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EPA Part 2: How many degrees Celsius of warming will these new WA Guidelines abate?

EPA, WA, Logo

Time for the cost-benefit question. In a sane world, the business case for carbon mitigation is like a naked singularity. No matter how many times the question is asked, no numerical answer ever emerges.

Yet whole economies are circling around this very question.  — Jo


Question 2:  How many degrees Celsius of warming will these new requirements abate, and how will this outcome be measured?

What are the benefits to the Western Australian environment from the EPA recommendations, especially given that almost no nation is trying to reduce emissions and installing as much renewable energy as rapidly as Australia already is.[1]

The WA population is 2.6 million or about 0.03% of the total population of Earth. Given that the largest economies in the world, such as China, India, Brazil, Japan and Indonesia are not going to achieve significant emissions reductions, the imposition on the people of WA poses a large burden on the industry and economy of the state which may be entirely pointless. Only 16 countries are even aiming to meet their Paris targets.[2] One of those 16 is Indonesia, but only five months ago Indonesia threatened to withdraw from Paris Agreement.[3] The United States of America is one of the few that has reduced CO2 emissions, but not through any schemes or with targets. The reduction is almost entirely due to the growth of the shale gas industry.

If  we assume the IPCC is correct and assume Australia could reduce emissions to zero starting today, it would lower the temperature in 2050 by around 0.015 °C.[4] Obviously the total for Western Australia alone, and with only a partial reduction, is an order of magnitude (or two) smaller than this. If the IPCC climate sensitivity is 3 to 10 times smaller, as the empirical observations suggest, the total effect of Western Australian action alone will be smaller still.

The EPA is only required to consider the environmental implications, but even so, if the benefit of carbon abatement by Western Australian projects is surely measured in ten thousandths of a degree, should the EPA be pursing guidelines that have only a symbolic benefit?

Surely there are more important environmental actions the EPA ought be considering?

The EPA needs to define what a “reasonable” measure is.

Furthermore, if the EPA action reduces emissions, in all likelihood those emissions will simply migrate (with the jobs and capital investment) to the countries with lower emission standards. Thus the emissions will just be emitted elsewhere and the EPA regulations will have achieved nothing in terms of overall CO2 emissions.

Worse, most countries have lower pollution standards than Australia does, and so the net effect may be to preserve an immeasurably small part of the WA wilderness, but indirectly create more environmental damage globally.

The EPA document  argues that “It is rapidly becoming standard international practice for greenhouse gas emissions to be considered by regulatory agencies”. Many countries are paying lip service to emissions, but actual reductions are rare: see China, Indonesia, India, Africa, Brazil or the USA.



[1^] Blakers, A., Stocks, M., and Lu, B. (2019) Australia: the renewable energy superstar, APO Analysis and Policy Observatory,  ANU, [PDF]

[2^] Nachmany, M. and Mangan, E. (2018) Aligning national and international climate targets, London School of Economics and Political Science. http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/targets/

[3^] Telesur, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Indonesia-Threatens-to-Withdraw-From-Paris-Agreement-Over-Palm-Oil-20190328-0007.html

[4^]Evans, David (2011)  Independent calculations, published at http://joannenova.com.au/2011/03/carbon-tax-australia-welcome-to-futility-island/. Dr Evans, was formerly a leading Kyoto Carbon modeler, Australian Greenhouse Office.

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