Oh Good, Turns Out There’s A Red Hot Chance Australia Has Been Lying About Our Methane Emissions

"These numbers are the equivalent of the total carbon footprint of a medium-sized European country."


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Serious questions have been raised about whether Australia is accurately reporting its greenhouse gas emissions after a UK analyst claimed our methane emissions could be as much as two thirds higher than reported.

Christian Lelong, the director of natural resources at geospatial analytics firm Kayrros has been using satellite imagery, meteorological data, and atmospheric models to measure methane leaks from the world’s fossil fuel industry. As part of his research, Christian surveyed a number of different mines and fossil fuel emitters worldwide, but it was his findings on Queensland’s Bowen Basin — which is abundant in coal — that raises some serious questions.

“We found that emissions for all the 50-odd mines in that basin in total add up to about 1.5 million tonnes of methane per year,” Mr Lelong told the ABC. “These numbers [in the Bowen Basin] are the equivalent of the total carbon footprint of a medium-sized European country like Austria or the Czech Republic.”

However, if you compare this to the figures released by the Morrison Government for the same time period, only one-third of this level of methane was reported. This is particularly significant considering methane is more potent than carbon dioxide and accounts for over 30 percent of the world’s global warming.

The accuracy of Lelong’s data has not been peer-reviewed, but if found to be accurate, this is not a good look for Australia or our commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

However, Dutch scientists have drawn a similar conclusion this week in a paper that was peer-reviewed. After analysing data from satellite imagery from six different mines in the Bowen Basin, the scientists concluded that methane emissions in the area were much higher than what Australia is reporting.

To make matters worse, Lelong has previously approached the Australian Government to offer his expertise and his company’s knowledge to help better track and understand gas emissions and methane leaks. However, he has not been taken up on his offer, despite the fact that the Morrison Government recently asserted that new technology — like Lelong’s — is the key to our net-zero strategy.

“The Prime Minister says that they want a technology solution to climate change,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said after meeting with Lelong at COP26 in Glasgow. “Well, here we have incredible data satellite technology.”