You are here

How can GHG emissions be reduced if Australian coal exports are increased?

This was originally posted to a discussion concerning the article Garnaut draft report released by John Quiggin. I posted it in response to another post:

This whole we are only 1% of the problem, however ill defined is missing another point… and that point is …

We are far more than 1% of internationally traded coal.

If we so choose, we have leverage.

But do we choose the thirty pieces of silver or do we choose salvation… a habitable planet?

SP, you have raised an extremely important question which has been, surprisingly, dodged by many avowed environmentalists. I wasn't even able to get clear statement from former Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett on this question. (See discussion in response to Larvateus Prodeo article Will “the great immigration debate” take place? of 21 May 08.)

Any serious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must include a winding back of the rate of extraction and export of coal. We should certainly not be contemplating increases in the rate of exports and building infrastructure in order to facilitate that increase.

On 12 February 2007 last year when Greens Senator Bob Brown advocated that we plan to wind back our coal exports, he was savagely denounced by the Courier Mail and I assume the rest of the Murdoch newsmedia. The front page headline shrieked some like "This man wants to destroy 50,000 jobs!" beneath a photo of Bob Brown. Inside the story Kill coal off, says Bob was only slightly less hysterical. The effect of this, of course, was to preclude any calm discussion of this issue amongst the wider community. This is only one of almost countless illustrations of why the Murdoch Press is part of the problem and not part of the solution. They helped get us into the mess we are now in by denying the evidence of global warming for decades, the reckless encouragement of population growth both in Australia and abroad (at least, indirectly, by its support of President George W Bush who as cut funding to family planning aid to the Third World) and they certainly won't be helping to get us out of the mess.

If we are sincere about cutting GHG emissions both here and in the rest of the World we have to plan to reduce our exports of coal. Carbon dioxide sequestration is clearly useless for all practical purposes, as the technology, and a systems to police it, even if they work, cannot possibly take effect for decades after which it will be too late, so this should not be held as an excuse not to reduce our exports. We should certainly not be contemplating increases in the rate of exports and building infrastructure in order to facilitate that increase (a barrow which the Murdoch media never loses an opportunity to push these days). Some links, which may be of interest include:,

Appendix: More on the stance of the Murdoch newsmedia on the Garnaut Report

Garnaut wisdom behind the detail, the Weekend Australian editorial of 5 Jul 08. Supports Garnaut recommendations but argues that trading scheme should start in 2010 and not 2012. Remains "optimistic that given the chance, the free market will find the technological solutions required to combat climate change". Nevertheless, it believes that Australia should not act alone. Nothing said about Australia's escalating rate of the extraction and export of coal and other minerals and no reference made to the relentless campaign by The Australian to have more infrastructure built to facilitate their export. No reference is made to its support for population growth through record high immigration which is the principle driver of Australia's increases in GHG emissions. See Workers welcome editorial of 16 May 08.

Time to get climate change right Courier Mail editorial of 5 Jul 08. Also supports Garnaut Report in principle, like The Australian's editorial, but argues that the commencement date be delayed to 2012. Correctly acknowledges, in part, the problems of carbon dioxide geo-sequestration, but uses this to advocates that nuclear power be used instead. The adoption of nuclear power in Australia is a barrow that the Murdoch Press that the Murdoch media has decided to push very hard recently. Also, there is an implicit acknowledgement that Australia's coal industry is adding to the problem:

The flip side of these warnings is the possibility that a high carbon price and a steep reduction trajectory could cause dramatic dislocation in regions dependent on trade-exposed, emission-intensive industries such as coal mining and aluminium production.

Clearly nuclear power can only possibly solve the problem for coal mining by replacing coal as a source of energy, but it remains to be seen if the Courier Mail will back away from its earlier strident support of Australia's coal mining industry.

We must act now on climate change: Ross Garnaut in The Australian of 5 Jul 08, and Climate fight will cost us all In the Courier Mail of 5 Jul 08

Image icon smokingchimneys3.jpg2 KB


The use of renewables for generating power is to be congratulated. The latest coal market news is that emerging countries are predicting to use large amounts of thermal coal for power generation and metallurgical coal for steel production.
Cherry of

Australia's greenhouse gas cut targets quietly tripled on Saturday night, from a 5 per cent cut by 2020 to a cut of more than 18 per cent. This new ambitious target has been set due to the failure of the Federal government to repeal the carbon tax. The potential for a higher Australia target comes as the US prepares to unveil a much more aggressive climate policy of its own on Monday.

Obama says the rules to limit the emissions from thousand of power plants are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country. The administration says the rules will play a major role in achieving the pledge Obama made in Copenhagen during his first year in office to cut America's carbon emissions by about 17 per cent by 2020.

In response, Australia's goal is based on a tally that is 38 million tonnes below the 2012-13 emissions level, shrinking each year by 12 million tonnes. In practise, since 2012-13 emissions were much less than expected, the resulting trajectory is also for a lower target by the end of the decade.

Read more:

The Abbott government is not nearly as enthusiastic, ending funding for a range of clean energy programs and wanting to axe the carbon tax. There will be some awkward discussions when Abbott meets with Obama next week. "Tony Abbott is about to abandon the very policy the rest of the world is now reaching for - a price on pollution," leader Christine Milne said.

According to the government's own assessment, Australia’s Abatement Task and 2013 Emissions Projections. "Despite the moderated emissions growth outlook from previous projections,underlying factors such as population and economic growth underpin a steady increase in emissions. This growth is bolstered by the continued strong demand for Australian energy exports, in particular. the expected significant expansion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and coal exports".

"The projected increase in transport emissions is attributable to strong activity growth in all transport subsectors".

While the targets of greenhouse gas emissions have increased, there's not consolidated efforts planned to actually implement them.

So, while the public find energy increasingly expensive, and per capita emissions may decrease, in absolute terms, it's already recognised that any effort to reduce them are futile, with our high population projections and gas and coal mining industries.

Global energy demand growth will halve by 2025 but fossil fuels will continue to dominate, leaving the planet on a warming trajectory of 3.6 degrees, according to the International Energy Agency.

Australia is becoming a top-three gas producer and reclaiming its title as the world's largest coal exporter, and our government continues with deaf-ears to climate scientists.

Carbon-dioxide emissions blamed for global warming will grow by 20 per cent by 2040 with overall energy demand rising 37 per cent. By then, the world will have exhausted its entire CO2 budget of 1000 gigatonnes – the amount of emissions estimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to keep temperature rises to within 2 degrees.

Energy poverty will also foster continued reliance on lower-cost carbon fuels, with electricity now available to only one in three sub-Saharan Africans,

IPCC warns greenhouse gas levels are at their highest they have been in 800,000 years, with recent increases mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels. The planet is unequivocally warming, that burning fossil fuels is significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change - like sea level rises - are already being felt.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. Without additional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond those in place today, global emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities, the IPCC warns.

The risks associated with temperatures at or above 4°C include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases, the IPCC warns.

With an economy based on perpetual economic and population growth, and the destruction of our Great Barrier Reef's security for coal exports, our Australian government's only response can be to deny it, and cut funding to scientists!