Worst CO2 polluters – Australians

While we Australians tend to tsk, tsk at the environmental degradation we see in other parts of the world, here’s some food for thought.

Figures compiled by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change show that Australians are the biggest greenhouse gas polluters in the world.

Carbon dioxide emissions per capita annually:

Australia – 26 tonnes per person
United States – 25 tonnes per person
Russia – 14 tonnes per person
India – 10 tonnes per person
China – 4 tonnes per person

Australia’s emissions jumped by an incredible 26 per cent from 1990 to 2005 which represents one of the worst rates of emission growth in the world’s developing nations.

Additionally, our energy producers are one of the planet’s worst offenders with only Russia and Poland ahead of us. We also use the most electricity per person – just over 5100 kilowatt hours a person per year. People in the European Union only average 2947kwh.

These figures help us to understand why Australia backed away from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

The argument that dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions would threaten our economy was a terribly weak one – the green industry is booming; creating a new economy with many opportunities.

Our government didn’t want to give up dependence on coal-fired electricity generation, didn’t have the backbone to *tell* people we need to use less electricity and didn’t have the foresight to see that climate change issues weren’t going to go away on their own. It was somebody else’s problem to deal with, now many around the world are looking at Australia and tsk, tsking us.

All this anti-Kyoto attitude has done is made the task much harder in the years ahead if we as a nation truly want to be seen by the rest of the world to be seriously contributing to addressing global warming. We got a fair deal with the current Kyoto Protocol; we were even allowed some emissions increase. We negotiated, played the game and then basically threw the offer back in the faces of the other signators who ratified the agreement, cowering in the shadow of the only other signator country that failed to ratify Kyoto – The USA.

I don’t think we can expect the rest of the world to be so generous in negotiations for the next agreement.

While some of the work that needs to be done to fix this mess is certainly the job of our government; bear in mind that they’ve basically ignored the problem for the last decade, except for a few token gestures. No doubt the UN report will help spur on more green energy promises given the election coming up; but we can’t rely just on government to address this, whoever is in power – we all need to take steps to reduce our electricity consumption right now; to assume a great degree of personal responsibility.

Little actions multiplied by many will help; simple things like changing incandescent light globes to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s) and reigning in our phantom power loads are a positive step in the right direction as is saving petrol wherever we can.

I remember a very Aussie-flavored TV ad campaign from the 70’s or 80’s that’s stayed with me all these years – it talked about “having a go”; really motivational and patriotic stuff… from the accompanying song:

“It’s a typical Aussie morning
On a typical Aussie day
And I love this place I was born in
In a typical Aussie way
But I’d sure hate to lose that sunshine
And I feel that it’s slipping away
We’re going to have to wake up sometime
That everything is not OK

Lets all climb that mountain,
That’s what mountains are for,
Lets all stand up and be counted,
So we can do what’s worth working for,
‘Ave a go
You can do it,
‘Ave a go,
You’ll come through it,
It’s how we got the country started,
Boots and all and not half-hearted”…

Oddly enough, I think it may have been a political ad, but it may be time to bring back the “have a go” campaign for our emissions challenges as a way of raising awareness and driving the point home about personal responsibility.


Other greenhouse gases – it’s not just carbon dioxide