A touch of realism enters the climate debate

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Friday confirmed Labor is seeking a 45 per cent reduction in dangerous emissions by 2030, contingent on consultation with industry and the community, saying proof of global warming is irrefutable and the government’s policies are “pathetic” and an “expensive joke”.

It’s good that Shorten is at last looking at reductions in emissions that are and increase on the woefully inadequate target set by the Turnbull government .


 Bill Shorten is thinking about climate change but not hard enough

 The definition of the problem is quite simple.

 If we wish to stop global warming at its current level, then we need to make the rate at which carbon dioxide  and methane are emitted equal to the rate at which they are absorbed by the oceans and forests.

 If we want to improve matters, then the rate of emission needs to be less than the rate of absorption.

 It can be explained very simply in this stock/flow diagram.

To maintain the status quo:

 Carbon into the atmosphere = Carbon out of the atmosphere

 To improve things:

Carbon into the atmosphere < Carbon out of the atmosphere

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My modelling of the need for reductions in emissions is on my blog: Dummies’ guide to climate change and Dummies’ Guide to Climate Change (ii): Deforestation and the Carbon Sink

The modelling demonstrates that:

Clearly, we are not getting the required 80% reduction in emissions starting in 2014 but this does illustrate the magnitude and seriousness of the problem and certainly that the 5% target by 2020 will be woefully inadequate.

The other approach to the problem is to increase the capability of the land sinks to absorb CO2  namely, a 20% increase in total global forestation. 

This does not have as great an impact as cutting emissions but under the combined scenarios of carbon reduction and absorption capability increase, total CO2 in the atmosphere is finally declining. To achieve this we must have an 80% reduction in emissions starting in 2014 and at 20% increase in forestation, also starting in 2014.

So far the response to the labour proposal has been predictable.

The Australian reports Former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin as saying:“At the moment, Australia is contributing a greater economic loss than other countries with the 26-28 per cent target. To be going further out in front is not good policy.”

We should stop being so concerned about the cost of dealing with problem of rising sea levels and drastically altered climate patterns and start talking about the cost of not doing anything or doing too little.


The vast proportion of Australia’s population live in the coastal areas. Rising sea levels will be a problem for everyone, not just the Gold Coast.

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