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Coal: the Captain’s call and its catastrophic implications

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The last few days have demonstrated just how far out of touch some in the Australian media and political incumbency are from critical climate change events happening around the world.

Yesterday The Australian Financial Review condemned “eco-activists” for the costs they are supposedly inflicting on the Australian community (Eco-activism is a major cost to the community, 6th August 2015) after the courts overturned Federal Government approval of the Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin.

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Instead of condemnation, these activists should be congratulated them for their responsibility in trying prevent substantial economic damage and wasted assets, which will be the outcome if the Galilee Basin coal developments are allowed to proceed.

Predictably we now have the Prime Minister’s Captain’s call.  Coal, we are repeatedly told, is essential for the future of humanity, and for the alleviation of poverty in countries like India.

Every other consideration, must now be put aside in the interests of these major projects proceeding, Not just in the Galilee, but also the Shenhua Watermark mine in the Liverpool Plains, coal seam gas everywhere, and a host of others.

The preservation of biodiversity, such as the snakes and skinks in Galilee is extremely important, but the real issue is climate change.

Clearly the incumbency does not understand the implications of the latest climate science and evidence of climate change impact around the world.

Climate change is happening far faster and more extensively than officially acknowledged, largely driven by human carbon emissions.

We are experiencing substantial economic and social damage at the 1degC warming which has already occurred relative to pre-industrial levels, let alone the additional 1degC to which we are probably committed by virtue of historic emissions.  The official limit of 2degC warming is not safe, it is now highly dangerous.

If the Galilee Basin and Watermark are developed it will have catastrophic climate consequences, akin to other large high-carbon expansions such as the Canadian Tar sands.

Quite simply, as the IMF, IEA, World Bank and other authorities state, these developments cannot be allowed to happen.

Poverty will not be alleviated with these developments, but created.

Have the incumbency “experts” thought about the extreme events happening right now on the Indian Subcontinent – unprecedented heat last week, unprecedented rainfall now, to which climate change is contributing significantly?

Not to mention extensive damage in North America from extreme drought and fires as the El Nino intensifies, which we will no doubt experience shortly.

Those who lead economic debate in this country need to wake up to the fact that climate change will be the factor having the greatest impact on the Australian economy and society from now, to the point that it will fundamentally change our economic and business models.

It should be at the top of the agenda for the forthcoming National Reform Summit being promoted by both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review newspapers, but it is a fair bet it does not even feature.

This Captain’s Call, if the Prime Minister gets his way, will be the biggest economic disaster in Australia’s history and will fundamentally undermine our National Security.  Sounder heads must prevail.

Ian Dunlop was formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chair of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a Member of the Club of Rome.

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  • Keith

    I think Australia is changing its status from “pariah” to “nutcase”.

    As Ian’s article indicates, this has very serious consequences.

  • Chris Fraser

    Tony made it his personal business to destroy the wind industry, then worries about eco-activists destroying coal. Perspective makes a difference, doesn’t it ?As for coal lifting india out of poverty, has anyone even asked Gautam Adani how he plans to electrify southern India ? Or maybe that’s just one of the projects we want him to look into once he gets our coal there ?

    • john

      The people in poverty use no power and there is no transmission lines to give them power they can not afford to buy.
      In fact what is happening is Distributed Power is being provided and is a lot cheaper for minimum requirements.
      So to get rural areas able to require energy is not going to happen when the system is based on provision of needs from farmers being able to grow enough to look after their needs.
      There is a total disconnect from western countries saying ” I will lift you out of poverty by giving you power”, when they do not use power.

      • Chris Fraser

        I wonder if Tony has any idea of his sublime irony.

        • john

          In short NO

    • Petra Liverani
    • Jacob

      The price of coal and oil have crashed as people switch to solar, wind, and batteries.

  • Peter H

    The time of economic rationalist leadership is well past. We need visionary leaders who see the big picture and can drive innovation that this country desperately needs. Tony was elected a hundred years too late to be an effective leader of this great country.

    • Barri Mundee

      I wonder where the jobs will come from, given that the mining boom is
      probably over for the foreseeable future and the Abbott regime is trying to minimise competition from renewables which should be one of the engines of employment growth. We have 800,000 unemployed and when the under employment rate is added to that the total is about 1.8 million!

      http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6202.0Main%20Features1Jul%202015

      Remember when an unemployment rate of more than 1% was enough to tip a federal government from office?

      Why do we accept such high figures? It is an indictment of the prevailing neo-liberal economic paradigm that given favourable conditions and incentives for business, investment will occur. The reality is that the economy is basically stuck at levels of umemployment that might indicate a bleak future for the next generation .

      We need well-targeted demand stimulus in nation-building projects, of which renewables should form a key component. There should also be planning for the demise of both the car industry and we are already seeing the closure of older FF generators with more to come, perhaps within five years.

  • john

    I would like to know how $74 a tonne coal of lesser quality than Newcastle Hard Black works.
    The $74 is no profit no capital repayment !!
    Does not add up for India sorry try SE Asia perhaps.

  • Rob G

    I have noticed some shift happening in the business section of SMH. Previously articles that had fossil fuel investments would be protected from frustrated climate minded comments. Those voices were being silenced. But yesterday, for the first time, I saw a fully fledged group of voices for climate concerns connected to an investment story. I made a comment that such articles are constantly leaving out the climate factor – others felt the same way. I’m hoping these business guys smarten up and consider this in the conversation in future. We’re not going to let up on this.

    • john

      Rob a few years ago SMH dropped tis science section by sacking the journalists to keep in line with the other outlet, who have zero science people at all.
      So now you can actually comment I will not bother frankly.

  • onesecond

    “How to ruin an economy with Tony Abott” out now in theaters across the globe! You will see major drama and heartbreak while witnessing the decline of over twenty million people into poverty and natural disasters in an oscar winning screenplay by Ang Lee. Don’t miss the 2020 blockbuster in our renewably climated cinemas! (Small popcorn only 20 dollar)

  • lin

    Thanks Ian. It is good to see this confirmed from someone with an fossil fuel industry insider’s perspective as well as the climate/environment/health/science perspectives.

  • mick

    adani power in india on youtube

    • Jacob

      You can edit your post to put the URL in your post.

      • mick

        thanks mate but only just got L plates posting cheers

  • Rob

    Does Tony Abbott really expect us to believe him when he says part of the reason he wants the Adani Coal mine to go ahead is because he cares about India’s poor? He doesn’t even care about our poor let alone India’s! Pull the other one Tony!

  • MaxG

    If you have a head of state who tells you the earth is flat, what can you do? This man needs to be incarcerated for crimes against the Australian People. What a nut case!

  • Miles Harding

    If the Rockefellers deserting fossil fuels wasn’t bad, we have another captain of this industry deserting the ranks. Well done Ian, for so clearly stating what is actually ‘good for humanity’ over captain Tony’s corrupt vision.

    The apparent death of the Carmichael mine is a welcome development, but I feel that the message has been miscommunicated. The ACF Chief, Geoffrey Cousins was being interviewed on the ABC a couple of days ago and was describing the decision as a victory for the environment. He failed to mention that the banks also think it’s hopeless, so it is really a loser by any measure, economic or environmental!

    I hope anybody reading this and being interviewed will stress collected banks’ low opinion of the project in addition to the increasingly dire ecological implications of these ‘greed over good sense’ projects.

  • mick

    a coal seam fracup in qld when will the idiots wakeup