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Climate Change Department Acknowledges Challenges in Assessing Emissions Impact

The Department faced inquiries regarding its ability to demonstrate the measurable impacts of its carbon emission reduction strategies.

Australia’s Climate Change Department has acknowledged challenges in attributing the impact of carbon emission reduction in Australia to specific changes in the global climate.

During a budget estimate hearing on May 28, representatives from the Climate Change Department were asked if they could show the quantifiable effects of the policies they had put in place to decrease carbon emissions.

Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts referenced a recent Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report indicating that the Department was “unable to demonstrate the extent to which specific Australian government policies and programs have contributed or are expected to contribute to overall emissions reduction.”

The ANAO also highlighted that the Department’s monitoring of climate and energy-related progress did not show the contribution of measures towards meeting emissions reduction targets.

In response, Kath Rowley, the head of the emissions reduction division, mentioned that her Department had “a range of ways” to track progress towards emissions reduction targets and quantify the impact of its most crucial emissions reduction policies and measures.

“We track both progress to date in our National Inventory Report, which is published every year and reports on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from all sources across the economy. And that’s a backwards look,” she explained.

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“And our emissions projections are based on a range of assumptions looking forward.”

However, Mr. Roberts was not satisfied with Ms. Rowley’s answer and wanted to know the specific impacts of the reduction in carbon emission projected by the Department.

“Do we see any difference in temperature? Do we see any difference in rainfall, snowfall, severe storm severity … droughts, floods, and sea levels? What are the specific impacts?” he inquired.

Ms. Rowley explained that the global climate and the effects of climate change were “a function of Australia and all other countries’ greenhouse gas emissions.”

She also pointed out that key reports referenced by the Department, as well as those produced by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), examined “the cumulative effect of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Difficulty Measuring Specific Impacts of Carbon Emission Reduction on Global Climate

Despite this, Ms. Rowley mentioned the challenges in determining how a change in carbon emission from Australia would specifically impact the global climate.

“It is rather more challenging to attribute a single change in the tonnes of emissions from Australia to specific changes in the global climate, not least because it is a cumulative effect,” she remarked.

“But, it is also crucial to note that the cumulative effect of climate change reflects global greenhouse gas emissions.

“And with the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, the projected impacts, and over time, the observed impacts of climate change will be less, and Australia is contributing to that as part of the global action on climate change.”

Ms. Rowley’s response led Mr. Roberts to claim that the Department lacked a specific method to measure the impact of its policies.

“It sounds like the ANAO was right. You cannot measure the impact of what you’re doing,” he remarked.

The Queensland senator then asserted that so far, no one had managed to determine the specific effects of carbon dioxide from human activity on climate factors such as air temperature, tropospheric temperature, and stratospheric temperature.

“No one anywhere in the world has provided the specific quantified effect of carbon dioxide from human activity on any temperature for any climate fact. No one ever,” he stated.

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