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Keeping coal in the ground, where it belongs

By Lyn Bender - posted Thursday, 20 June 2013

The earth has been a great carbon sink. It has safely stored carbon for millions of years.

In around 250 years the industrial age has reversed the planet's brilliantly evolved management.

Humans are amazing creatures. We are capable of staggering brilliance, as well as dumbfounding stupidity, and able to act in total contradiction of all known facts. We have the ability to go on with business as usual, to stay frantic and carry on, even as disaster is encroaching. The Climate Commission has released a new report on the observations that back up the earlier predictions of this being the critical decade for climate change. The extreme weather events are upon us and The Commission comprising scientific experts declares that we cannot afford to dig up and burn, most of he worlds' fossil fuels.


The Commission urges us prepare for more disasters. Are we preparing for these,? If not we should be, says Ex Defence Force Chief Admiral Chris Barrie

Chris Barrie is worried about his granddaughter's future, and so am I. Barrie who helped launch the Climate Commission report says it's the militaries' job to sweep up the messes. World wide the Military is gearing up for the ongoing aftermath of extreme weather.

As climate journalist Bill McKibben and thousands of scientists are declaring, and the Climate Commission warns us, we have to leave at least 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground or go well over the target of 2 degrees of warming. This target is now all we can hope for, although it is around twice the warming so far induced by burning carbon; it gives us some chance of retaining a habitable planet. 2 degrees of warming , is far from ideal; but we have dallied too long to salvage the beautiful stable climate that we inherited from thousands of years of our habitation on this earth. It is only because we have been so much smarter than our forebears, that we have reached the place where we can destroy our own habitat.

We have mastered temperature so that we can be warm or cool at the flick of a switch. Instead of keeping ourselves warm or cooler by wearing suitable clothing and adapting our bodies we have warmed and cooled entire cities, shopping malls even streets through burning fossil fuels. We have damaged and continue to damage the fragile atmosphere, which is earth's true air conditioner and temperature regulator. Unfortunately we don't know how to turn this thermostat down. Our greatest hope is to stabilize emissions within this decade and to divest from fossil fuels to clean energy. Many are saying that even this target, would not guarantee that the planet would remain fit for human habitation.

James Hansen former NASA scientist has declared that 2 degrees is still a very dangerous temperature rise. He warns that at this temperature, the Arctic ice would completely disappear and seas would rise tens of meters. Droughts, floods, extreme weather events, food and water shortages insect born illness will be the legacy that we bequeath to our children and grandchildren. But although we may not be able to completely fix things we can either mitigate the damage, or allow it to run rampant to a 4 to 6 degree temperature rise.

In the words of Al Gore, we can't continue to use the sky as an open sewer for carbon pollution. Collectively we pump 90 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere on a daily basis.


Meanwhile, co-incidentally no doubt ,with the release of The Climate Commission Report the Grattan Institute has released its own findings. The Grattan Institute ,incidentally counts BHP Billiton , [the worlds largest mining company measured by 2011 revenues] amongst its sponsors. Enthusiastically this 'Think Tank' reports that Australia is destined to be the world's biggest exporter of coal seam gas by 2017! It is seemingly oblivious to the growing awareness that we can't afford to dig up export and burn the earth's known reserves of fossil fuels. Oh great, smell the profits. Oh, not so great, smell the burning coal and the sizzling planet.

But we in Australia are not alone in the struggle between short term profit and long term irretrievable loss of all we hold dear.

A big battle is being waged about the dirty Tar Sands coal deposits in Alberta Canada. Al Gore has called the proposed pipeline from Canada to the US, an atrocity. Obama's Former Green Jobs Advisor Van Jones has dubbed the tar sands product, a pipe eating ,planet cooking , water fouling goo, that nobody knows how to clean up. It would produce as much CO2 as 6.2 million cars running continuously for 50 years.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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