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Issue #1726      April 13, 2016

Editorial

Adani: Greed trumps science

The warnings based on the science are clear: the Great Barrier Reef is threatened – in the long term and in the immediate in the form of the approval by the Queensland government of the monstrous $22 billion Adani coal mine, with its Abbot Point rail, port facilities, power, water, road works and airstrip.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the reef’s future. The Great Barrier Reef Authority’s Outlook Report for the Great Barrier Reef in 2014, states: “Climate change remains the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It is already affecting the reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the decades to come.”

Sediment, nutrient and pesticide pollution from catchment run-off is having a major impact on the health and resilience of the reef’s ecosystem. The Adani project would allow the Indian transnational to extract 60 million tonnes of thermal coal from the Carmichael coal mine in the Gallilee Basin, central Queensland.

For all the talk about creating jobs – the Queensland government’s justification – environmentalist warn that it is a disaster waiting to happen. “It’s an extraordinary decision,” said Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy. “We know the bleaching is because of global warming, Carmichael will only make that worse.”

”The reef is obviously in dire straits, irrespective of what anyone says, and that’s blindingly obvious,” said Dr Charlie Vernon, the former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. ”I think there is no single action that could be as harmful to the Great Barrier Reef as the Carmichael coal mine.”

Dr Vernon – who has discovered more than 20 percent of the world’s coral species – points out that around a third of marine species have parts of their life cycle in coral reefs. “So, if you take out coral reefs you have an ecological collapse of the oceans.

“… mass extinctions through ocean acidification, and the main driver of that is CO2.”

Measurements taken by the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s environmental management program and the Australian Institute of Marine Science indicate that average sea temperatures are hovering around 30.5 degrees, close to the temperature that scientists believe coral bleaching might occur (31.4 degrees), putting the region on coral bleaching watch status, with alert status occurring at 31 degrees.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals, due to stress such as high water temperatures, expel the small algae that live in their cells and give them their colour. This leaves them susceptible to coral diseases, and if allowed to continue, causes their eventual death.

An Adani spokesman has described legal challenges to the Carmichael mine as “politically motivated”. The widespread opposition to this destructive mine, nationally and internationally, rests not only on political beliefs but on the recognition of the potentially fatal blow it delivers to future generations, along with the very existence of the Grate Barrier Reef.

The Queensland government is facilitating a tragedy in its politically motivated, opportunistic and utterly irresponsible decision to approve the mine. The best the government can offer in justification is the mantra of jobs, a desperate and deceptive claim, given the clearly short term nature of employment in coal mining, and disingenuous in that employment in renewables will far outnumber mining jobs in the future.

As an astute letter writer in the Sydney Morning Herald noted, “But Queensland Premier, your mine, with its lifetime emissions of 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, will certainly finish off your greatest tourist attraction.”

Next article – Evanthia Sgouras

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