For anyone is the Brisbane area – Dr Charlie Veron will be speaking at City Hall as part of Run for a Safe Climate (betwen 5.30-7pm). In the leadup to Copenhagen, 35 emergency services workers are running from one end of Australia to the other. Find out more at www.runforasafeclimate.org
The Age newspaper, 9th November 2009
One of the world’s leading coral reef scientists has slammed the Brumby Government’s proposal to export Victoria’s brown coal to India as “reckless vandalism”.
John “Charlie” Veron, who discovered a quarter of the world’s identified coral species, said any move to export the state’s vast reserves of brown coal would only further endanger the Great Barrier Reef.
“It’s reckless vandalism. Brown coal would have to be the dirtiest, nastiest form of energy there is. It is absolutely essential that it remains in the ground. That is obvious,” he told The Age.
The Sunday Age revealed in September that Energy Minister Peter Batchelor had championed in a Cabinet committee a 40-year proposal to export 12 million tonnes of brown coal to India. Mr Brumby has said that, given environmental approval processes, there is no reason why Victoria should not export its coal. “Australia exports oil, Australia exports gas, Australia exports black coal and Australia exports uranium,” he said. “So why you would single out brown coal and say you can’t export that?”
But Dr Veron, the Townsville-based author of the three-volume Corals of the World, said that avoiding every tonne of carbon dioxide was now crucial to save the world’s reefs. Moreover, he said science had now shown that corals will struggle to survive with the carbon dioxide levels already in the atmosphere.
High levels of carbon dioxide – the world is currently at 378 parts per million of carbon dioxide – have two impacts on corals. As the globe warms, so too does the sea, which sparks coral bleaching. But scientists now understand that the bigger problem is ocean acidification, when the chemistry of the ocean changes because of the large amounts of carbon dioxide they absorb from the atmosphere. These changes reduce the ability of reefs to form and regrow after bleaching events.
Mr Veron, who recently gave a talk on climate change and corals at the Royal Society introduced by Sir David Attenborough, said the current targets the world’s politicians are talking about – 450 and 500 parts per million – would leave only “a very small band of ocean left in which corals can live”.
“They will struggle just to exist, let alone build reefs,” said Dr Veron, who has clocked 7000 hours of diving research on coral reefs.
Brown coal, which drives 90 per cent of the state’s power supply, has been unsuitable for export because it is unstable and flammable. But proponents say recent developments in technology will allow them to dry the coal, making it less polluting – equal to black coal – and safe to transport.
The company behind the plan to export brown coal to India, Exergen, is hopeful the Government will give it access to a new release of brown coal. The company expects to earn $700 million a year in export income for Victoria.