10 July 2011

A Bad Analogy in Australia's New Climate Policy Proposal

Australia has released its much awaited carbon tax proposal (here in PDF).  I am just now browsing through it.  This analogy in the document strikes me as particularly unfortunate:
The Government has committed to reduce carbon pollution by 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020 irrespective of what other countries do, and by up to 15 or 25 per cent depending on the scale of global action.

Meeting the 5 per cent target will require abatement of at least 159 Mt CO2-e, or 23 per cent, in 2020 (Figure 2.4).1 This is equivalent to taking over 45 million cars off the road by 2020.
Why do I say an unfortunate analogy?

Well, Australia has only about 12 million cars (and 16 million total vehicles), so using a reduction of 45 million cars "off the road" to illustrate the unilateral emissions reduction goal simply illustrates the impossibility of the task. Under this analogy, even getting rid of all of the vehicles in Australia would leave the country about 30 million vehicles short (for better ways to illustrate the magnitude of the Australian emissions reduction challenge, more see this paper). In any case, at current rates of growth Australia will have 5 million more vehicles in 2020, and not any less.

Back to browsing -- I hope that other aspects of the policy don't prove to be similarly impossible.