Last Friday, the Environment Minister Tony Burke effectively told UNESCO, ‘don’t worry, be happy’, in response to grave concerns about the future of the Great Barrier Reef.
Burke’s response follows a UNESCO investigation of the Reef conducted in June last year. At that time UNESCO requested that Australia “not permit development that would impact on the outstanding universal value of the Reef”. UNESCO also warned that the Reef was at risk of being added to the list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger”.
In addition to longstanding problems associated with agricultural run-off and plagues of crown of thorns starfish, the Great Barrier Reef is now under imminent threat from expansion by Queensland’s out of control coal industry. Staggeringly, there are currently proposals for nine new coal export terminals and associated infrastructure for the Great Barrier Reef coast.
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In the mid-eighteenth century, coal engines did not only power factories and illuminate streets; they fired up entire nations. Burning coal allowed for material production to explode.
It facilitated the development of the quintessential assembly line necessary to produce building materials like iron to build infrastructure and allowed for the mass production boom. Burning coal allowed goods to be transported across countries and saw diaspora from pastoralist lifestyles to the thick smog of the city for employment.
In 1863 Sydneysiders saw electricity in action for the first time with the illumination of a battery powered lamp on Observatory Hill in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
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Watching a Test match is a great teacher of the virtues that make for success in life: determination, strategy and simply keeping your eye on the ball.
Anyone watching India knows that they are beating Australia hands down at all three. India is set to win while the complacent, lucky country seems sure to waste its natural advantages.
Obviously, after the events at the MCG yesterday, I am talking not of cricket, but of energy security.
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The health effects of radiation in the wake of Japan’s disaster are still unclear - see here or here for more information. But, closer to home, it is a good time to look at the health impacts of carbon, with Professor Ross Garnaut set to release his next carbon pricing update today at the National Press Club. David Shearman says the health of millions of people is affected by coal. UPDATE: Professor Garnaut told the National Press Club taxpayers will be better off under a carbon pricing scheme.
Coal has powered a welcome evolution of society, but as the ill-effects of burning coal have become increasingly apparent, so too it seems, has the temptation to neglect the real costs including the ill health conferred on millions.
This ill-health has remained an externality of coal combustion. Like the tobacco companies, Big Coal has not paid restitution for the human morbidity and mortality. Surely this must be re-examined when compensation for the forthcoming carbon tax is claimed by an industry which already receives government subsidies?
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You would think the Greens might have learnt something from the backlash they faced after using the 2009 Victorian bushfire tragedy to deliver an impromptu lecture on climate change.
With the fires still underway and the death toll rising, Senator Bob Brown commented at the time that the extent and ferocity of the fires was a pointer to the reality of global warming. Maybe so – not being a scientist I couldn’t say – but the more pressing issue was one of time and place. On both counts, Bob Brown failed the taste test, and quite spectacularly.
With the flood crisis now turning to Victoria, and the death toll expected to increase in Queensland as the recovery continues, Senator Brown has now decided to use this latest national tragedy to launch an attack on the coal industry. Unlike the bushfires, it’s difficult to identify any precise link between burning coal and the re-occurrence of a flood pattern which has been with Australia since well before white settlement, but the Greens Leader clearly didn’t want to let the opportunity pass him by. As Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce pointed out in a moment of lucidity, in 1893 the Brisbane River flood gauge reached 8.35m. “Was the coal industry responsible for that as well?” Joyce asked.
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Australian women hate nuclear power. Men quite like it, but women would rather go back to candles.
This is the startling finding of Auspoll’s latest research, a poll of 1,500 Australians’ attitudes to the sticky problem of how we should generate the energy to run our homes, industries and, well, everything.
Not so long ago we never thought much about energy - flick a switch and there it is. We hardly knew nor cared how it was generated, how it got to our kitchens or what fuel ran the generator. It was enough that the lights came on.
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Clean coal is in essence, an oxymoron. Much like ``friendly fire’’ or Kevin Rudd’s ``tough and hardline but humane’’ asylum seeker policy dubbed ``compassionate brutality’’ by one wag recently.
Of course, in the case of ``clean coal’‘, the term is used to suggest that it actually exists. Yet it doesn’t - least not yet.
Doubtless, it is a fine aspiration, especially given the world’s heavy reliance on coal, and it’s central part in global warming. But an aspiration is pretty much all it is.
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A Nielson poll has reported that about half of Australians are open to nuclear energy being considered as part of the solution reducing carbon emissions, up from 38% in 2006. So the question remains as to why half of the population doesn’t even want nuclear on the table as an option.
Is the dislike or even fear of nuclear power a rational one? The threat of nuclear war or nuclear power station accidents such as Chernobyl or Long Island (the only two accidents of any significance) should not be taken lightly; nuclear energy is awesome in the true meaning of the world.
But does it actually deserve the bad reputation is carries?
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Have you ever wondered why it is that nobody is going to jail for causing climate change?
You or I can fined $375 for “aggravated littering” (such as dropping a cigarette but near a petrol station), but you can get away with sea level rise, drought, bushfires and global havoc without so much as losing a demerit point on your driver’s licence.
Australians have felt this frustration, as we watched our legal system powerless to stop the expansion of Japan’s so-called “scientific” whaling programme. It is not as if there is no precedent for punishing big polluters. Early this year BP was forced to pay almost US$180 million for pollution violations at its Texas City Refinery. Exxon was forced to cough up US$1 billion over the 1989 Valdez oil spill.
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