If we can’t lead on CO2, we shouldn’t in sport or science
“Australia generates 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions and this ETS will reduce world levels by the smallest sliver, which self-evidently will have nil effect on global climate whether you believe in climate warming or not.” Barnaby Joyce – The Innate Problems With Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme, 17/12/2008.
Using numbers to lend credibility to a flimsy argument is not a new tactic. In the case of those opposing serious action on climate change however, one statistic about Australia’s proportionate global emissions forms the central flimsy plank of their argument. The argument goes that given Australia is responsible for only 1.5% of global emissions, anything we do to reduce CO2 levels is hardly going to make a dent globally. We can’t save the Great Barrier Reef, so the rest of the world is going to have to.
It must test well in focus groups because everyone opposing action on climate change has been trotting it out ever since the debate began. And let’s be honest, as a message it is working.
But what does the number actually mean? While it sounds small, it actually demonstrates that we are, in that much loved Rocky Balboa/David and Goliath way, “punching above our weight” when it comes to carbon emissions. Australia represents less than 0.5% of the world’s population, and yet we produce 1.5% of the world’s carbon emissions, three times what we should. But is it that surprising?
We are always punching above our weight, we take pride in it, it is part of our national identity. Think the ANZACs. Think Cathy Freeman. Think Stephen Bradbury. Actually, scrap that, think Cathy Freeman again. So in the global conversation about action on climate change, how is it that the magic number of 1.5% justifies throwing in the towel instead of jumping in the ring?
For a second, let’s assume that the argument stands. We’re a small country that can’t do much. Perhaps we should recalibrate other aspects of Australia’s activities and output to reinforce this. Take cricket. How far do you think Cricket Australia would get if they started arguing that because we only contribute 1.5% and India contributes 4.5%, for every 500 runs India scores in a Test Match, we should only strive for 165?
Not only that, but we should declare once we get there. It would certainly take some pressure off the middle order, not to mention the selectors.
But whatever you think of his captaincy, even Ricky Ponting will quickly realise that there’s not much point in showing up when India next tour.
What about the Olympics? In Beijing, we won 46 medals, including 14 gold medals. If we use the 1.5% rule, we should stop competing once we have 14 medals, and a maximum of 5 gold medals. Once we hit our quota, we go home. Sorry any athletes who have finals in the last few days of competition, we’ve hit our 1.5% and we’re off. Perhaps the recent Crawford Report recommending the reduction of Olympic athlete funding has used a 1.5% approach?
But let’s get serious. As Australians, sport is obviously important, but the question will be asked: what about something that will affect our standard of living?
Let’s look at GDP then. Australia’s GDP currently represents 1.7% of global GDP. Whoa there! We’re going to have to rein that in a bit.
Bringing our GDP down to 1.5%, although seemingly a minor reduction, is the equivalent of wiping about $120 billion off the books. Roughly equal, say, to the contribution made by the entire mining industry in Australia.
Bags not calling Marius at BHP.
It’s time to pull your head in Australia. All of you with ambitions to win a Nobel Prize or even an Oscar, those who think Australian ingenuity and know-how might cure cancer or (God forbid!) find a way to reduce carbon emissions, get real. You’ve got bugger all chance.
About 1.5% in fact (66 to 1 for the punters amongst you).
According to the 1.5 per centers we won’t make a difference and nobody listens to us.
See how well that message plays in the next focus group.
Or we could stick to what we are good at, being better than we should be and punching that little bit harder.
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