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Carbon Bombs: Havoc Accelerated, China And Australia Take The Lead

By Countercurrents.org

24 January, 2013

Powerful thrusts are being made to accelerate climate crisis catastrophe (C3). These range from dirty energy projects – Carbon Bombs – to ideas for manipulating the ocean biology. A Greenpeace study finds14 planned giant energy projects will increase global emissions by 20%, and China and Australia take the lead on the dirty path.

Point of No Return, The massive climate threats we must avoid, a Greenpeace report [1] said:

With total disregard for this unfolding global disaster, the fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US, and delay action on climate change for more than a decade. The 14 massive projects discussed in this report would add a total of 300 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (Gt CO2 e) of new emissions to the atmosphere by 2050 from the extraction, production and burning of 49,600 million tonnes of coal, 29,400 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 260,000 million barrels of oil. This represents an enormous increase in new fossil fuels, and an enormous increase in the impact on the global atmosphere.

The 14 dirty energy projects, said the report, range from massive expansion of coal mining in China, to large-scale expansion of coal exports from Australia, the US and Indonesia, to the development of risky unconventional sources of oil in the tar sands of Canada, in the Arctic,
in the ocean off the coast of Brazil, in Iraq, in the Gulf of Mexico and in Kazakhstan, and to gas production in Africa and the Caspian Sea. They are the biggest dirty energy projects planned in the coming decades.

Citing Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet, report by DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (2012, 2nd Edition, Madrid), The Point of No Return said: The world is quickly reaching a Point of No Return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. Continuing on the current course will make it difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the widespread and catastrophic impacts of climate change. The costs will be substantial: billions spent to deal with the destruction of extreme weather events, untold human suffering, and the deaths of tens of millions from the impacts by as soon as 2030.

Citing the Point of No Return Oliver Milman’s report [2] said:

China and Australia top a global list of planned oil, gas and coal projects that will act as "carbon bombs" and push the planet towards catastrophic climate change, a Greenpeace report warned.

The study, by consultancy firm Ecofys for Greenpeace, calculated that the 14 giant fossil fuel projects would produce 6.3 gigatonnes of CO2 a year in 2020 – as much as the entire United States emits annually.

The largest contributors will be China's five north-western provinces, which aim to increase coal production by 620m tonnes by 2015, generating an additional 1.4bn tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

Australia's burgeoning coal export industry, already the largest in the world, is in second place due to its potential growth to 408m tonnes of shipped resource a year by 2025, resulting in an annual 760m tonnes of CO2.

Meanwhile, controversial exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic could release 520m tonnes of CO2 a year, with further major emissions set to flow from other new fossil fuel frontiers, such as tar sands oil in Canada and shale gas in the US.

The Greenpeace report states that these 14 "carbon bomb" will eat up nearly one-third of the carbon budget that the International Energy Agency says can't be breached if warming is to be kept below 2C, considered the threshold for dangerous climate change.

The analysis suggests that there is a 75% chance of keeping emissions below the 2C target if all 14 projects – which are at varying stages of planning and approval – are cancelled, with emissions peaking in 2015 before falling by 5% annually.

"If these projects aren't wound back, we're looking at an extra 300bn tonnes of CO2 by 2050, which will make it very difficult to meet the 2C target," said Georgina Woods, lead campaigner for Greenpeace Australia. "The fossil fuel industry is diversifying and finding new ways to extract resources, often in toxic and dangerous ways."

"This is a last-ditch push by these companies to entrench themselves in a changing energy market. Countries which have agreed [at UN climate talks] that the 2C tipping point can't be passed should not allow these projects to go ahead."

The report comes at a time when China and Australia, the countries set to oversee the two largest CO2 escalations, have been forced to contemplate the potential downsides of major fossil fuel exploitation. Beijing has experienced unprecedented air pollution blamed on industrial output and Australia is suffering a record-breaking heatwave which has been linked to climate change.

Last year, projects such as those on Greenpeace's list were labeled "sub-prime" assets posing a systemic risk to economic stability by a group of high-profile investors, politicians and scientists.

The group warned Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King that efforts to keep the world below 2C of warming will demolish the value of carbon-heavy assets listed in the City of London, creating a "carbon bubble" that will impact institutional investors and pension funds.


Geoengineering could alter the oceans’ biology with implications still unknown. The effort could create havoc along with climate crisis.

Damian Carrington’s report [3] on the issue said:

Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study.

The proposed "geoengineering" technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world's coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.

"It certainly is not a simple solution against the global warming problem," said Peter Köhler, at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, who led the study. It would require 100 large ships operating all year to distribute 1bn tonnes of the mineral olivine, although it might be possible to use the ballast water in existing shipping instead.

Geoengineering – global-scale intervention to combat climate change – is a controversial idea because of the risk of unintended consequences on a planet-wide scale. But scientists argue it needs to be researched in case international efforts to cut the emission of GHG from human activities fail to prevent dramatic changes in climate and emergency measures are needed.

Dissolving mineral dust in the ocean makes sea water more alkaline and able to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The mineral olivine is attractive because it would dissolve within a year or two – delivering near-instant carbon reductions – and is present below the Earth's surface around the world. Köhler's research, published in Environmental Research Letters, found that sprinkling 3bn tonnes of olivine would remove almost 10% of man-made carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
More than 10% would be absorbed by the oceans, but the energy needed to grind and ship the mineral dust would result in carbon emissions. Up to one-third of that would be absorbed in the seas if coal-fired power stations were the source of the electricity. The mineral needs to be ground down to 1 micron size to prevent it sinking to the ocean floor before it dissolves.

The oceans already dissolve billions of tonnes of silicate minerals which flow into the oceans in the sediment carried by rivers. Adding more silicate would alter the species of plankton that grew in the oceans, said Köhler. "Silicate is a limiting nutrient for diatoms, a specific class of phytoplankton. The added silicate would shift the species composition within phytoplankton towards diatoms."

Using mineral dust for geoengineering would have some advantages over the main type of alternative, injecting sulphate particles into the atmosphere to block sunlight. "With atmospheric geoengineering, once you start you have to keep going. If you stop there may be a very abrupt increase in warming on a magnitude you do not know, if carbon emisisons have not been reduced," said Köhler.

Rather than temporarily blocking heat from the sun, the mineral dust approach removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so halting dust sprinkling would only mean no more carbon was sequestered. It also reduces ocean acidification, Köhler noted.

But he said it would be very complex to get the required international agreements to begin dust sprinkling, even if it were shown to be safe and could be funded.

"International regulation of geoengineering is currently inadequate," the UK government stated in September 2012. "It is premature to consider geoengineering as a viable option for addressing climate change. [But] research and ongoing dialogue with the public and other key stakeholders is vital to inform future policy and decision-making. The conduct of research does not imply an intention to deploy geoengineering."


[1] Greenpeace International, January 2013, 1066 AZ Amsterdam

[2] guardian.co.uk, Jan 22, 2013, “China and Australia top list of 'carbon bomb' projects”,

[3] guardian.co.uk, Jan 22, 2013, “Mineral dust sprinkled in oceans could absorb vast amounts of carbon: study”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/22/mineral-dust-oceans-carbon-geoengineering




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