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When the time comes to disobey: civil disobedience and coal

Greenpeace’s attempt to stop a ship carrying Australian coal is an opening shot in what is likely to be an escalating campaign of civil disobedience directed at Australia’s export coal industry. The raid…

The situation is desperate, no-one in power seems to care: what’s a concerned citizen to do? AAP Image/Greenpeace, James Alcock

Greenpeace’s attempt to stop a ship carrying Australian coal is an opening shot in what is likely to be an escalating campaign of civil disobedience directed at Australia’s export coal industry. The raid is an expression of the fact that — with the exception of nuclear holocaust — nothing has threatened the future of humanity as global warming now does.

During the Cold War the proliferation of doomsday weapons saw the world at times reach the brink of annihilation, a kind of madness that prompted large numbers of otherwise peaceable citizens to make a conscious decision to break the law.

To date the campaign to protect Earth’s climate has been mostly law-abiding. But that is changing as campaigners, including many young people, accept that they must take greater risks. In 1960 Bertrand Russell defended the need for direct action in a time of “utmost peril” and called on those feeling disempowered to engage in direct action because “you will be doing something important to preserve your family, compatriots and the world”.

Over the last 20 years environment groups around the world have been models of civic decorum, playing the conventional game of political lobbying and public relations. But some have tired of being fobbed off with promises.

In the United States, under pressure from members exasperated with the political system, the Sierra Club, the nation’s biggest, oldest and most venerable conservation organisation, has now endorsed non-violent civil disobedience as a response to the opening up of new sources of fossil energy.

The Sierra Club’s Canadian spokesman put it succinctly:

Science, logic and huge public support for action have all been thwarted by the fossil fuel industry and governments that do their bidding. People of conscience have been left with nowhere else to turn.

The same could be said for Australia, and that is why the Greenpeace action is not only to be expected, but has been a long time coming. In a recent opinion piece flagging a change in direction, Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter wrote of the betrayal of our political system in the face of repeated warnings about climate disruption. “Civil disobedience is about peacefully standing up for a fair go or to stop something precious from being destroyed,” he wrote.

The political systems of nations like Australia have proven incapable of responding to the increasingly dire warnings of the world’s most authoritative climate scientists, including those gathered in the most prestigious scientific academies.

Every week we read new and more alarming evidence of the scale of the threat. The annual ice melt in the Antarctic has accelerated dramatically in recent decades. The Arctic is described as being in a “death spiral”. Feedback effects are kicking in earlier than expected with melting permafrost releasing methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The warnings have become so clamorous that bodies as conservative as the IMF and the World Bank have called for immediate action. IMF chief Christine Lagarde recently declared that without rapid action to counter global warming, the next generation would be “roasted, toasted, fried and grilled”.

As the evidence of the peril mounts, global carbon emissions are not falling or even slowing, but accelerating, as if humanity has some kind of death wish. Unless stopped, the rapid expansion of Australia’s coal exports will be a major contributor to the destabilisation of Earth’s climate in the coming decades. The effects will last for centuries.

Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions last year were 550 million tonnes. With a coal mining boom now underway, by 2025 annual emissions from Australia’s coal exports are expected to reach somewhere between 1300 and 1700 million tonnes. Every tonne of coal Australia exports causes damage to the wellbeing of future generations.

In a situation where the facts overwhelmingly demand sweeping measures to protect humanity yet our political system seems unwilling to respond, what is a concerned citizen to do? In a land where the voters can choose between a party that believes in incremental progress (while overseeing a rush to accelerate coal exports) and one that is dominated by deniers who refuse to accept the scientific facts, how can anyone make a difference?

Is it enough, for a person of conscience, to sit back and wait for the harms to become intolerable? For some, including the Greenpeace activists, the situation is impossible. When all legitimate means have been exhausted, the only alternative to apathy and despair appears to be civil disobedience. They feel that their duty to a higher law overwhelms their allegiance to those on the statute books.

Such a duty can never endorse violence, but that does not rule out physical acts aimed at preventing the harm being done. The kind of action taken by the activists from the Rainbow Warrior shines a light on the hypocrisy of authorities who use smooth words to persuade us that they accept the danger yet vigorously promote the activities that are making it worse. We can expect today’s dramatic events to be the opening shot in a long campaign.

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84 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Mike Hansen

    Mr.

    We can expect the usual horde of climate science deniers to descend on this article to abhor civil disobedience.

    The great irony is that overwhelmingly they are supporters of the US Tea Party and its fellow thinkers here.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Not all protests need involve civil disobedience to be effective. Civil disobedience does not necessarily imply the use of violence.

      http://quitcoal.org.au/

      "We hold rallies and public forums, do outreach at festivals and community events, lobby politicians, and speak to the media. We also take peaceful direct action – from creative street theatre to office occupations, and many things in between. We are a volunteer run collective that is committed to non-violence. We are a rapidly growing, open and inclusive community group."

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      To the contrary Mikey and the timing could not be better.
      The ABC for instance has a bit of a black hole because of the BBC making new contracts with otheres in regard to their programs so now we'll have some extra meaty newsy reports of civil disobedience and resultant actions.
      Maybe it'll have spin offs as a new reality show called Pirates

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I suppose in a democracy Mike, your organisation will be prepared to accept the even more peaceful prosecution of law breakers and any penalties that accompany a guilty finding.
      And if you are asked to leave an office, do you leave immediately and peacefully?

      If you do not, you can be subject to use of reasonable force and when you resist that is when violence is likely to commence.
      You may be a volunteer organisation and I suppose you would claim you are consuming exactly zero by way of goods and services that need use of an energy grid somewhere to produce them, just like Greenpeace ships have sails up and no engines.

      All fun and games to you Mike.

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Not fun and games Greg - but to understand why, you would need to read some climate science or even read Clive's article.

      BTW not my organisation although I do support their aims.

      "I suppose you would claim you are consuming exactly zero by way of goods and services that need use of an energy grid"

      No. Only an idiot would make that sort of claim. Oh hang on, aren't you ....

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      You can use labels all you like Mike and that achieves SFA, well perhaps not for you and so I doubt you are prepared to look at energy use from another perspective.
      What for instance is your target objective? other than to leave coal in the ground.
      Like you could do very little reading to find that even if it was feasible to build X amount of Nukes and renewables to replace coal, it is going to take decades if not centuries given economic viability.

      In the meantime there are likely going to…

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    6. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Target objective?

      Sorry Greg but your comments always give the impression that you do not read the article that you are commenting on.

      From the article. Take your time.

      "The political systems of nations like Australia have proven incapable of responding to the increasingly dire warnings of the world’s most authoritative climate scientists, including those gathered in the most prestigious scientific academies.

      Every week we read new and more alarming evidence of the scale of the threat…

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      It seems that Greg North is the 'on-duty spokesman for the looney right' at the moment.

      Perhaps we will get more explicit climate change denial posts when his shift ends and someone else takes over.

      But for now we get the sort of nonsense you would expect from someone who has done no research but has taken on the job of defending the vested interests. Comments like "Are all forms of entertainment that need power to be banned, even dining out etc. etc" don't even deserve a rebuttal. Is Greg really interested enough to spend hours posting on The Conversation yet he has not heard of the many proposals for rapidly moving to zero emissions while maintaining our power supplies?

      Is genuine or a troll? If genuine then I think he could do lots better.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Oh come Mike, you're now believing Christine Lagarde just because she is an IMF spokeswoman, having a legal background I think.

      " "The political systems of nations like Australia have proven incapable of responding to the increasingly dire warnings of the world’s most authoritative climate scientists, including those gathered in the most prestigious scientific academies. "
      Yes, we have a political system and there are all manner of advisors who no doubt look at warnings from climate scientists amongst other information and then advise politicians as to what they feel will be appropriate.
      Politicians then decide on our behalf as far as Australia is concerned..

      That's the way it works whether you like it or not.

      You might just want to consider the potential ramifications if Australia stopped exporting coal and gas.

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    9. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      LOL

      I just had a mind's eye picture of Christine Lagarde with her copy of Bill Ruddimann's " Earth's Climate, Past and Future" open on her desk as she prepared her speech.

      Was that a deliberate joke Greg or are you just being obtuse.

      I know that this will come as a huge shock to you Greg - but Christine Lagarde as head of the IMF actually has access to plenty of high powered experts - I am pretty sure she had a bit of climate scientist help with her speech.

      And Greg - this may surprise you but not even Mr Abbott has boned up on the latest climate science research - he relies on the climate cranks at the IPA.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Greg, I rather think you started the snideness here, so don't get too sanctimonious if Mike bites back.

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    11. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      the hole in the argument about people using goods and services supplied by an energy grid and by doing so wear the label "hypocrite" if they want to decarbonise the economy is the counter argument do you eat Food? do you drink Water? do you breathe Air?

      the other hole in the argument is that these people want the grid to go renewables, where if it actually did, further erodes the charge of "hyprocrite"

      Don't blame people for the lack of choice afforded to them who must also live in the 21st century. Given the choice, i would suspect quite a few people would happily let go of fossil fuels.

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  2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

    The party political content of this post is "In a land where the voters can choose between a party that believes in incremental progress (while overseeing a rush to accelerate coal exports) and one that is dominated by deniers who refuse to accept the scientific facts, how can anyone make a difference?"

    So even though Clive has run as a Greens candidate he is following the media practice of not mentioning The Greens, and he does not even mention that The Greens are the only party against coal…

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  3. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Being a bit of a wimp I would feel more comfortable with a coal reburial ceremony. A lump of coal is returned to the ground for millions more years watched by well wishers and accompanied by solemn thoughts. However privately I would take the view that Australia is an A-grade bullshitter pretending to care about climate change while exporting so much coal. If it's not our problem let's export asbestos as well. LNG exports are just silly because we'll need all that gas ourselves by mid century…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Newlands

      "Australia is an A-grade bullshitter pretending to care about climate change while exporting so much coal"

      Well that is true enough John. But young people rather than do impersonations of the Marvin the robot are trying to do something about it.
      http://quitcoal.org.au/

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  4. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    For those that board a ship bound for China, if they end up in China I imagine it'll be Chinese law they may have to contend with and despite Julia's latest buddying up I'd not expect some cosy prison farm conditions to apply whilst serving a sentence.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      The good old "go back to Russia and see what happens to you" argument. Cranky old conservatives always seem perplexed when they use that line and people laugh at them.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Greg North

      Oh for goodness sake, Greg, that's simply childish and completely empty!

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  5. Jo McBain

    logged in via Facebook

    Alongside all of the other legitimate ways to try and effect change civil disobedience should also be an option when it becomes clear that no other measure are addressing the issue. Climate Change and its impact on future generations .. my grandchildren......... is direct responsibility to address. What will happen if don’t mine for coal? We'll find alternate, and hopefully sustainable and green ways to generate energy, I have that much faith in humanities ingenuity. the technologies already exist, we just need political will to stand up against the full force of the Coal/Oil/Gas lobby groups..

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  6. Frank Formby

    complex systems scientist

    It always amuses me (even though it is tragic) when opponents of action on climate change directly or indirectly bring out the "it's the economy, stupid" line. That's because economics has many of the characteristics of a pseudoscience (particularly the economics selectively quoted by neo-cons) In any case, there is good evidence that markets adapt to changing conditions and scarcity, so they would likewise adapt to scarcity engendered by action on climate change. To quote the recently deceased "Tina", with respect to climate change, "there is no alternative". We already live in a grossly wasteful society with a massive overproduction of positional goods (aka status symbols) so a bit of moderation would be beneficial, not harmful.

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  7. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I find it odd the author supports civil disobedience by Greenpeace in the name of climate change, when that same organization opposes one of the best technologies (nuclear) to deal with the problem.

    I would much prefer those who are concerned about climate change enough to break the law, to instead get an engineering or science degree.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul, you have every right to support nuclear and it certainly a complex issue, but to characterise those who oppose it as being merely ignorant or uneducated is childish in the extreme. There are a great many very well educated professionals who oppose nuclear energy on very well argued and rational grounds. Perhaps you might like to patronise them by telling them to 'get an engineering or science degree'?

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I have an engineering degree, and are politically informed.

      It is pretty obvious to me that most who support nuclear for Australia are either doing so as a deliberate ploy to disrupt debate about earlier actions (a very sophisticated and politically aware ploy which is usually successful) or are people who don't care about climate change, like the idea of nuclear, and have no grasp of the political realities.

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    3. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Felix, I did not say those who oppose nuclear power are uneducated.

      In future, if you'd like me to clarify one of my comments, just ask.

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    4. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Michael, could you elaborate on "disrupt debate about earlier actions?" I don't understand that part.

      1. I would doubt that those who support nuclear energy necessarily "don't care about climate change" considering some of the worlds leading climate scientists and energy authorities advocate it as part of the solution.

      2. Can you imagine why some may like the idea of nuclear, particularly as part of a solution to climate change?

      3. I am aware of the political difficulties, and agree they are not easy. However, I would argue they not impossible.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      To do its part in ensuring the temperature rise is limited to 2 degrees Australia must reduce its emission by 40% on 1990 levels by 2020, then by over 80% by 2050.

      What is urgent to discuss and then implement is the actions to meet the 2020 target, and nuclear will not be a part of this. Once we know how we are going to meet our 2020 target, and all is going according to plan, we can relax and then discuss how to meet the 2050 target.

      Perhaps nuclear would be part of how to meet the 2050 target…

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    6. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I agree Paul, nuclear energy has the potential to be a safe and effective solution to climate change (or at least the human component of climate change). Ironically the R&D for safer nuclear energy is being held back by the blanket opposition to anything nuclear by many environmental groups. In the future when renewable energy has failed to produce anywhere near enough power to replace fossil fuels, the world will still be burning vast amounts of coal. It is a tragedy in the making.
      There was a good article in TC about the issue. https://theconversation.com/serious-about-emissions-its-time-to-embrace-nuclear-12964

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Steve Hindle - How about writing in support of other significant actions to prevent climate change?

      And where is the evidence that Australia needs nuclear to provide future power?

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    8. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Michael, I do support renewables as a way of reducing CO2 emissions. I also think we will need a higher carbon tax because we waste way too much energy. However renewables are highly unlikely to be able to produce enough reliable energy throughout the world. To follow this path only will result in fossil fuels being here to stay.

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    9. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Let's keep the discussion to Australia.

      And here I'm sure we could achieve zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear.

      Perhaps what is in doubt is the cost, but as getting rid of the last 20% of dirty energy production is decades away, I wouldn't be surprised if nuclear would be rejected just on cost grounds.

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    10. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      The problem is a world wide problem. The discussion cannot be kept just to Australia as we produce only 1.5% of world emissions.
      "...I'm sure we could achieve zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear" Australia is well placed for renewables but there is no practical way to store large amounts of electricity that is anywhere near cost effective. Unless there is some huge breakthrough, that is unlikely to change.

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    11. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I think it should be up to Australia's to decide how to redue it's emissions, and I have no intention in teling other countries how they should reduce theirs.

      Solar thermal, hydro, reduced usage at night, local thermal storage in the home (heat banks, ice chests), using batteries of electric cars, etc etc. There are lots of solutions and more will come up over the next few decades.

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

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Paul Cm

      If you really think you've just described the motives of "most who support nuclear for Australia", then I'm here to tell you, politically informed you ain't. I can think of precisely one person who might fit that bill, who often frequents these parts. Don't judge the rest of us by him. For my part, you could not be more wrong.

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    13. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Mark Duffett - If you proffered some other typical reasons why people support nuclear power, including your view, then we could have a conversation.

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

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Are you kidding? I think I can recall off the top of my head a good half-dozen times we've had that conversation ourselves already :)

      Barry Brook and Ben Heard have chronicled their intellectual journeys to nuclear power support in a very readable fashion. I'd suggest they're quite representative. Rather than recapitulate at length here, I suggest some time at their blogs. But what it essentially boils down to is that solar and wind BY THEMSELVES are inadequate at multiple levels, and the problems with nuclear have been vastly overstated.

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    15. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I loose track of who said what and when.

      But if we have discussed nuclear before then perhaps further discussion will achieve nothing and we should just agree to disagree.

      But from my poor memory of earlier discussions I'll maintain my view that it would be next to impossible to get both Labor and Liberal, federal and state, to all support a nuclear plant.

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    16. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul, politicians who don't think there is a climate problem will never deliver a serious program to replace fossil fuels - not with renewables nor with nuclear. Pointing the finger at Environmentalists for not supporting nuclear is no more than politically expedient sleight of hand to distract from the unwillingness of mainstream political parties to do so.

      The biggest impediment to nuclear-as-emissions solution in Australia is denial of the seriousness of the climate problem within the ranks…

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    17. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Ken, it is the impossible politics of nuclear energy in Australia that stops mainstream political parties from offering it as a proven base load energy source with negligible CO2 emissions. It is much easier to scare people than to educate them.
      In 30 years time when the world is struggling with major climate change problems and still burning coal because renewables can't supply enough power, generation IV nuclear energy will be seen as a missed opportunity.

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    18. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Steve Hindle - I agree with you that nuclear is impossible in today's politics, and unfortunately I agree with you that in 30 years time the world will be struggling with major climate change problems.

      But I note that I've seen much more discussion on The Conversation about nuclear than I have seen on what needs to be done in the next few years. The sad fact is that discussion of nuclear has been a very effective deterrent to discussing short term actions.

      So, in small part, those promoting…

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    19. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      You could just go and build a nuclear power plant in Australia... if you're gonna break the law, break the law that delivers the maximum possible greenhouse gas abatement!

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    20. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      "There are a great many very well educated professionals who oppose nuclear energy on very well argued and rational grounds."

      That's like saying there are "well educated professionals" who oppose, say, vaccination on" well argued and rational grounds".

      Usually they are not at all well educated in the details of the actual subject matter in question, and at worst their "education" comes from reading conspiracy websites. And all too often those "well argued and rational grounds" are actually neither.

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    21. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Paul Cm

      There are plenty of engineers/physicists opposed to nuclear power but I haven't seen too many cancer epidemiologists getting involved. Possibly because they understand that radiation from accidents just isn't much of a player. You could have Fukushima style failures on an annual basis and not cause anything close to the number of cancers caused by cigarettes, red and processed meat, alcohol and obesity ... or even sunshine.

      Consider all the forcibly homeless in Japan. Why don't we move them…

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    22. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul, we've been through this stupid revolving door at least twice before on The Conversation; you make ambiguous, cryptic comments that are interpreted in a fairly commonsense way be several people then you retort with pseudo-clarifications and patronising offers to clarify your comments.

      Here's a possible alternative: why don't you just say something clearly and unambiguously to begin with?

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    23. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Felix, you seem to be the only one who has misundersood my comment. Like I said, if you would like me to clarify/elaborate, I'm happy to do that.

      Let's move on please.

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    24. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Luke, that must rate as one of the most vacuous and childish 'arguments' I've seen in years.

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  8. John Campbell

    farmer

    What appropriate timing!

    We have a war to fight a war against those who export black death.

    And let's not forget - the Rainbow Warrier that is.

    I agree with Clive there is no other option than to take matters into our own hands using Civil disobedience and any other type of peaceful behavior, either legal or not.Remember back from the Whitlam era, many of the social and societal changes that occurred then were not so much platforms of the ALP but grass root issues, this shows that such actions…

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    1. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to John Campbell

      Hi John, accepting your premise that coal is 'black death', I think the article is disappointing as political philosophy because it doesn't critically analyse different responses to the problem.

      It simple asserts 'the situation's so bad we need civil disobedience'.

      It would be useful to look at alternative courses of action. For example, can we convince a political party to adopt a no-coal policy? Or should we in fact take violent action against coal exporters?

      If not, why not?

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  9. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    "(Due to) the failure of the Australian Government to take action against coal exports, Greenpeace has now been forced to take action ourselves."

    Glad to see Greenpeace have got their priorities right, and a little donation has just been made

    https://www.greenpeace.org.au/secure/donate/

    The coal mining companies are operating within the law, as they were given permits to operate in Australia.

    If there is any fault, then the fault lies with the state and federal governments for issuing the permits to operate, and for approving the mines in the first place.

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  10. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    The argument " if we don't sell it someone else will " is true to some extent, we should expect better from our politicians. Sure the loss of coal sales would have a big impact on our budget. We are a member of the G20, we will soon have a seat on the security council. If we act on the world stage then surely the persona we display should not be subjected to claims of double standards and hypocrisy.
    There is nothing stopping the major parties from developing a policy which over time reduces our exports of coal. This is the required first step. Companies have entered into contracts should they be honored?
    What is really needed now is people of vision and conviction to lead us. LOL.

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  11. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Great idea Clive! Stop the export of coal to developing countries.They can generate power with treadle pumps instead.

    Think of the benefits. Poor Indians and Nigerians will get fit. And wealthy Australians can feel pleased with themselves.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to James Jenkin

      It is amazing the number of conservatives who have suddenly discovered great concern for the poor overseas - of course the fact the Gina et. al benefit from being able to flog their coal helps of course. Amazing that concern does not extend to allowing them to come to Australia. A boat of them arrives in Freo and the whole dog whistle orchestra is brought into play.

      But back to energy. An International Energy Agency study estimated that 150 million Indians would still be without electricity by 2030 which would be half of the current 300 million residents who are not linked to the national power grid.

      Decentralised renewables would benefit the Indian poor in a way that centralised coal will never be able to.

      Jenkins is a climate science denier who pretends to be concerned about the poor - the practiced disingenuousness that JetA1 Dean is famous for.

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Hahaha I love the 'conservative' label Mike. Go for it, very amusing.

      Not all progressives are orthodox Greens supporters you know.

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James - you can fantasise about being a "progressive" all you like but your politics reflected in your comments here are consistently right-wing. Climate science denial itself is a right-wing "cause celebre".

      But leaving that to one side, your implication that Clive does not care about the third world poor is fundamentally dishonest. While the wealthy West will be able to adapt to climate change to a certain degree, the poor in the third world will be hit hard. Anyone concerned about the fate of the world's poor would be demanding that we cease all coal burning as rapidly as possible.

      That position as Clive has made clear is based on the science. If you disagree, show us the peer reviewed science to justify your position. There is nothing progressive about being anti-science. That is the hallmark of right-wing cranks.

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    4. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Mike there is hardly anyone left that graces TC you haven't labelled as a right wing crank.

      Have you ever considered that this now renders yourself alone in your extreme position?

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    5. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Well spotted Wade. Given that I comment primarily on climate science articles, it is a bit like observing that the Pope is Catholic.

      The climate cranks are not motivated by science (which they hardly ever discuss) but by their right-wing anti-environment politics.

      Don't believe me - read Murdoch's climate pitbull James Delingpole ("the interpreter of interpretations") say the same thing

      " I note that warmists are often banging on about the fact that sceptics like Christopher Booker and myself "only" have arts degrees. But actually that's our strength, not our weakness. Our intellectual training qualifies us better than any scientist – social or natural sciences – for us to understand that this is, au fond, not a scientific debate but a cultural and rhetorical one."

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100210866/an-english-class-for-trolls-professional-offence-takers-and-climate-activists/

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  12. Robert McDougall

    Small Business Owner

    "In a land where the voters can choose between a party that believes in incremental progress (while overseeing a rush to accelerate coal exports) and one that is dominated by deniers who refuse to accept the scientific facts"

    So does this mean that people who do want something should consider the Greens?

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  13. Robert McDougall

    Small Business Owner

    one shining example of effective civil disobedience is the lock the gate movement.

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  14. John Newlands

    tree changer

    There are overtones of white colonialism in arguments by Graig Emerson MP and others who say Australian coal is needed to prevent mass starvation overseas. If carbon taxes, renewable energy targets and the like are good enough for us then it is good enough for the benighted masses over there. Perhaps instead of sending coal we should send Aussie experts to show them how it's done. Oops we re still using three times as much coal per person as China. Perhaps they should advise us.

    I think a good rule is that everybody burns less coal starting yesterday. I believe both Gillard and Combet have visited coal loaders and told them they are doing a heckuva good job. Could be why in Queensland three coal ports will be expanded and three new ones built. One of those to expand is the ominously named Abbot Point, single 't'. Let's hope the arguments for coal exports are a bit more sophisticated with the new government.

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  15. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

    Should be a rule that these greenies have to roll their sleeves up and help build renewable power capacity to replace all the coal use they stop. It's only fair. You go and reduce our energy production and you kill people - ironically, from exposure to the cold.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Moderators - you removed a comment of mine the last time this boofhead commented here.

      I assume that was because I was not being "respectful"

      In what way is someone who calls himself a "Watermelon interrogator" being respectful. Watermelon is this fool's childish reference to someone concerned about the environment - "green on the outside, red on the inside " hah, hah, hah - very funny if you are a neo-Nazi.

      This is an obvious attempt to intimidate other commenters here. I am sure Anders Breivik started life as a "watermelon interrogator" but later decided to up the ante.

      Please feel free to remove my comment but if you are going to enforce your commenting standards, you will also remove Burrell's comment.

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    2. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Feel safe enough to get back on topic now, Mike?

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      No one is suggesting that we significantly reduce energy production - environmentalists are saying we need to change from polluting energy to clean energy. So no-one dies from cold.

      But Leigh raises an interesting proposition. How about those who want action on climate change paying a 'do something levy'. As this will only partially reduce our emissions, and climate change will result, those who didn't pay the action levy can a pay a levy to handle the consequences of climate change.

      Since the Stern report we have know that prevention is cheaper than dealing with the consequences, so I'm happy to pay an action levy, and I look forward to Leigh paying much much more as the temperature rises.

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    4. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      There's also any number ways you could trade your view on climate and/or coal through derivatives and make a killing. You could then rule us all under the kind of enlightened green despotism Hamilton advocates...for our benefit, of course.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      You miss my point. You are the one that suggested introducing silly rules, so I'm following up along that line.

      If you expect me to pay based on my belief in the science, isn't it reasonable for me to expect you to pay if the science proves correct. Hence a fair system where people can choose between paying an ACTION levy and a HANDLE CONSEQUENCES levy.

      And you seem to think that those with the most money rule. Mmmm, that seems to the the case now. So if I did make a killing you would obviously be happy for me to rule because I had the money.

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    6. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      There's no denying it - those with the most money have the opportunity to exercise power over others if that's their bag. It's a stated objective of Hamilton, who has advocated suspending democracy in favour of a green dictatorship.

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      I think you will find that Hamilton said that it now seems likely that the only way the required changes could be done in time to prevent climate change was if democracy were suspended.

      This isn't the same as advocating suspending democracy. Rather it is facing the reality that it is now probably too late to do what needs to be done.

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    8. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Why the hell is he worried about coal if he thinks it's too late? Sounds more like he thinks anything goes - civil disobedience, totalitarianism...whatever it takes. It's all good!

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

    logged in via Twitter

    As has been touched on by several comments already, a fundamental problem with civil disobedience is that it's negative. No amount of lying in front of bulldozers will get a new nuclear, solar or wind power plant built. That's particularly problematic in a world where energy poverty is still so widespread. Not for the first time, I'm really not sure that Hamilton is being helpful here.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      History is full of examples where civil disobedience has been a key part of creating great change.

      Without some civil disobedience I doubt there would even be any mention of our coal exports in the media.

      And note that these protests are aiming at stopping coal exports. There are other protests that focus on domestic power generation.

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      I'm not really sure what is wrong with civil disobedience ... "negative"? Tell that to Gandhi.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Mark, would you attempt to build something on a site where there was already another building without demolishing that first?

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  17. John Campbell

    farmer

    I have a question for all the contributors to this post.

    If the government held a lottery (similar to the Vietnam one) where first prize meant you siblings were shot dead and second prize meant your house was bulldozed, would you feel justified in acting against them or would you think you should obey the law no matter what?

    Perhaps many of you still think that climate change poses little or no threat. I imagine that many who live in cities moving from their air conditioned homes to air conditioned…

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  18. Hugh McColl

    Geographer

    No one seems to have touched on the subject that aggravates many Australians living along the coal export chain: the point of loading and export. At Townsville (pop. nearing 200,000) there is a large industrial port importing ores for nickel/cobalt and zinc/cadmium refineries, motor vehicles and cement while exporting those finished metals plus copper/lead, other ores railed in from the region (BHP Cannington, Mt Isa zinc/lead), manufactured fertilizer, live beef etc. About 10m tonnes per annum…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Hugh McColl

      No need to worry about bodies such as UNESCO possibly stripping the Great Barrier Reef of its World Heritage listing because our Federal Labor and Queensland State governments assure us that the environment really is being protected.

      See, the looney Right are right - international bodies are trying to take over what we can and cannot do.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Hugh McColl

      Here is a list of proposed developments in QLD that have a current EIS, and social impact statements are also being prepared.

      http://www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/current-eis-projects.html

      The public can also ”have their say”

      http://www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/have-your-say.html

      Unfortunately, most people will not submit anything, and the temptation for a government is to have big development so they can say that jobs are being created.

      Most of those developments require labour to come into an area, which then creates permanent destruction of the environment in the area to house the extra people.

      This is occurring in cities such as Townsville, Mackay and Gladstone, and I believe the destruction caused by extra people coming into an area is often greater than the environmental destruction from the actual development.

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    3. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Hugh McColl

      As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, the Townsville Port Authority would like to double the size of the port to allow for predicted growth from 11m tonnes pa to perhaps 25m tonnes pa over the next couple of decades - with the pain sweetened by how many million tonnes of sugar from the burgeoning Burdekin delta. In order to do this they will need to excavate some millions of cubic metres of spoil both from the vastly extended harbour basin and some kilometres of deepening and extending…

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  19. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Like Paul Moonie I find this particular Greenpeace action rather bizarre given their stance on nuclear electricity. France has been generating her electricity for < 80 gm CO2/kwh for over 20 years. We are up over 850 gm CO2/kwh
    and the Germans are stuck at 450 gm CO2/kwh. We could all have been down with the French if the anti-nuclear movement hadn't stopped the nuclear roll out in the late 80s and 90s. So in a very real sense, the anti nuclear has done a great deal to accelerate the urgency of…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      The Greenpeace action is about stopping Australia's coal exports.

      It is not about what sort of power stations Australia should build. But there is a follow-on to stopping our coal exports that if this puts up the price of coal then hopefully the importing nation will burn less coal.

      I find it bizarre that those in favor of nuclear cannot recognise that short term actions have nothing to do with nuclear. Even if nuclear was to happen this would only be a part of the solution, and we would still need to do much in the short term.

      Just discussing nuclear is avoiding the short term issues, such as whether or not the Greenpeace direction action is moral.

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Of course it's moral.

      What's immoral is exporting coal. What's immoral is opposing the Jaitapur nuclear plant and letting children keep dying. What's immoral is 30 million cattle in Australia. What's immoral is raising chicken in conditions where only 3 percent can walk normally and which guarantees the breeding of a global pandemic in the near future, if not already on the doorstep as H5N1 or H7N9. H1N1 swine flu killed 284,000. Attempting to stop mass murder is moral ... even if the murder is indirect in time and place.

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