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Pacific islands will view Adani mine decision with dismay

Wesley Morgan
Wesley Morgan - "To avoid catastrophic impacts, the world cannot expand coal production"


SUVA - News has broken that the controversial Adani coal mine in Australia has been given the green light for work to start.

So how will this news be greeted by other countries in Australia's Pacific neighbourhood?

Coal is the single greatest driver of climate change. In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained that coal-fired power must be phased out to avoid dangerous climate change.

To avoid catastrophic impacts, the world cannot expand coal production. Last year, 12 Pacific island countries issued a joint statement at United Nations climate talks explaining "there must be no expansion of existing coal mines or the creation of new mines."

At last year's annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting, 16 countries (including Australia) issued a regional security declaration explaining climate change is the "single greatest threat" facing the region.

In August, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison will attend the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.

Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga has explained, "it is my strong prayer that Australia will reconsider opening this new coal mine."

Sopoaga's counterpart, the president of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, has also explained that, "now is not the time to be debating the science, trashing solar power, or building new coal mines.

AdaniLast month, the general secretary of the UN, Antonio Guterres, travelled to Tuvalu, where he explained: "Stop building new coal plants by 2020. We need a green economy, not a grey economy.”

Fiji prime minister Bainimarama will attend the Pacific Islands Forum. He has told Scott Morrison directly: "We cannot imagine how the interests of any single industry can be placed above the welfare of Pacific peoples and vulnerable people in the world over.”

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, has explained: "I hope that the Australian government will see the importance of the climate issues ... we're all in this together. And we've got to help each other."

So, to summarise, news that the Adani coal mine has been granted approval to start construction is unlikely to be well received for the simple reason that expanding coal exports is not compatible with helping to address the “single greatest threat” facing the region.

Dr Wesley Morgan is a lecturer in the School of Government, Development and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific in Suva and an Adjunct Fellow at Griffith University in Brisbane


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Remember when CFCs and HCFCs were discovered to be burning holes in the ozone layer?

The world, including Australia, did something about it. They started to phase out the gases.

In Australia it is an offence under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 to manufacture or import refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that is charged with a CFC or HCFC refrigerant.

The problem with these gases is the carbon in them.

There is no doubt that the climate of the world naturally fluctuates and goes through cycles - to wit the various ice ages we have experienced.

The problem this time however is that we're helping it along by burning fossil fuels that produce carbon.

We haven't caused climate change but we are accelerating it at an unsustainable rate.

Given the consequences and multiple problems that burning coal and other fossil fuels produces we are morally obliged to do something about it. Just as we did with CFCs and HCFCs.

Hence we need to phase out the use of fossil fuels that send carbon into the atmosphere.

It's all pretty simple and it never ceases to amaze me how otherwise intelligent individuals can't grasp the concept.

But of course there are always those who won't let such problems get in the way of making money. Global warming and climate change probably won't effect them too much in their lifetimes so why should they care?

Prof Magali Delmas of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability in the USA says that although we’re starting to feel the effects of climate change, those effects are not dramatic enough on a day-to-day basis to convince most of us that climate change should be taken seriously.

Delmas says humans aren’t very good at dealing with situations that are high-risk but don’t happen very often.

But of course there are observable effects right now – melting icecaps, rising sea levels, hotter heat waves, worsening droughts, more numerous and more intense extreme weather events like bushfires and cyclones – and the overwhelming majority of scientists tell us there’s worse to come - KJ

Paul Oates

I take your point Keith about 'an inconvenient truth' but how do you tell someone in India for example, that you won't share your resources and they end up finding something to burn to make electricity or burning all the trees like in East Africa?

We don't have to. No sensible person is recommending immediately cutting out coal exports. The need is for coal production to be scaled down over many years enabling renewable replacements to take up the slack. But there is no need for new mines - KJ

Paul Oates

The problem Chips, is that those with an axe to grind have to have a target to attack.

When emotion raises its head, logic takes a jump out the window.

Esoteric debates about what will happen during the ongoing oscillations of the Earth's climate pendulum maybe emotionally cathartic for some, it won't change the eventual outcome.

When Greenland was last green and the Scandinavians crossed over to North America, I understand the world was considerably warmer than the 2 degrees we are currently facing at the moment. And that was before the Industrial Revolution.

Before anything huge happens in the area of climate change, or for that matter, the sea level significantly rises, the urgent problem that no one will confront is overpopulation. If this creates a problem in the Pacific Islands, just think what will happen in low lying Bangladesh?

It’s all very well to blame cows and other animals for their emissions but no one seems to be able to get their head around human emissions and the oncoming train wreck of the lack of fresh water and food and what to do with the waste we continue create?

What will be taxed in the near future when electric cars are the norm and petrol is phased out? Our Australian society is still built around personal vehicles. Try thinking about living without a car in our huge, dry and mostly infertile country? Electric vehicles will still need electricity to charge their batteries and how will that be produced? I just can't imagine how our food will be produced in the near future in sufficient amounts without using petroleum products.

Is it fair to say to those people in the world who don’t currently have electricity, you can’t have Australia’s relatively clean coal because it may cause a future change in the Earth’s climate. If those people without electricity then have to buy and use the alternative and relatively ‘dirty coal’ from elsewhere or build nuclear power plants (creating subsequent radioactive waste), to have their electricity, that’s their problem not ours. Sorry, we all live on the same planet. Look at what has happened to many people in East Africa where all the trees have been burnt to give heating and cooking fuel?

It’s always preferable to play on emotions however without providing an easy answer. Confronting hard facts just isn’t as easy. Al Gore has made millions out of lecturing some about climate change but I often wonder what his carbon footprint is as he travels the world.

Someone of your erudition should be more conversant with the science, Paul - KJ

William Dunlop

Chips - At long last we have a climate c hange statement that is factual and right to the point from yours truly.

Totally lacking in the great dramas that issue forth from the green political activists of the concrete jungles of our planet.

"Not even Kiwi Blanchfield with all his bulldozer skills would stem the flow."

You need to do a bit more reading, Bill. See my footnote to Chips' comment - KJ

Em Tasol. Slantie

Chips Mackellar

Someone should explain to our Pacific neighbours that the rising of the sea levels is a normal consequence of normal climate change and that nothing Adani does or does not do will change that.

Of course the climate is changing, otherwise we would still be back in the second ice age. And the natural rise of sea levels can be seen if you wonder how the Aborigines came to Australia. The answer is, they walked here, 60,000 years ago across what is now the Torres Strait and the Arafura and Timor Seas.

There were no coal fired power stations then, yet since then the seas have risen to cover the Torres Strait and neighbouring sea beds.

The sea level will continue to rise, eventually to cover some of our low lying Pacific island neighbours. So the answer to the problem is not to try to prevent the sea rise.

King Canute tried that and it didn't work. It won't work for us either. So other plans are needed, for example building dikes like the Dutch have done in Holland, or the Italians are doing to save Venice.

Failing that the answer is resettlement on other islands. Trying to stop Adani is not the answer.

The National Geographic organisation says: The change in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by ongoing global climate change: thermal expansion (when water heats up, it expands); melting glaciers; loss of Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets.

Consequences: When sea levels rise as rapidly as they have been, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats; it can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants. Higher sea levels are coinciding with more dangerous cyclones.

Mining and burning coal is driving global warming, causing waters to warm and become more acidic - KJ

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