The Coal Truth

If all the coal in the Galilee Basin were burned, it would make it just about impossible to stabilize the global climate. Most attention has been focused on the Adani Group’s proposal for an integrated mine-rail-port project to develop its proposed Carmichael mine. There are however a string of would-be followers, including GVK Hancock and Clive Palmer.

The good news is that Adani’s March deadline for financial close, itself a deferral of earlier promises, has passed with no sign of anyone willing to finance the proposal. Even the Abbot Point terminal, which has long-term take-or-pay contracts with existing coal mines, is struggling to refinance its debt.

But there’s no room for complacency.

Having given up the idea of importing coal to its Mundra power station, Adani has managed to talk the government of Bangladesh into buying power from a proposed power station, located in India, but without any access to coal mined in India. Should this go ahead, it would provide a guaranteed market for imported coal, and Carmichael would be the obvious source. Tim Buckley has the details.

And then there’s Clive Palmer. Despite his mounting financial woes, Palmer is seeking approval for another big mine in the Basin, the Alpha North mine owned by his Waratah Coal company.

In this context, I’ll give another plug to The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy, a book to which I’ve contributed a chapter.

5 thoughts on “The Coal Truth

  1. This is the most hope inducing article I have read recently.

    I normally take the position of devil’s advocate, suggesting that we have already overshot climate limits and ecological limits and that we cannot save global civilization from serious consequences, if not total collapse. The hope that this kind of article holds out is a kind of qualified hope, in my opinion. It has to be qualified by the knowledge that we are already walking the tightrope. Any serious misstep from this point in time and we lose our last credible hope.

    It is technically possible, absent other problems, to proceed as the article lays out. It is also economically possible, absent other problems, even in this global system (a system of really existing capitalism variants). The phrase “absent other problems” means looking at the single challenge in isolation. However, it is the combination of challenges in the system, and to the system from the environment, which constitute the compound and compounding nature of the crisis we face.

    If we compounded the technical challenge and the economic challenge for the next few decades, we would still find, in my view, that the overall challenge is achievable. However, if we then add in the political challenge to overcome the delaying strategies and tactics of corporate and oligarchic capital, especially the vested interests of fossil capital, we then see the challenge to us becomes critically difficult. To date, we have failed to overthrow this delaying power and it is still very operative, especially in countries like the US and Australia.

    Markets themselves can help overcome the power of established “archaic capital”, but progress to date has been slow. The established powerful actors in our neoliberal economic system have subverted and delayed attempts at action when these attempts are made via the use of market mechanisms. This delaying action now shows signs of being broken up but the climate danger is significantly more advanced and nearer criticality than it was when the first Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997. Not enough has been done in the last twenty years. In fact, next to nothing has been done in the last 20 years outside the technical advances in solar PV and wind and the establishment of a viable base for their full implementation. This is something but not enough yet.

    The next 20 years or so will tell the first part of the tale. If worldwide electricity generation is 100% renewable by 2040 this will be a necessary but not sufficient condition to save global civilization or the greater part of it. Essentially, we had better hope that we have not already kicked off unstoppable feedbacks which will force the climate and ocean currents past significant tipping points. This is the final kicker of the phrase “absent other problems”. We could reduce net CO2 emissions from human activities to zero by 2050 and still find that feedbacks initiated by the warming caused to that date will push net natural CO2 and methane emissions higher for decades to centuries after that date. The price we are going to pay for delayed action is still going to be very high, at the best.

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