New study predicts demise of Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is facing serious threats from climate change, and ongoing coal projects make it even worse. The Carmichael Mine Project, located in the Galilee Basin, will go ahead despite warnings that coal transported from the mining site to the Abbot Point Port will cause irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

A new scientific study says the reef could be destroyed by environmental change before the end of the century. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation  (CSIRO) and Bureau of Meteorology (MOB) forecast that Australia will be hit hard by climate change as temperatures will rise of up to 5.1C by 2090. Scientists under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) have agreed a limit of 2C if the earth is to avert catastrophe.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

CSIRO’s principal scientist,  Kevin Hennessy, said the inland will be most affected but  one of the most dramatic  transformations are set to take place in the seas that surround Australia, which will warm between 2C to 4C  unless carbon emissions are cut.

On average, four metric tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere per person per year, representing an increase of 30% over the last 250 years. The IPCC monitors these changes.

The effect of climate change is already changing the Reef. The Department of Environmentalso confirms sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, along with sea levels, and the ocean is sure to become more acidic. These changes affect reef species and habitats, as well as ecosystem processes, and the industries and communities that depend on the Reef.

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing on the reef together contribute $6.9 billion to the national economy per year. Unusually warm sea temperatures have already caused serious and lasting damage to 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced eight mass bleaching events since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures. The most widespread events occurred in 1998 and 2002 with more than 50% of reefs bleached. Coral bleaching is a natural process but the rate is increasing faster than ever before.

The Federal Government gave a green light to the coal project despite warnings from the United Nations that it will put the Reef at risk. Predictions also suggest that the Carmichael mine could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime, representing a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions.  The pollution from the entire Galilee Basin, if all projects go ahead, will be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

“That intermediate emissions scenario would have significant effects for Australia,” Hennessy said. “Coral reefs are sensitive to even small changes in ocean temperature and a 1C rise would have severe implications for the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo reef.

The forecast is grim for the Great Barrier Reef and if Australia cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions the future could be very challenging, the CSIRO scientist said.

Re-blogged from: Green Journal/Asian Correspondent
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‘Big 4′ banks under pressure to rule out funding of coal projects

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released a report calling on Australia’s “big four” banks to rule out involvement in financing controversial coal projects proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

The report called ‘The Equator Principles and financing of coal projects in the Galilee Basin‘ names Australia’s “big four” banks   – Australia-New Zealand Banking Corp (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac Banking Corp – as signatories to the Equator Principles (EPs) and calls on all four to rule out any involvement in the Galilee Basin projects.

The report is a result of research undertaken by ACF energy analyst Tristan Knowles which investigates how Australian banks should deal with financing coal projects in the area. The EPs are a voluntary framework the banks have signed up to guide them in the assessment and management of environmental and social risk in the projects they consider financing.

Anti-coal activists hang a huge banner in front of Commonwealth Bank's headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-coal activists hang a banner in front of Commonwealth Bank’s headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. (Photo: Market Forces)

The EPs serve as a guide to the best practices and a “gold standard” in environmental and social risk management. ACF said the EPs are relevant to proposed coal projects in the Galilee Basin because mines and infrastructure require project finance and advisory services to proceed. More notably, the project value is well over US$10 million – the current threshold for coverage by the EPs.

ACF insists that coal projects in the Galilee Basin are a litmus test for the EPs stating, “If they’re truly a gold standard for environmental and social risk management, Australian banks should rule out further financing of these projects because they will result in serious damage to the environment… We hope this report focuses the debate about Galilee Basin Coal projects back on the banks’ commitments to be environmental leaders.”

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Several foreign banks have already backed out from financing Adani Group’s coal port expansion, including US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase.

Prior to those banks’ rejection, the Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays all ruled out funding the development of the Adani’s $16.5bn project

The report said the massive projects will destroy tens of thousands of hectares of land, consume huge amounts of water and potentially impact on the Great Artesian Basin, and result in significant greenhouse gas pollution.

The UN World Heritage Committee, which visited the site in 2013, also said coal projects will cause irreparable damage to the World Heritage Area and warned the Australian government to delist the site.

News blog link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent