How to avoid the ‘point of no return’ from climate catastrophe

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Feature Story - 22 January, 2013
The world has a genuine chance to stop catastrophic climate change if Australia, China, the US and others act fast to stop the reckless expansion of dirty energy projects. These include some of the world’s biggest mines in planning right now for Queensland.

Point of no return

A new Greenpeace report, ‘The Point of No Return’  found that if the coal export expansion from Australia goes ahead, it would be one of the biggest global contributors to catastrophic climate change. In fact, Australia is the second biggest offender in the list of 14 mega projects, second only to China.

Australia: among the worst of the worst

Australia has some of the biggest coal reserves in the world. We also bear the brunt of erratic weather conditions, from heat waves to devastating bush fires. So by fuelling climate change, we’re making these extreme weather events even worse.

Here’s some perspective: carbon dioxide released from burning oil and coal from these 14 projects equal current levels emitted from the US. Coal exports from Australia would eclipse our domestic consumption by three times.

If Australia stays on track with current plans, by 2025 exported Australian coal once burnt would be three times as large as Australia’s entire domestic energy use. Explore the map below for an overview of where these emissions are coming from.

How to we avoid it?

We can stop our contribution to out-of-control global warming before it’s too late, by halting the expansion of coal exports. All the Governments named in Greenpeace’s report have the power and the means to stop driving us past the point of no return.

Renewable energy already accounts for 30% of the world’s energy sources. We can grow this figure, but it’ll take an overwhelming show of people power to make our leaders sit up and take notice of the scientific evidence in front of us.

Mega mines = mega emissions

The bulk of coal exports are ultimately destined for new coal stations in India and China, but residents in these countries are already literally choking to death. In 2011, 600,000 people died in India from air pollution, and a further 270,000 in China.

More often than not, it affects the most vulnerable in our world.  Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said:

"One degree celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10 percent productivity loss in farming … For us, it means losing about four million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion. That is about two percent of our GDP.”

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