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Is Australia shooting itself in the foot with reef port expansions?

With the approval of dredging as part of the Abbot Point port expansion, Australia has given the green light to an increase in coal exports. While opposition to the plan has focused primarily on the effects…

Coral bleaching is one of the more obvious signs the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. mattk1979/Flickr, CC BY-SA

With the approval of dredging as part of the Abbot Point port expansion, Australia has given the green light to an increase in coal exports. While opposition to the plan has focused primarily on the effects of dumping dredge spoil near the Great Barrier Reef, climate change has been missing from the discussion.

Increasing coal exports will play a significant part in the decline of the Great Barrier Reef, and will prove to be a very uneconomical decision for Australia.

Going, going …

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage listed marvel that spans 2000 kilometres of the Queensland coastline. It is rich in ecosystems and species, which attract business worth more than A$5 billion each year to Australia, employing more than 64,000 people.

If we were to manage the reef sustainably, it would be the ecosystem that keeps on giving through tourism and ecosystem services such as protecting the coast, and providing a sanctuary and nursery for marine life.

Despite efforts to date, however, the Great Barrier Reef is in deep trouble. The Australian Institute of Marine Sciences has rigorously recorded the decline of reef-building corals, which are essential to the reef’s existence.

These records show that the reef has lost about half of its coral cover since the early 1980s. The researchers found that tropical cyclones (48%), predation by the crown-of-thorns starfish (42%) and ocean warming (10%) were responsible for the decline.

Driving these changes are the modifications that humans have made, and are continuing to make, along the Queensland coastline. We have dramatically reduced water quality by deforesting river catchments, expanding coastal agriculture, and building major ports.

Climate change and ocean acidification have been steadily ramping up, with predictions that ocean warming will decimate reef-building corals by the middle of this century.

Despite some claims, there is next to no evidence that evolution (genetic adaptation) can keep pace with this rate of change, the highest for tens of millions of years.

This leaves a world-class environmental asset at serious risk from the activities of industries that line its coastal borders. As we prepare to build bigger and bigger ports, and export more and more fossil fuels, we are driving in a direction that will almost certainly eliminate the Great Barrier Reef over the next few decades.

Given the billions of dollars in tourism and fisheries revenue that the reef generates each year, countering this trend makes good business as well as sound environmental sense.

Burning through our carbon budget

One perspective is that we have some room to export coal and gas while we seek other solutions. Surely, we can export some of the fossil fuels that are available in the Queensland hinterland and then change tack?

Unfortunately, this perspective is at odds with the numbers.

The first number is that globally we only have 565 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit before we send atmospheric concentrations beyond 450 ppm CO2, which will probably drive global temperatures at least 2C above the pre-industrial average.

This limit is broadly accepted by the international scientific community as the level beyond which the impacts of climate change become largely unmanageable and dangerous (the so-called “climate guardrail”).

At a global annual emissions rate of 32 billion tonnes, this means we have only 15 years before global emissions need to fall to zero. That’s not a lot of time to sneak out those fossil fuels to the global market.

The second number is that proven reserves owned by private and public companies, and governments, equate to 2,795 billion tonnes of CO2 if burned.

The coal from Queensland’s Galilee Basin alone would release enough CO2 to use up 6% of the 565 billion tonne guardrail.

As Malte Meinshausen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has previously pointed out, this means that roughly 80% of these recognised fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned unless technologies such as carbon capture and storage can be made to work at a much greater scale.

However, even under the most optimistic circumstances (with financing yet to be secured), the total CO2 that is likely to be stored globally amounts to about 125 billion tonnes – a small fraction of the total fossil fuels in train to be burned.

Shooting ourselves in the foot

In a crowded export market, this doesn’t bode well for companies and governments investing in the mines and infrastructure for shipping fossil fuels to the rest of the world. With the Australian government’s preoccupation with rapid coastal development, dredging, and fossil-fuel exports, the impacts will accumulate.

Not only are we contributing to a declining water quality along the Queensland coastline, but we are rapidly escalating our capacity to supply fossil fuels to the rest of the world. At best this is a strange form of self-harm. But given that the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels, are we risking our economy and prosperity as well? Stranded assets and carbon bubbles come to mind.

To anyone outside Australia, it might look as if we’ve got it in for the Great Barrier Reef. With the rush to dredge and build along the Queensland coastline, we are choking an ecosystem that has provided enormous support to industry and the community.

At the same time, we appear to be shooting ourselves in the foot by exporting fossil fuels, which will ultimately drive the climate into a state where the Great Barrier Reef will be but just a memory.

Surely, we should be using the same infrastructure investments to build strong tourist and manufacturing sectors along with the renewable energy infrastructure that will ensure that the ecosystem that keeps giving to the Australian economy will do so in perpetuity.

But we are not. One has to ask, then, where is the logic or economics in all of this?

* Editor’s note: a sentence on the economic value of the reef was changed in the final editing process while adding a reference to this 2013 GBRMPA report. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg correctly wrote “more than A$5 billion” and that’s now been restored. Thanks very much to readers Israel McIntosh and John Byatt. - Liz Minchin

Join the conversation

57 Comments sorted by

  1. Mark Duffett
    Mark Duffett is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via Twitter

    Does Prof Hoegh Guldberg have a justification or expertise for prescribing 'renewable energy infrastructure'? Has he considered the ecosystem impact implications of a rollout at the scale required, and that of the attendant resource intensity? Why not just say 'clean energy infrastructure'?

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      "Has he considered the ecosystem impact implications of a rollout at the scale required"?

      My conjecture is that renewables will have smaller scale of ecosystem impact than all those coal mines.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Conjecture is fine David but facts would be better and they are relatively light on the ground.
      Solar will certainly not be 24/7 feasible without storage and even with the best storage being currently considered, it is still not 24/7.
      Solar systems also start to lose efficiency and I doubt whether anyone has done too much factoring in of renewing renewables or even just basic maintenance and the need for resources use.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Greg North

      Easy: we all replace our domestic solar systems every 3 decades or so when we replace our roof sheeting.

      Here's another conjecture: in 3 decades' time (ie just after the end of my present life expectancy), when my heirs and successors replace the sheeting in my roof, the new solar panels will be way more efficient than present, and they'll also be installing batteries to maintain 24/7 power to the place.

      Matter of fact, if they bother with a grid connection at all, it will only be to export power.

      The same holds for every other house in Australia.

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  2. Mark Duffett
    Mark Duffett is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via Twitter

    Having said that, I've previously been skeptical of forecasts of reef doom, due to abundant geological evidence of coral reefs thriving at considerably higher temperatures. But Hoegh Guldberg's primary point about coral ecosystems unable to cope with the unprecedented speed of change is well made.

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  3. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Quite apart from direct and indirect damage to the GBR the LNG shipments from Gladstone are short sighted; we'll need all that gas for ourselves in the next 20 years. As for Galilee Basin coal we should also think of that as a reserve of pre-sequestered carbon that should stay that way.

    The day must come when there is an accident such a coal ship running aground the same time there is a cyclone or more inland drought as we have now. The double hit should make people consider whether fossil fuel exports are worth it. However as Mark D points out it is naive to think that renewable energy will replace coal either here or abroad.

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to John Newlands

      John, unlike you and Mark, I am not so pessimistic about our capacity to build efficient renewable energy power generating systems. We already have very good technology to hand but we lack one thing, the will to invest in it. I would suggest that this lack of will is due to our great leaders not having the ability to be great leaders. The investment required to open up the Galilee coal mines could build a solar thermal power station on far less land than the coal mines would destroy.

      As to the…

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      There's a bit of Good News, MR Jubow, and that is a recent speech by BHP Billiton chairman Andrew McKenzie at some conference in Texas. The speech was reported on last Saturday's Science Show, "Carbon pricing needed to control greenhouse gas emissions - BHP chief", http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/carbon-pricing-needed-to-control-greenhouse-gas-emissions---bhp/5307324.

      My hope is that BHP is smart enough to refrain from continued investment in what will be stranded assets (eg GBR coal ports), and instead invests in algae farms and processing plants for transport fuel ("Scale the trick in getting algal biofuel cost down", the same Science Show, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/scale-the-trick-to-getting-algal-biofuel-cost-down/5307468).

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to john byatt

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galilee_Basin: "In 1981, the Queensland Department of Mines estimated that demonstrated resources reached 800 million tonnes near Alpha alone. In 2008, Waratah Coal announced the discovery of 4,400 million tonnes of coal in the basin."

      From https://theconversation.com/why-the-galilee-basin-is-worth-worrying-about-10959: "The Alpha Coal project would produce 30 Mt per annum, but this would not be the largest in the new basin. It is anticipated Adani’s Carmichael…

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    4. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to John Newlands

      John, "it is naive to think that renewable energy will replace coal". I agree. The goal we should really be setting is to wean ourselves off the current high-energy, high-consumption lifestyles we live and which the developing world aspires to. That way lies destruction of much we value.
      Does our species have that much self control? Ask the bacteria in the petrie dish, just before the food runs out ...

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to John Newlands

      John, Australia's current gas reserves-to-production ratio is around 200 years. Even with the Gladstone LNG plants there is way more than enough for the next 20 years.

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    6. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to David Arthur

      G'day David, I have always liked the idea of oil from algae. The first time I saw a trial of the idea, the immediate thought I had was to have one of these bio-reactors attached to every sewerage treatment plant in Australia. The resultant waste water would be cleared of almost all nutrients and would need very little to give it a final 'polish'. Nothing but good could come of it.

      I agitated with our local council 20 years ago to bury perforated pipes in the rubbish dump to bleed off the methane for power generation or to run the council vehicles. They did nothing until the carbon tax arrived and found out it was going to cost them millions in tax to leave things as they were. Now they are running trial plants to get the methane out of the dump and generate power from it. Some politicians can't do anything unless they are dragged kicking and screaming and even then they only take half measures in the hope you release a bit of pressure from their throat.

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      " The investment required to open up the Galilee coal mines could build a solar thermal power station on far less land than the coal mines would destroy. "
      For investment, you do need investors and investors do want to see a financial return.
      Coal mining brings money to Australia just as it will provide a product to importing countries and give a return to investors.
      For solar power plants of the size and number to do anything meaningful about Australian energy demand, first thing you will need is the investors and people, that being the taxpayers prepared to pay for the product.
      You might also be surprised at just what area they will take up and the few solar thermal power units in their infancy are not 24/7 and only time will tell about performance longevity and reliability.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      I expect your expectations will not be met David.

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    9. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      "Some politicians can't do anything unless they are dragged kicking and screaming and even then they only take half measures in the hope you release a bit of pressure from their throat."

      Negativity pervades the Australian political classes as discussed in Peter Hartcher's article in the Fairfax press: "Technological breakthroughs need follow-up", http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/technological-breakthroughs-need-followup-20140314-34s0s.html

      I've just posted the following comment to Mr Hartcher's article:
      "[Newly-appointed US Ambassador John] Berry's right about Australia. We are a practical, innovative people, but hamstrung and burdened with a craven political and media class - Australia's Murdochracy, with its centre in the news media and its Lib and Lab political wings, is the millstone.
      "The sooner we are rid of all three parts, the better."

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    10. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Greg North

      So? Would a solar power station take up a couple of hundred thousand hectares which is the amount of land that is going to be destroyed by the Galilee Basin coal mines. What is the sum benefit of that amount of land destroyed forever for rural production worth, not to mention the huge risk to the aquifers, against the short term on mining it? Miners are supposed to be in the energy business. If they wanted an investment that kept on making returns longer than a coal mine lasts, why not invest in clean energy and be honest about the ethics of your investment?

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to David Arthur

      David, "The sooner we are rid of all three parts, the better". Sadly, because we are human, whenever two people get together, there is a jostling of wills (politics) and a need for communication (media). If we were rid of the existing order, human nature almost guarantees a similar structure will replace it. Look what happened after the revolutions in America, France, Russia and China: the old order was swept away, to be replaced by politicians, with their factions, and communication media.
      You…

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Mr Hutcheson, my hope is that when the old order is swept aside, it will be replaced by people with more up-to-date awareness of the primacy of external reality - no more neo-liberalism for a start, and no more Denial of physical reality.

      The world had ~6 billion people at the turn of the last century. My expectation is that it is unlikely that there will be that many people alive at the turn of the next century. Whether this is due to our heirs and successors replacing our present guiding and ruling bodies with others more attuned to reality, or whether ecological reality will be imposed through human failure to change, I can't say.

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    13. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to David Arthur

      David, "ecological reality will be imposed through human failure to change" - that is the future I am expecting, given our collective blindness and stupidity at present. Homo Stupidus stupidus.

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    14. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      There's some Good News. in the form of a NASA Goddard Center-supported study; it's the subject of Nafeez Ahmed's blog post at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

      In response that this species be named Homo Stupidus Stupidus, I've previously seen Andrew Glikson's suggestion that we might identify as Homo Prometheus.

      I've previously reflected on what might be a more appropriate name than the self-glorifying…

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    15. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to john byatt

      Thanks for that link John. I just speed read the headings to each para to get the drift and it was not surprising to me as I have read a lot of similar articles, particularly in the science magazines. I will have a closer look before breakfast tomorrow. It seems that a lot of the anti-renewable energy posters fail to accept fact and opinion like this if it is outside their area of interest/belief.

      I would hope that there are some politicians who might grasp the nettle and start larger scale, serious trials of the newer technology for producing renewable energy.

      Pass the opium pipe, It's my turn (:-)

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  4. john byatt

    retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

    I see that Bolt had an opinion piece in which he cherry picked out of context quotes from you, a couple of your research papers from the time showed that he was in fact telling fibs, keep up the great work Ove and getting the facts out there

    rgds

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    1. In reply to john byatt

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to john byatt

      and yes it was similar to what he did with Tim's "dams will never fill again" from the landline and new scientist quotes, He may have actually inadvertently of course left out much of his discussion with Tim about those quotes when he prepared the transcript, i have no idea what the answer is or how he will be seen by future generations, but I actually believe that it will be the scientists who will cop the blame for not convincing him,

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  5. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    I agree with Mark's comment that we should not restrict our options by using the term "renewable energy infrastructure", which straight away suggests that the one technology that can take on coal for base load power (nuclear energy) is not even considered.
    For all the risks with nuclear (which are manageable with modern next gen plants), it is dangerous to ignore it. There is little evidence that reliable base load power from renewables will ever be economic with fossil fuels, which will keep us burning fossil fuels for decades to come.

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  6. john byatt

    retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

    Rather than sitting around commenting here, get the message out there
    Editor,

    The Gympie Times,

    Dear Sir,

    Working on Reef issues : Seeney (The Gympie Times 14 March), .The Australian Institute of Marine Sciences has rigorously recorded the decline of reef-building corals, which are essential to the reef’s existence. These records show that the reef has lost about half of its coral cover since the early 1980’s. The researchers found that tropical cyclones (48%), predation by the crown-of-thorns…

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  7. Adam Cardilini

    PhD Candidate

    Thank you for this article, it makes the issues of stranded coal assets very clear. The mines that are going in rely on a coal price of about $140 a tone for it to be profitable, current prices are about $80 a tone and falling. If the big businesses are doing there job properly they will realise that these projects are economically unviable and the projects won't go ahead. E.g. Anglo America pulled out of the project in the last few days.

    The renewable tech is here or will be very shortly (great science show ep. on this last weekend) but, as Mike Jobow suggested, we lack the leadership to drive this sector as much as we should be.

    I am becoming more hopeful about the possibility of a renewable energy future, and the good thing is that the fossil fuel giants won't be able to stop it because the economics will make sense. Renewable energy prices will continue to fall over the next 10 - 20 years, especially with solar tech following Moore's law.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Adam Cardilini

      Also, If, as the new conservative PM of Norway says he wants to pull all investments from his countries wealth fund, does succeed, then this is a game-changer. It's the worlds largest, and will join Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark (?).
      They will increasingly drive clean energy investment and ultimately ditch Australian resource firms.
      Even if they do it incrementally, rather than fast. It will have an immediate impact, because of its size.
      http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/28/norway-fund-oil-idUKL6N0LX13P20140228
      http://www.theage.com.au/business/carbon-economy/norwegian-wealth-fund-may-ditch-australian-resource-firms-20140303-340g0.html

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    2. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Adam Cardilini

      The price of generating electricity from renewable energy is highly variable. It is cheap and very competitive on a sunny and windy day, it can be extremely expensive at other times. The almost linear decline in costs is encouraging but it will level out well above the present cost of fossil fuel generated electricity once the supply drops due to lack of wind and sunlight. Unfortunately thermal solar is not looking any where near being cost competitive.
      At this point countries trying to convert to 100% renewable energy start running up against a wall of high costs. The Germans are hitting this now and are cannot go much further without damaging their manufacturing base with high cost power.

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Despite the negatives you speak of, the facts are different. Renewables will overtake gas and be twice than from nuclear by 2016, is expected to increase by 40% in the next 5 years, and will make up almost 25% globally by 2018.
      Renewable technology is improving, and will improve further.
      "And worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels remain 6 times higher than economic incentives for renewables". So all of this is happening within a distorted market.
      http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2013/june/name,39156,en.html

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    4. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, I hope renewables continue to fall in price and greatly increase their market share. But the point I made about the very high costs in going 100% renewable remain. What commercial plants in Australia are being planed to produce renewable power when it is becalmed and overcast?
      The source you supplied also predicts that non-hydro sources of renewable energy will increase to 8% by 2018. This tiny percentage shows just how little progress will have been made.
      The quote claiming that fossil fuels get 6 times the incentives sounds interesting. It is a quote from a reputable source but has no reference to the original source nor any information on how it was calculated.

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  8. Stan Hlegeris

    logged in via Facebook

    Setting aside the local and global environmental issues, the expanded port is likely to be a phenomenal waste of money. It's a one-way bet that (1) China's demand for coal will grow forever, and (2) that Indian power plants will suddenly start paying a far higher price than they presently pay for Indian coal.

    Both of these countries have vast solar and wind resources and they both have people smart enough to do the math. Politics will interfere and extend the coal era for a few years. But then it will end, leaving Queensland with a giant and mainly useless port facility a greatly damaged reef.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stan Hlegeris

      Demand for coal and iron ore etc. will always rise and fall with global economics Stan and with either of predicted global population growth and a greater population in many countries seeking what is available in western industrialised countries, it is probably a safe enough bet that global demand will be maintained if not grow.
      Australia's exported coal is but a small fraction of what China uses and there are also other Asian markets.
      As for India, if an Indian company is prepared to invest in mining in Australia, I expect that they would have also studied the demand scenario, many people in India and adjacent countries also having relatively impoverished lives and many looking to do better for themselves and that in turn will mean energy and resources consumption will rise, not all that energy likely to come from renewables.

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  9. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to john byatt

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. In reply to Liz Minchin

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. In reply to john byatt

      Comment removed by moderator.

  10. Israel McIntosh

    Retired

    "It is rich in ecosystems and species that attract tourism worth A$6.4 billion a year to Australia, employing more than 64,000 people."

    Maybe you could have expanded this reference to include:

    * Only 48.7% of visitors to the NRM do so for holiday or leisure (table 3.1)

    * Only A$3.665 billion of the A$6.4 billion can be attributed to holiday or leisure.table 3.5)

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Israel McIntosh

      yes it is ripe for cherry picking

      A high proportion of the value-added and employment generated emanates from
      tourism activity, with almost $5.2 billion in value added and about 64,000 FTEs
      generated by the tourism sector.

      ii Deloitte Access Economics
      Over 90% of the direct economic activity in the region comes from tourism, and this
      follows throughout the economy, with tourism accounting for 91% and 93% of the
      region’s value-added and employment contributions to Australia respectively.

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    2. Israel McIntosh

      Retired

      In reply to john byatt

      Ahhh - so Deloittes tables are wrong are they ????

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    3. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Israel McIntosh

      Hi Israel and John - thanks for your discussion.

      Ove actually had $5 billion originally but didn't have a reference. So I when I was asked to proof read the final version (I didn't edit it, just read for typos etc) I added that in at the last minute (right at the end of the day) to point to the Deloitte study, as I knew people would want a reference!

      So I'll go back, double check and if necessary change this to $5 billion as Ove had & add an Editor's note so others see it too. If $6.4 billion is a mistake, that's my mistake, not Ove's.

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    4. In reply to Liz Minchin

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Incidentally, to anyone wondering how $5b becomes $6.4b, I'd seen that figure/ref to that Deloittes report before, and remembered it as the most recent economic study done on the reef (at least that I know of). It was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and published less than a year ago. So I quickly checked the article I'd seen the reference in before, and threw the link in here. Was trying to be helpful for TC readers, many of whom do click through and read references!

      I was running out the door to make a meeting, so didn't have much time to add the reference and read back through the report. It's no excuse though – so quite genuinely, thanks for picking that up Israel and John, very glad to have corrected this.

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    6. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      " Was trying to be helpful for TC readers"

      links are always helpful, wish all media used them in their opinion pieces , thanks

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  11. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "The first number is that globally we only have 565 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit before we send atmospheric concentrations beyond 450 ppm CO2, which will probably drive global temperatures at least 2C above the pre-industrial average.

    This limit is broadly accepted by the international scientific community as the level beyond which the impacts of climate change become largely unmanageable and dangerous (the so-called “climate guardrail”)"

    The problem is, the 450ppm/2°C guardrail is not a scientific reality, but a politically negotiated one. The truth is, even 2°C warming will have dramatic effects, for which there has been no equivalent for millions of years. 2°C is not a safe limit, or a target, or a guardrail: it is a flaccid caving in to the self-interest of those who profit from the burning of fossil fuels.
    We are already at a level of atmospheric CO₂ which our species has never encountered. How long will we keep this crazy science experiment running?

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      You may be misunderstanding Doug, We do not leave the Atmosphere at 450ppm, that is the highest we get to by reducing emissions each year by about 3% from next year at the latest ,. we then continue to reduce emissions beyond that to get us back below at least 400ppm but hopefully back to 350ppm, it takes a long time to reach ECS

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to john byatt

      John, I understand what you are driving at, but the reality is it will take a helluva long time for ppm to start to come down. Just stopping emissions tomorrow will not wee the ppm start to drop tomorrow. We are already in uncharted territory at nearly 400ppm, so aiming at 450ppm is insane. Yes, we should be stopping the madness, but stopping now will not magically solve anything, unfortunately.
      We are already committed to a climate unlike any humanity has evolved in. We may be the last and most highly evolved member of genus Homo: Homo Stupidus stupidus.

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    3. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      at 400ppm we would eventually reach 2DegC but it would take centuries, we have time we just need the will.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      " The truth is, even 2°C warming will have dramatic effects, for which there has been no equivalent for millions of years. "
      Certainly the 2C was developed for politicians who have problems with getting their minds around technical things but it is hardly something politically negotiated.
      What are those dramatic effects to be Doug, for though no doubt you could poetic with thoughts, I doubt too many scientists will guarantee anything.

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, scientists can project, but prediction is a different matter. It takes only a few degrees of global cooling to initiate a period of glaciation, so we know small changes can have dramatic effects.
      Currently, at less than 1°C warming, we are seeing part of the extra warmth causing massive loss of ice from the Arctic and from the major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica; we are seeing shifts in patterns of precipitation; we are seeing the migration of species as they attempt to remain within…

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  12. Craig Myatt

    Industrial Designer / R&D

    Great article. Extremely clearly stated, and I hope it is widely read.

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  13. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    It is quite simple Ove on a number of issues.
    1. As you report, damage to the reef does occur and yet surveys do refer to about 100 reefs, of just on 3000 and tourism although also having an impact is also confined to a very small percentage of the GBR.
    2. Ports and shipping within the GBR region are closely monitored with activities well controlled.
    3. Australia alone ceasing coal mining and exports will make a minimal if not zero change.
    Employment in tourism will continue if not expand further to more northern Queensland locations whilst at the same time Australia does need to consider all our employment potential, including that with mining and shipping.

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