The 2005 Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Gas Inventory was released this month showing Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and transport are 43% and 30% higher respectively than in 1990. 

So, if global warming is caused by power plants and transport, then our total Greenhouse gas emissions must be well above our unratified Kyoto target of 1990 plus 8%. Well, they aren’t. The report puts them at just 2.2% above 1990 levels.

What’s happening? Perhaps Al Gore got it wrong?

Big Al didn’t get it wrong, Australia’s Greenhouse-emission profile is just different from that of the US. So is Brazil’s, and Indonesia’s, and India’s and China’s. In fact, plenty of countries are different from the US. There are three big ways to heat the planet. The first is to dig up fossil fuels and turn them into extra CO2, the second is to take the carbon in trees and turn it into CO2, the third is to transform existing carbon into CH4 (methane). The US specialises in the first, while we and Brazil and others specialise in the second and third methods.

table from the most recent Australian Greenhouse Office report shows the Greenhouse emissions from different commodities. It shows that the tonnes of Greenhouse gases generated by the production of a tonne of beef carcase is more than double that of aluminium, sometimes known as “solid electricity”. The “End Use Allocation of Emissions” is a stunning report — all burger-eating greenies should read it.

The table also provides a clue about what has happened in Australia since 1990 to enable Malcolm Turnbull to loudly claim credit for meeting our Kyoto targets while actually doing bugger-all — as the power and transport emissions prove.

In 1990, Australia had 170 million sheep. Then, the wool market crashed and over the next decade or so the number declined to around 101 million. At the peak of the sheep boom, our farmers were clearing about half a million hectares of land each year. Fewer sheep means less pressure to clear land. A lot fewer sheep means a lot less land clearing, a lot less methane, and a lot of scrub regrowth. And Australia pushed through a deal at Kyoto allowing us to classify damn-near anything as forest and get carbon credits for it.

If it wasn’t for the growth in cattle numbers over the period, our emissions would actually be under 1990 levels. The cruel irony is that while the Government did stuff-all to reduce Greenhouse emissions, sheep farmers have been committing suicide and walking off farms when they should have been part of a national ruminant destocking scheme and properly compensated. They should have got a big slice of those tax cuts that Costello has been so regularly doling out to keep the Government in power.

An accident of global market forces has been the biggest single factor which has delivered us our Kyoto targets in the face of the Government’s stonewalling and inaction.

These are Mr Russell’s personal views and don’t represent official Animal Liberation SA policy.