The proposed Adani mega coal mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin is "completely at odds with protecting Australians, infrastructure, industry and ecosystems", a new report by the Climate Council has found.
The independent, publicly-funded council's report, Risky Business: Health, Climate And The Economic Risks Of The Carmichael Coalmine, released on Thursday, laid out environmentalists' case against the controversial mine project.
“Coal pollution puts at risk the Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s agriculture industry," Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said in a statement. "We can have coal mining or we can have a healthy reef – we can’t have both.
“Australia cannot afford to risk this critical multi billion dollar tourism asset on another polluting, outdated and unsustainable energy source, when a clear alternative is ready and waiting.”
Here are the report's main findings:
1. If the mine project was a country, it would be the 15th largest emitter in the world.
The mine will be Australia's largest, producing 60 million tonnes of coal a year. On its own, it would emit 1.3 times Australia's current annual emissions from all other sources combined.
"Opening up the Galilee Basin for coal mining is fundamentally at odds with tackling climate change," the report says.
2. More emissions means more extreme weather events.
"More emissions from new fossil fuel projects will expose Australia to more intense extreme weather events including bushfires, heatwaves and storms," the report said.
Another report released by the Climate Council earlier this year laid out the stark future facing Australia if global temperatures continue to rise.
It said that heatwaves are getting "hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often", leading to more extreme bushfires, heatwaves and coral bleaching. Speaking of which...
3. That's really bad news for the Great Barrier Reef.
"Conservative estimates show that the observed warm conditions in the Coral Sea that caused the devastating bleaching on the north sector of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 were at least 175 times more likely to occur because of climate change," the new report stated.
"Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef."
4. What's bad for the reef is bad for the economy.
According to the federal government, the reef is responsible for around 69,000 jobs and contributes $7 billion to the Australian economy each year.
The report estimates that if coral bleaching continues, around 1.1 million fewer tourists will visit the reef each year – that's 1.7 million visits a year, down from 2.8 million.
5. It's also bad for agriculture.
Apart from the potential direct impact from climate change (floods, fires and drought), there are also fears about the unlimited water licence granted to Adani by the Queensland government in March.
"The provision of unlimited water for one of the largest mining operations in the
Southern Hemisphere will no doubt compete with the water needs of the agriculture sector."
Here's what one grazier told Fairfax in March: "It's bloody-minded and barbaric. This is going to definitely impact on the integrity of [the Great Artesian Basin]."
6. The benefits of the mine are "overblown".
The report warned the Adani coal mine risked becoming a "stranded asset" – meaning an asset that "has suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations or conversion to liabilities".
Fourteen banks worldwide, including Australia's "Big 4", have pledged not to fund the Adani mine. The report said this is a sign that the numbers just don't stack up.
"The potential export markets for coal are rapidly dwindling as the world moves away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy," the report said.
"Coal mined at Carmichael in the Galilee Basin is primarily intended for export to India. However, India is experiencing extremely rapid growth in renewables, and is reducing coal imports overall, raising doubts about the projected, long-term market for coal."
7. Oh, and there's no such thing as "clean coal".
One of the government's key claims in backing the mine project is that Australian coal is of a better quality than coal mined in India and other countries.
While it's true that Australia's coal is of better quality, that doesn't mean we should just burn it up, the Climate Council said.
"More efficient coal plants labelled 'ultra supercritical' (called 'clean coal' by the federal government) still emit a significant amount of greenhouse gases, which drive climate change with its many impacts on our health, livelihoods and ecosystems," the council said.
"A new high-efficiency coal plant run on black coal would still produce about 80% of the emissions of an equivalent old plant."
The only answer, the council said, is to leave coal in the ground and switch to renewables.