By James Moylan
The science is settled regarding the relationship of atmospheric C02 and average atmospheric temperature. Ice cores demonstrate a sturdy correlation that stretches way back for many hundreds of thousands of years.
We know that there is a lag in the effect because that is apparent from the data. It seems our oceans acidify and absorb atmospheric energy at a slower rate than was anticipated by many observers, and it also seems that a higher proportion of this increase in atmospheric energy is dissipated in increased wave and tidal activity than was first accounted for.
However the discovery of unanticipated effects acting to buffer the impact of the relentlessly rising proportion of C02 in our atmosphere, only demonstrates that we don’t quite yet fully understand the nature, magnitude, and speed of the currently unfolding climate catastrophe. Yet still these minor differences between predictions and observations continue to provide solace for fools, scoundrels, and politicians.
So the political discussion in our land regarding climate change continues to be morally bankrupt.
Our major political parties refuse to even acknowledge how much Australia is actually contributing to the rise in atmospheric C02 levels. They dishonestly focus on the proportionately tiny amount of coal we burn here at home even as we simultaneously subsidise and enable the activities of some of the largest coal peddlers on the planet.
If our politicians really did comprehend the true nature of our current global predicament then their rhetoric would certainly change. They would begin to start owning up to Australia’s actual contribution to this problem and begin talking about phasing out our coal industry in its entirety. They would confront the reality that we are morally obliged to close down our coal mines and walk away from them.
We cannot continue to blithely ignore that one in seven tons of the coal that is burnt on the face of the planet comes from one of our coal mines. Nor that when this exported coal is added to our total ‘carbon footprint’ it indicates that we are responsible for more carbon emissions than Germany, a country with close to four times our population.
To continue to export coal, and then ignore these exports as if they are none of our business, is exactly akin in moral terms to a country crowing over a fall in the number of heroin addicts at home whilst gleefully turning a blind eye to the production and export of hundreds of tons of the drug. It is morally indefensible.
Yet coal is far more dangerous than heroin. The burning of fossil fuels is slowly altering the constitution of the thin gas envelope which envelops our planet. Unlike heroin, any coal exported will certainly come back to damage our society and kill our citizens. It simply does not matter where on our planet our coal might be burnt – the problem remains corporate. The ethical responsibility and the ecological disasters are all equally shared.
Yet Australia continues to be an unashamed ‘climate change peddler’. Our politicians ignore the problem and substitute their own alibis for action which they profess will somehow ‘fix the reef’ or ‘meet our greenhouse targets’ while still enabling us to continue on with business as usual. It is a lie.
There is no ‘no-cost’ option available. We will have to invest a great deal of money and simply write off a great many assets. Coal mining will have to cease. We will have to look closely at all natural and coal seam gas extraction and consider if this also is an unaffordable environmental liability.
Australia is currently living in a la-la land of ten year plans for superannuation and corporate taxation that will all likely fall by the wayside when the cutbacks in coal consumption, worldwide, as have been indicated as necessary by all of our trading partners, suddenly turn into a reality. The multi-national coal miners will all leave Australia with their riches intact and their economic future secure. The politicians who had been doing their bidding for many years will retire. Yet the cost of the environmental and economic damage inflicted by failing to listen to the scientists will remain.
So while closing our mines and changing our ways will cost us dearly. The hard facts indicate that we really have no other option. We are faced with either acting now or being forced to act later.
A change over to renewable energy systems for local power generation, and the closing of our coal mines, are both inevitable. We can either ignore this until after all our coal markets collapse, and after our international reputation is utterly trashed, and we are in the midst of a long term economic decline. Or we can simply wake up to reality, take the advice of the climate scientists, and develop and instigate an orderly transition to a 100% carbon free economy.