Griffith University Misrepresents Research

(Based upon an email commenting on a report by Griffith University, Queensland, on GHG emissions in Australia.)

The Griffith University researchers have really stretched on this one, having charged us with saying far more than we said. They painstakingly point out that correlation is not causation and then basically say that we found a causal relationship between urban consolidation and higher GHGs.

We did no such thing. Virtually exclusively we used the word "association" (or lack of it) to note the relationship between the studied variables and urban consolidation (the word appears 32 times).

Our report simply took the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) analysis to its logical conclusion. It is fine for ACF to do a report that identifies GHGs by local authority area --- and indeed their work so far as it goes is by far the best I have seen in the world. Since they did not complete the job, however --- to increase the size of the analysis zones so that a more "macro" view could be obtained, we did. In light of the causal relationship that urban consolidation proponents have liked to suggest between inner city living and lower GHGs, this was important and their failure to put this data out there was a serious omission. One can only wonder why the research was not completed (imagine the headlines in the Courier-Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, etc.).

We did offer conclusions, none suggesting cause. Our most important conclusion was that, given the strong association that seems to be in opposition to the widely held views of the urban consolidation agenda, policy should not leap before looking much more closely.

In my view, our research stands (along with that of the Australian Conservation Foundation, which is its data source), unscathed and has been criticized principally for something that it did not do. We noted association, not causation.

Specifically, the conclusions of our report are (page 14):

1. Lower GHG emissions are associated with locations farther from the core.
2. Lower GHG emissions are associated with more detached housing.
3. Lower GHG emissions are associated with greater auto use.
4. Lower GHG emissions are associated with lower population density.

What the ACF data says is that before “sleepwalking” into GHG reduction policies based upon preconceived (and even ideological) notions, it is essential that reliable data be developed so that policies can genuinely address the objective.

ACF Australian Conservation Atlas
Housing Form in Australia and its Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Griffith University Paper