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Australian, Canadian & US Oil & Gas & Coal Threaten
Great Barrier Reef , Humanity & Biosphere

By Dr Gideon Polya

04 March, 2012

Australian, Canadian and US oil & gas developments, as well as existing huge coal exploitation, are threatening Humanity, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Biosphere. Not content with massive existing fossil fuel exploitation, these countries are developing huge coal seam gas (CSG) reserves at immediate environmental cost and the US and Canada are developing oil sands that according to Dr James Hansen of NASA simply mean "game over" for the Planet  (see  (see Elizabeth McGowan, “NASA's Hansen explains decision to join Keystone pipeline protests”,  Reuters, 29 August 2011: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/29/idUS257590805720110829  ; P.J. Partington, “Weaver and Swart study shows oil sands emissions still a problem”, The Pembina Institute, 27 February 2012: http://www.pembina.org/blog/612 ; and “Keystone XL : Game over?”, Real Climate, 2 November 2011:   http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/11/keystone-xl-game-over/ ).

Thus Australia is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution (71 times worse than Bangladesh) but is not just polluting the one common atmosphere of the world – it is also fouling its own nest as huge coal and gas developments in Queensland now directly threaten Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

Greenpeace has released an important report entitled “Boom Goes the Reef. Australia 's coal export boom and the industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef ”, March 2012: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/Global/australia/reports/Download%20the%20report.pdf .

Key quotes: “Queensland Environment Minister, Vicky Darling, welcomed [a forthcoming government strategic] assessment [of the Reef], stating “the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's great playgrounds… a $55 billion [pa] asset for our economy and supports more than  60,000 jobs for Queensland” …   

Capacity for [ Queensland ] coal exports by 2020: 944 million tonnes. That's enough to fill a coal train and wrap it 4.5 times around the world. Coal throughput in 2011: 156 million tonnes …

Number of coal ships in 2011: 1,722. Number of coal ships in 2020: 10,150 (more than one per hour all year)…

Proposed and approved dredged material removed from the Great Barrier Reef would fill 67 MCGs ([MCG=] Melbourne Cricket Ground) or 113,184, 000 m 3 …

The permanent destruction of the Great Barrier Reef would be both an environmental and economic disaster. But it is the reality we face today. Significant industrialisation has already taken place in and around the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This will be dwarfed if the proposed coal and gas expansions are approved…

The findings of the UNESCO monitoring mission will de discussed at the World Heritage Convention in St Petersburg in the Russian Federation in June and July this year. There is the possibility that UNESCO will declare the Great Barrier Reef “in danger” as a result of the government failing to address  the cumulative industrial impacts facing the  reef …

Sacrificing the  Great Barrier Reef for industrial excess cannot be an option. Today, we still have the opportunity to protect it, but that window is closing fast.”

To put this in a wider context, the Great Barrier Reef and indeed most world coral reefs are acutely threatened  by man-mad global warming. In 2011 the  atmospheric CO2 reached  394 ppm and was increasing at 2.4  ppm per year (see Mauna Loa CO2, US NOAA: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/ ) . At 450 ppm atmospheric CO2 (in about 23 years' time at this rate) most coral will be doomed from bleaching due to expulsion of symbiotic photosynthetic microalgal zooxanthellae  (due to ocean warming) and from inability to make the calcareous exoskeleton (due to ocean acidification) (see 300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm ).

Australia is one of the World's worst annual per capita greenhouse gas polluters. Success in “tackling climate change” is surely measured in terms of GHG pollution reduction but Australia's Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution increased from 1,077 Mt CO 2 -e (CO 2 equivalent) in 2000 to 1,415 million tonnes CO 2 -e in 2009 and is expected to reach about 1,799 Mt CO 2 -e by 2020 and 4,490b Mt CO 2 -e in 2050. However Treasury ABARE and US EIA data show the following Australian Domestic and Exported GHG pollution (in millions of tonnes of CO 2 -equivalent, Mt CO 2 -e) for Australia under the now-legislated Australian Carbon Price plan (see “2011 Climate Change Course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course ):

2000: 555 (Domestic) + 505 (coal exports) + 17 (LNG exports) = 1,077.

2009: 600 (Domestic) + 784 (coal exports) + 31 (LNG exports) = 1,415.

2010: 578 (Domestic) + 803 (coal exports) + 34 (LNG exports) = 1,415.

2020: 621 (Domestic) + 1,039 (black coal exports) + 80 (LNG exports) + 59 (brown coal exports) = 1,799.

2050: 527 (Domestic) + 2902 (coal exports) + 1,061 (LNG exports) = 4,490.

In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU; Wissenshaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen) determined that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2 degree C temperature rise, the World must pollute less than 600 Gt CO2 (600 billion tonnes CO2) between 2010 and essentially zero emissions in 2050. Unfortunately Australia (through disproportionately huge annual fossil fuel burning and exports) had already used its  “fair share” of this terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget and is now stealing the entitlement of impoverished countries  like Somalia and Bangladesh with very low annual per capita GHG pollution. The US and Canada have about 3 years left to zero emissions relative to 2010 (see “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions”, Green Blog, 1 August 2011: http://www.green-blog.org/2011/08/01/shocking-analysis-by-country-of-years-left-to-zero-emissions/ ).

It should be noted that in terms of primary vote in Australia , Labor (the neoconservative Labs; currently in government Federally ) has a 34%, the Liberal-National Party Coalition (the neoconservative Libs; currently in Opposition) has 44% and the pro-environment Greens have 12%. The pro-war, slavishly pro-US Labs and Libs are supported by 78% of the Australian voters and have essentially the same official climate change policy: a derisory 5% off Australia 's 2000 domestic GHG pollution by 2020 and unlimited GHG pollution through coal and gas exports.

The Labs differ from the Libs in how they will attempt to achieve this appalling outcome. Thus the Coalition has a Direct Action policy involving bioachar,  re-afforestation and subsidies for a transition to lower GHG pollution. In stark contrast,  Labor under PM Julia Gillard has actually no intention of even achieving  this derisory 5% reduction in GHG pollution in 2020 relative to that in 2000 – Labor has legislated  a Carbon Tax-Emissions Trading Scheme  that as shown by the above data will mean that Australia's domestic GHG pollution in 2020 will be 1.7 times bigger than that in 2000 rather than 5% smaller.

Further, Labor's plan essentially ignores Agriculture whereas World Bank analysts have recently estimated that Livestock alone contributes over 5!% of global man-made GHG pollution (see Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf ) . The Carbon Tax is mostly a futile cycle of taxing major polluters and then returning most of the receipts to consumers to pay for elevated power prices. The ETS approach has been empirically unsuccessful, is disastrously counterproductive and is inherently fraudulent: because the Australian Government will issue dishonestly licences for Australians  to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries on Earth. Labor's dishonest, spin-driven Carbon Tax-ETS- Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy is a disastrous policy of actual climate change inaction while pretending to do the opposite.

Labor repeatedly claims that its policies of “tackling climate change” for a “clean energy future” will mean “160 million tonnes” less of CO2-e pollution by 2020  but analysis by the Australian Treasury reveals that most of these “savings” will come from purchase of Carbon Credits overseas from Third World tropical countries. Ultimately one must judge a government on how well it has been prepared to “tackle climate change” by the GHG pollution under its administration. Labor came to power at the end of 2007  when Australia's domestic plus exported GHG pollution was about 1,363 million tonnes CO2-e and will face the electorate in 2013 when after 6 years it will be about 1,497 million tonnes CO2-e, or roughly 10% bigger than under the conservative Liberal Government in 2013 (domestic GHG was estimated by interpolation from the above data; coal exports are predicted to grow at 3.% yearly and gas exports at 9% yearly).

Expert advice  from a top business strategist on  what voters should do when faced with this resolute past, present and future climate inaction by Labor: is simply:  “punish the incumbent”. Australia and the World are running out of time. If a  government fails to “tackle climate change” for a “clean energy future” as determined by a DECREASE in annual GHG pollution then it should be simply kicked out by voters at the first opportunity.

It can be estimated from the above data that the domestic plus exported GHG pollution by Australia between 2010 and 2050 will total 100 billion tonnes CO2-e, 17% of the World's terminal CO2 pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes CO2. Thus Australia with currently about 22 million x 100/7,000 million = 0.3% of the World's population will produce 17% of the last 600 billion tonnes of CO2  pollution permitted for the whole World between now and 2050. Australia is assuming a right to pollute (100 millions tonnes /22 million people)/(500 million tonnes /6,978 million people) = 63 times more per capita than other human beings over the next 40 years.

Australia should be notorious for its continuing Aboriginal Genocide (2 million avoidable Indigenous Australian  deaths from violence, dispossession,  deprivation and disease since Invasion in 1788), for its appalling “secret genocide history” as an ally of British and now US imperialism (see: https://sites.google.com/site/aboriginalgenocide/australia-s-secret-genocide-history ) and for its White Australia Policy that excluded non-Europeans from Australia in the period 1901-1974.   In 1901 the genocidal, racist first PM of Australia Edmund Barton stated  that “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of an Englishman and the Chinaman”. In 1947 the racist former  Labor leader Arthur Calwell notoriously stated that “Two Wongs don't make a White”. Today the Australian Government is effectively stating that 1 Australian is equivalent 63 non-Australian human beings when it comes to permissible GHG pollution of the World's one common atmosphere.

However Australia is a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution: “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO 2 -equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 24 (Canada), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or currently 64 if Australia's huge Exported CO 2 pollution is included). Politically  correct racist (PC racist).  Labor today says that 12 Chinese, 29 Indians or 71 Bangladeshis are barely equivalent to 1  White Australian when it comes to per capita GHG pollution of the one common atmosphere of the world. Indeed Australians are currently  assuming a “right” to pollute 63 times more than  non-Australians in the terminal run-up to zero emissions in 2050.

However this Australian exceptionalism goes further than just racism  and ecocide applied to the Great Barrier Reef . . Both Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson ( Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK) have recently estimated that only about 0.5 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming. Noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050 (UN Population Division) , these estimates translate to a climate genocide involving deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including roughly twice the present population of particular mainly non-European groups, specifically 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis (see “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ ).

It must be noted that Australia is not alone in its climate criminality. Thus it has been estimated how much various high polluter countries the World in terms of Net Carbon Debt (Net Climate Debt) for pollution of the one common atmosphere of the World. Assuming a carbon price of US$100 per tonne, the Net Carbon Debt (in US$trillions) of the worst Climate Debtor countries (in descending order) is United States (7.2 ), Germany (1.7), United Kingdom (1,6), Russia (1.4), France (0.4), Australia (0.4), Italy (0.4), Japan (0.3), Spain (0.3), Ukraine (0.3), and Canada (0.3) (see “Carbon Debt and Carbon Credit. How Island States can save the Planet”, MWC News, 24 January 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/16412-carbon-debt-and-carbon-credit.html ).

What can decent people do to save the Great Barrier Reef , world coral in general, the Biosphere and Humanity from Australian, US and Canadian greed and climate racism? Decent people must (a) inform everyone they can about climate racism, climate injustice and  worsening climate genocide and (b) urge and apply sanctions and boycotts to all corporations, countries, people, politicians, and parties complicit in these worsening atrocities.  Today the Australian Government is effectively stating that 1 Australian is equivalent to 63 non-Australian human beings when it comes to permissible terminal GHG pollution of the World's one common atmosphere. Apartheid South Africa was excluded from international sport for denying 1 man 1 vote -  should climate racist, climate criminal Australia be excluded from the Olympic Games?

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .




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