The government has finally announced its emissions targets for 2030: a meagre 26– 28% of 2005 levels. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has defended this target by comparing it with other developed nations. We’re not at the back of the pack but we’re pretty close.
The justification for this target is that it will not endanger jobs and growth. Most commentators recognise that it is a bare minimum to avoid criticism from the climate activists on one hand and climate sceptics on the other.
But arguments about jobs and growth and not damaging the economy ignore the masses costs of fires and floods in Australia in the last decade besides which the cost of electricity pales into insignificance.
Serious climate scientists argue that the reduction needs to be closer to 40% by year 2030, a point that I have made in a number of posts previously. The problem is that this lofty target would do no more than slow the rate of global warming to the current rate probably around 2° by 2050. It is likely that the current rates adopted by most polluting nations will lead to an increase of 4° by 2050.
The critical issue is not percentages of emissions at some arbitrary point in time. The point is that we need to get emissions below the level that can be absorbed by the existing global carbon sinks (oceans and forests). We are currently running well above that level and a 40% reduction will give us a fighting chance of reducing global warming by 2°, generally regarded as disastrous.
At this level, we will continue to see the destruction of the polar ice caps, the intensification of coastal flooding and an increase of “hundred year events” of weather extremes.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that our climate system is a feedback system in which the rate of change accelerates. This means that we can expect things to get worse more quickly as time goes by.
The targets that have been set for emissions reductions both in Australia and overseas, will do nothing to alleviate the problem of climate change.
Other posts on climate change: