Big Coal and climate change

Xstrata Coal big wheel, Peter Coates, informed a climate forum held in Sydney, Australia this morning: “I stress whatever we do just in Australia will have absolutely no impact on world climate.”

Nice one Pete. He pointed out that our coal production and usage on a global scale is insignificant (170 million tonnes annually) and how China was outpacing Australia in coal production already. He seems to feel that even if we had totally clean energy production, it would not positively impact globally.

He did concede that any attempt to deal with climate change must include large developing nations like India and China, which is very true – but in the same speech he also stated that coal is the *only* long-term solution to the world’s energy requirements that was viable.

Xstrata is one of the world’s largest coal exporters and it makes me wonder if he’s visiting other countries and telling them exactly the same thing; but with a twist on the culprit country names depending on where he is.

Clean coal is being heralded by some as an answer to our energy problems; but according to GreenPeace – clean coal is somewhat an oxymoron. GreenPeace states that if clean coal technologies are used to meet new energy demands, there will be a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions. A United Nation report states the combustion of coal is the biggest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions – and currently there is no available way for this mercury to be captured at coal-fuelled power plants’

My point is this – it doesn’t matter which country starts *seriously*, and I mean seriously, addressing global warming, it has to start somewhere. Are we all just going to sit around waiting for the other to make the next major move Why can’t Australia lead the world? Leading by example could make a huge positive impact globally. We have one of the highest per capita carbon outputs in the world. It was our resistance to ratifying Kyoto that bolstered the USA in defying it also.

A beach may be made up of many grains of sand, but remove all the grains of sand and there is no beach. It’s this mentality of “no point trying, we can’t make a difference” that has permitted our society to move closer to the brink of disaster.

 I’m sure there must be greener large scale alternatives to fossil fuels.

Here’s something I firmly believe (puts on tin foil hat). One of the reasons why governments are scared of solar energy has nothing to do with it’s viability or lack thereof. The issue is that if enough money was plowed into the development and refinement of solar solutions, along with consumer education, we would very quickly have highly efficient systems that each home owner could cheaply install.

The threat here is that it makes us a little more independent of government and big business. Electricity, like oil, is one of the many drugs of modern society, and we are the addicts. Government is only really interested in energy solutions that will pay back quickly and/or allow control over the people (takes off tinfoil hat).

As always, I’m also a firm believer in reducing consumption – the earth is not an “all you can eat” buffet; there’s checks and balances; knock those around and you see, well, issues like global warming.

What are your thoughts on this – do you believe that there *are* viable, renewable and earth friendly alternatives to our energy needs; or is it all just a pipe dream?

Read more of Peter Coates’ thoughts on coal, climate change and Australia