What is the carbon budget and how does it relate to the Pacific Islands?
The carbon budget is tremendously important because it represents the amount of fossil fuels that can safely be burnt, while limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees. Exceeding 2 degrees will bring dangerous rates of sea-level rise, more intense storms and changing weather patterns – it’ll be the breaking point for many Pacific Islands.
The trajectory that fossil fuel companies and their supporters have the world on at present is to exceed that 2 degree target not marginally, but catastrophically. They plan to dig up, and burn 4 – 5 times more coal, gas and oil than we can burn to limit warming to 2 degrees. They’re trashing our carbon budget. This means that right now the world faces at least 3 degrees of warming, which would cause at least 60cm of sea level rise. With just 60cm of sea level rise, any atoll island like Tuvalu or Kiribati will become unlivable.
Why are we targeting Australia?
In August, 2014, the Australian Federal Government approved what will become one of the world’s largest coalmines, the Carmichael mine. The mine will cover 200 square kilometres and produce 60 million tonnes of coal per year, which will all be shipped through the Great Barrier Reef.
The coal deposit is part of the Galilee Basin, one of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves, where a further 8 new coalmines have been proposed. If they go ahead, the coal from these projects would unleash 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. This would more than double Australia’s annual coal production of about 280 million tonnes a year, and be the cause for eating into 5% of the world’s carbon budget – from one basin alone!
Meanwhile, millions of tonnes of coal are shipped from the Port of Newcastle – the world’s largest coal port. The proposed fourth coal terminal (T4) in Newcastle, would, if approved, export a further 70 million tonnes of coal per annum. When burned, this coal would emit 174 million tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year, for the lifetime of the project.
If the port of Newcastle were a country, it would be ranked 9th in the world in terms of emissions. There is far too much at stake to allow this project to go ahead.
What about people that work for coal and gas companies?
A number of Australians do work for coal and gas companies – but its not as many as is often thought by Australians. This is because these industries have poured millions of dollars into marketing and PR to make them seem more important and critical to the future of Australia than they really are. The reality is that just 0.4% of Australians are employed in the coal industry, and that many of the coal companies are foreign owned, thus much of the money goes offshore – not to Australians.
Our fight is not with the workers of these coal and gas companies, and we respect anyone who is working to support their families and communities. Our fight is against the greed and disregard that the leadership of these companies show for the Pacific Islands and the world. They are knowingly destroying the future for many of our islands, and we need to stand up to them.