Monday, August 22, 2011

Big Coal Faces Killer Argument in Court

It might just be the moment fossil fuelers dread most - their production tied to direct environmental consequences.  The Queensland, Australia coal-mining giant, Xstrata is going to court today over a plan to mine 30-million tonnes of coal per year for 30-years for the export market.   Friends of the Earth Brisbane is objecting and plans to introduce scientific evidence of the specific consequences from this venture.

In statements already filed to the court, Dr Malte Meinhausen, a leading climate researcher from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, states the mine “could cause the extra annual flooding of the settlements and houses of 23,000 people worldwide by the 2080s”.

According to Xstrata's own Environmental Impact Statement, the mining operations and the burning of the mine's coal over 30 years will add more than 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Dr Meinhausen's statement says the emissions are the equivalent of more than seven times the Federal Government's target to cut emissions by five per cent by 2020.

Calculating the impact of those emissions, Dr Meinhausen claims they will push average global sea levels 23 millimetres higher, causing an extra 23,000 people's homes to flood every year.

This case could be the opening salvo in an effort to "make the polluter pay, globally." It's obvious that dredging up fossil fuels out of the ground contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and that those emissions are quantifiable.  Xstrata's own Environmental Impact Statement plainly admits that much.  But evidence which ties those emissions to even a threshhold, quantifiable consequence such as sea level rise may open the way for affected (injured) nations to demand direct compensation from fossil fuel producers and the national and local governments that regulate them.   And wouldn't that be a shock to the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill?

1 comment:

Anyong said...

These companies make the big bucks and they are the ones who ought to have enough ethics to clean up their mess and the environment. It's an arse about face system we live in.