Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting rid of carbon 3 - the importance of numbers

I will not have time for a full post today, so instead I thought that I would make a brief comment on the importance of numbers and especially use of back of envelope calculations to check things.

Starting from the premise that we do in fact need to do something about climate change, my aim in these posts is simply to extend my own thinking and do some rough checks. I think that this is important.

If you look at a lot of arguments, not about climate change but about the responses to climate change, you will see very few numbers. Very precisely, you will see that we should do x at a cost of z to achieve y. The opposition puts up a different formulation in the same form. And the Greens just argue that we should do more and the future lies in renewables.

We then take all these positions of to international negotiations. There we end up with some form of compromise formulation.

But what happens if all these positions are wrong?

The Government argues, quite accurately, that it commissioned a report and then put up a green paper and a white paper.

The original terms of reference of the Garnaut Review were reasonably broad, although there was a degree of bias built in. The report itself did recognise mitigation strategies such as soil carbon and even included some numbers. However, it really focused on an emmissions trading scheme. It was an economist's outcome.

I am not saying that such a scheme is wrong. I suspect that we will need some form of carbon pricing.

I am just saying that as a reasonably intelligent observer with a fair bit of policy experience and an increasing degree of cynicism about the actual capacity of Australian Governments to deliver, I would like to know more. This includes testing alternatives. 

In a comment on yesterday's post, Neil referred to  Brian Dawson and Matt Spannagle The Complete Guide to Climate Change (2009). This does attach some global numbers. Unfortunately I don't have a full copy at the moment, just the excerpt from Google books.  

No comments: