Air travel comes at a cost to our environment. A round trip from Australia to Europe and back generates the same emissions per person as driving a car for 2 years.
Aircraft burn lots of aviation fuel, which generate CO2 emissions. These emissions are delivered into the atmosphere at an average altitude of 10000 meters, and it seems that at high altitude CO2 is a more potent greenhouse gas than it is at low altitudes. Planes also form clouds from ice crystals forming in their exhaust (contrails) and this has a further effect on climate change. After 9/11, domestic flights in the US were temporarily suspended. This had a small but measurable effect on temperature across the country.
I will be travelling to Vietnam in April for a much needed holiday with the family. The cumulative distance for 5 of us to get to Ho Chi Min City is 6846 km. By air, this trip will require 20 tonnes of CO2 to get the 5 of us there (that is our proportion of the flight), and back.
If I wanted to plant trees to offset those 20 tonnes of CO2, I could pay a company $500 to plant the necessary number of trees. It would then take those trees their full lifetime to absorb 20 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. That’s slow, but a lot better than doing nothing.
A quicker way of achieving the same result is to put that same amount of money into a renewable energy project. You are then helping to reduce CO2 emissions rather than soaking up the end product.
I’m going to donate my $500 to the 7 remaining surf cubs in SE NSW that are currently asking for donations so they can set up with renewable energy. That’s about the same amount of money that I save on my electricity bill every 6 months by having photovoltaic cells on my roof.
By the way, the Tathra Beach Café tell me that since they started turning switches off at night, they have saved over $1000. That’s money for jam.
What is Kyoto Protocol?
The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change, assigning mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to signatory nations. The core of the Kyoto Protocol are targets and timetables. The Kyoto Protocol also provides general guidance emissions trading, joint implementation, clean development mechanisms, and compliance and monitoring systems for activities such as land-use and forestry, that could modify carbon reservoirs or sinks. Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. However, the Australian Government has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
Although Australia is on track to meet this target, this is due to the target being set unsatisfactory low, rather than through a reduction of emissions. In fact there has been an actual increase in emissions since 1990.
What Does It Do?
The objective of the Kyoto Protocol is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Some of the objectives set out in Article 2 include;
• protection and enhancement of sinks of greenhouse gases;
• promotion of sustainable agriculture;
• research on renewable forms of energy and carbon sequestration technologies;
• reduction of methane emissions;
• enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;
• progressive reduction and phasing out of market imperfections, and financial incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments.
Australia’s Target Reduction Commitment
So far Australia has been able to meet its target of 108% mainly due to the fact that it has resulted in a steady growth since 1990 and some offset by reduction in land clearing since then. The emissions as of 2004 are 564,727.76 Gg (1,000 Tonnes). Emissions in 2004 were 2.3% higher than in 1990 and remain in line with projected emissions for 2008-2012 of 108% of 1990 emissions.
Further reason as to why the present Australian Government does not want to ratify the Treaty may be due to the constraints on incentives to greenhouse emitting polluters as outlined in Article 2. (below).
Article 2 (1) (v) Progressive reduction and phasing out of market imperfections, and financial incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments.
Compliance and Enforcement
Kyoto enables a group of several Annex I countries to join together to create a so-called ‘bubble’, or a cluster of countries that is given an overall emissions cap and is treated as a single entity for compliance purposes. If the Enforcement Branch determines that an Annex I country is not in compliance with its emissions targets, then that country is required to make up the difference plus an additional 30 percent. In addition, that country will be suspended from making transfers under an emissions trading program
Reasons why Australia and the USA should ratify the Treaty.
• To show environmental responsibility
• To be held accountable
Furthermore, by not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol we are not demonstrating stewardship of our planet, and this reduces our environmental credibility .
Although the Kyoto Protocol has its limitations and problems, it is still an important treaty because it provides a base line and target for reducing emissions.
The Protocol is clearly only a first step toward a global resolution on climate change. Yet one should never underestimate the potentially profound impact of the industrialised countries agreeing to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.
It is an important start to building a system in which more nations will work together under the common framework to slow and hopefully reverse the effects of global warming. The Kyoto Protocol not only requires a commitment from governments and businesses, but also a change in the way people live.
26 March 2007
Can we afford to tackle climate change?
Some of our politicians are telling us that any target to reduce greenhouse emissions would be bad for our economy, would result in the loss of jobs, and could mean Australia losing its competitive edge in the international market.
That’s what politicians are saying.
What are the scientists saying?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a bleak forecast, with a temperature rise of up to 6 degrees by the end of the century. Our Environmental Minister Malcolm Turnbull accepts this figure as old news. A 6 degree temperature rise in Australia is a very significant increase, from an average global temperature of 14 degrees, to 20 degrees!!!
What will be the cost of such an increase in our temperature? That’s a tough one. The Great Barrier Reef is worth 8 billion dollars a year for Queensland. What is the value of snow in the mountains? How will our agricultural exports fare? Whilst some countries may benefit from global warming in the short term (Canada), Australia certainly will not. An increased frequency of severe drought will have a profound impact on our country. A 3 degree temperature rise is predicted to cause 9 out of every 10 years to be dry in Australia. How will that affect Bega Cheese? Annual milk yields from cows will go down. Farmers will have to feed their stock more frequently, and the cost of that feed will go up. The problems with the Murray Darling catchment will get worse.
The cost of climate change is going to be enormous.
CAN WE AFFORD TO IGNORE CLIMATE CHANGE?
What are the economists saying?
The governments own ABARE says “Under all scenarios modelled, it is projected that both the Australian and world economies will continue to experience strong economic growth when carrying out greenhouse gas mitigation.”
What is the business community saying?
Last year the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change concluded that delaying action “may lead to a major disruptive shock to the Australian economy”, resulting in 250000 fewer jobs being created by 2050 and that future electricity price rises could be three times higher than if an early action scenario was taken.
Again from the Australian Business Roundtable “As our greenhouse pollution levels continue to rise, the country is building up a carbon debt. It is inevitable that we will have to pay this bill and the sooner we start making payments the less interest and cost we will pay later.”
From the Australian Climate Institute “An objective look at the data on the economic impact of reducing greenhouse pollution shows that the greatest risk to jobs and the Australian economy lies in not acting now. All available economic research shows economic growth continues even with significant cuts to greenhouse pollution.”