Report: Alarming new findings for our climate & our Reef

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Feature Story - 17 September, 2012
This week, the Arctic ice sheet melted to its lowest extent in human records – the result of an increasingly warming climate. Australia’s biggest contribution to global warming is our coal exports. While the Arctic ice reaches historic lows, Australia’s coal exports are reaching historic highs. Today Greenpeace reveals the true cost of Australia’s coal boom.
Cooking the ClimateClick on the image to view the full-sized infographic or download PDF(1.1MB)

Earlier this year, Greenpeace highlighted the industrialisation of our Great Barrier Reef, with new coal ports, dredging operations and increased shipping planned in the World Heritage Area. These impacts are just the part of the story.

Industrialising one of the world’s greatest natural treasures is part of the larger plan to dramatically increase our coal mining and coal exports. Australia is about to embark on an unprecedented coal expansion and the frontier for the rush is the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. Today, for the first time, Greenpeace can reveal the contribution these mines will make to global climate change.

Greenpeace conducted research to expose the cumulative damage from mining the coal in the Galilee Basin. We found that mining the Galilee Basin is in direct conflict with Australia’s commitment to limit global warming and undermines global efforts to prevent its worst effects.

Cooking the climate, Wrecking the Reef: The global impacts of coal exports from Australia's Galiliee Basin

Key Findings

Cooking the Climate

  • There are 9 coal mega mines planned in the Galilee Basin alone. 5 of these mines would be bigger than any mine currently operating in Australia.
  • To avoid dangerous climate change, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Yet burning the Galilee mines’ coal would produce a further 705 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year – that’s bigger than the entire fossil fuel emissions of Australia, the UK or Canada.
  • In fact, if the Galilee Basin was a country, burning its coal would make it the 7th largest emitter of CO2 from fossil fuel burning on the planet.

Wrecking the Reef

  • To export the coal from Galilee, enormous coal ports would be built and expanded in the World Heritage Area. If plans go ahead, two ports – Abbot Point and Hay Point – would be two of the largest in the world.
  • If we don’t reduce our emissions, sea temperatures will rise. If they rise by 2-3C, 97% of the Reef may be bleached annually.
  • Thousands of hectares of farmland and bushland will be destroyed to make way for the mines and the rail lines, and our groundwater would be threatened with contamination.

We are calling on the Australian Government to:

  1. Halt all proposals to expand coal mining and exports, starting with the proposed mega-mines in the Galilee Basin
  2. Prioritise the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and stop the development of new coal ports and terminals along the coast.
  3. Immediately embark on independent analysis of the contribution of Australia’s coal exports to climate change, and development of a national policy framework to control it.

The science is clear: we must reduce our use of climate changing fossil fuels. Yet despite the positive step of introducing a carbon price, Australia’s coal export expansion is sending us spiralling in the wrong direction. The federal government approved the first of the Galilee Basin mines just last month, and the coal industry is keen to have other developments approved quickly.

If we are to have any chance of protecting our Reef and the stability of our climate, we need a movement of people taking action. Please join this epic struggle for our future.