Sunday 4 September 2011

The Age, and dodgy CO2 graphs

How The Age presents CO2 output per head

The Age ran a story this week about CO2 etc etc. The above graphic is a screenshot from their website. Notice that Australia is shown as the top emitter per capita.
The original graphic in a World Bank report

The lower part of the graphic is lifted pretty much straight from a World Bank report. Note that it shows Australian CO2 emissions to be up around 28 tons per person per year.

CO2 emissions per head from the Energy Information Administration
However, the US EIA lists Australia as coming 11th in emissions per head (the above graphic is from Wikipedia, but the underlying data is from a spreadsheet supplied by the EIA). It also lists Australia's emissions as being 18.9 tons per head per annum, not 28 tons.

So, who should we believe? The 10 countries that supposedly have higher emissions per head than Australia don't appear anywhere on the World Bank graphic.

By the way, I found this in the World Bank report under "Green taxes":

In the United Kingdom a carbon tax imposed equally on all households would be very regressive, consistent with findings from other OECD countries.
The reason is that spending on energy constitutes a larger  share of total expenditures for poor households than for rich ones. But the regressive effect could be offset either through scaled tariff design or a targeted program based on existing social policy mechanisms.
Without revenue recycling, the impact of carbon pricing or green taxes—even if progressive—is likely to harm the poor because poor households spend as much as 25 percent of their income on electricity, water, and transport. It is also likely to be politically difficult because even the average household spends about 10 percent of its income on these services.
The real income of the poorest will also be reduced in the near term as the higher up-front costs of greener infrastructure construction, operation, and services hit the supply side of the economy.
A green tax could have a direct effect on households (caused by the increase in energy prices) and an indirect effect (on total household expenditure as a result of higher costs of production and thus prices of consumer goods). A study in Madagascar found that the indirect effects could represent 40 percent of the welfare losses through higher prices of food, textiles, and transport.
Despite the greater direct consumption of infrastructure services by the middle class, the poorest quintile was projected to suffer the biggest loss in real income.
And people wonder why carbon dioxide taxes are so unpopular?


Skeeter said...

When assessing a country's contributions to a global effect, we should be judging it on the basis of that country's share of the area of the planet, not on the amount of CO2 per head.
A comparison of emission amounts on a per capita basis is largely irrelevent to the great global warming discussion.
Tonnes of CO2 per head is more a measure of a country's prosperity than of its "clean" or "dirty" methods of generating energy.
Also significant is how equitably the prosperity is spread over the humans in that country.
Let's see how Australia ranks on a basis of per capita dwelling-size, number of cars and number of refrigerators.
Once you accept this, you must also accept that significant per capita reductions of CO2 can only be achieved by reducing the prosperity and life-style of the whole population.

cav said...

Hey I wanna know how they calculate this stuff. I've read that it includes bushfires!