AUSTRALIA’S carbon emissions surged in the last quarter of 2008 despite a crumbling economy. The increase defied predictions that the financial crisis could slow emissions. Research by the Climate Institute suggests that the 8000-tonne increase in emissions in the December quarter is what would have been expected if the economy had been growing by 2 to 3 per cent. Instead, it shrank by 0.5 per cent.
Earlier this month, Professor Ross Garnaut‘s, the economist behind the Garnaut review of climate change prepared for the Federal Government, said the downturn in global financial markets would slow emissions and “buy the world two years” as global production slowed. But Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said yesterday the rise in emissions showed Australia still had a carbon-heavy economy and new policies were needed. The Climate Institute research is based on energy use.
The Australian result was not the only indication that the financial crisis has yet to curb emissions, with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releasing data showing an increase of two parts per million of carbon in the global atmosphere, the seventh largest increase on record.
The global carbon make-up of the atmosphere now stands at 385ppm. The Garnaut review called for carbon to be stabilised in the atmosphere at 450ppm to avoid “catastrophic climate change.” But evidence presented by scientists in Copenhagen this week now suggests 450ppm point could be too high and would lead to significant ice melts in Greenland and the Artic shelf, causing sea levels to rise up to one metre globally.