how they would come to terms with the data above. Since carbon dioxide emissions seem to come down fastest if we switch from coal to shale gas for electricity generation, just why is it that the Greens oppose shale oil and gas? I suppose that’s a bit much to ask. Why not nuclear? France has the lowest emissions of any developed country, and 70 per cent of its electricity comes from nuclear power stations.
It’s probably too much to ask, if I point out that we’re getting close to 18 years without significant warming, then enquire how they would come to terms with that statistic too. If they say that they don’t believe the RSS data, and prefer that from GISS, I could ask had they read my last post on that subject. They probably wouldn’t have.
Vaughan Williams, the English composer, was once asked by a lady just how it was that he was able to compose. He paused for a moment, and then replied, ‘It’s rum go.’ I feel that way about some of the most devotedly outspoken orthodox, too.