The Truth About Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Noel Castree and Karen Renkema-Lang

In recent months there’s been much talk about our so-called ‘post-truth era’. Wilful ignorance of the truth and the promotion of patently false claims have, rightly, become a cause of concern among many political analysts, media watchers and others. However, let’s not forget that another, much older problem confronts anyone seeking to understand the world in which we live: namely, the selective reporting and use of evidence. This is the ‘salad bar’ approach to truth. The evidence reported may be valid, but it only paints a partial – and sometimes, absent other evidence – a misleading picture of the realities it supposedly sheds light on.

A case in point is Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and related sequestration levels. Australia’s contribution to the problem of anthropogenic climate change continues to command considerable media attention, and – if the problem were to be taken seriously – has very large and immediate implications for government policy, business behaviour and people’s consumption practices. Yet the precise nature of this contribution remains unclear to many people because of two things. First, there is a plethora of official statistics about emissions and sequestration levels. They are reported by various national, sub-national and international bodies. Second, this richness of credible data provides anyone wanting to talk about the climate change issue in Australia – indeed, in most countries – a chance to confuse (knowingly or innocently) those with whom they wish to communicate. Continue reading