Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Australia Opts for Fossil Fuels

Australia is currently aggressively developing its natural gas resource. By the end of 2018, it is likely to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter.

Under new rules, fracking would be able to take place in 51 per cent of the Northern Territory's 1.4 million sq km (540,000 sq miles.

Meanwhile, Western Australia is leading the way on developing gas. The scale of the developments in WA is enormous: a recent report states that the total global emissions from all of WA’s gas reserves (conventional and unconventional) is equivalent to 36.4bn tonnes of C02, that is eight times more than the planned Adani coal mine would produce in its lifetime. The domestic carbon footprint from exploiting WA’s unconventional gas reserves, currently subject to a fracking inquiry, would be three times the amount Australia could emit if it were to comply with the Paris Agreement. Chevron’s Wheatstone project, one of four LNG facilities currently operating in WA’s northwest, is set to release 10.4m tonnes of CO2 annually, a staggering 12% of the state’s total emissions. Yet currently there is no requirement for the company to offset these emissions.

Gas has been promoted as a “bridging” fuel in the transition to a zero-carbon economy, due to its greater flexibility and lower emissions when compared to coal. However, it is still a fossil fuel with significant greenhouse gas emissions on combustion. Furthermore, any advantage it has over coal is lost with even small rates of leakage, as methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. There are limits to gas use if we are to keep to a global carbon budget that restricts warming to less than 2°C as agreed to in Paris.

With the current 1°C of warming above pre-industrial levels Australia is already experiencing severe climatic impacts. Increasing heat and rainfall extremes, bushfires and storms have already directly affected the health of many Australians both physically and psychologically. Those most vulnerable in our communities – children, older Australians and the economically disadvantaged – are already disproportionately affected.In the longer term are the agricultural and socioeconomic consequences of reduced rainfall and droughts on food production and changing patterns of infectious diseases such as dengue and Ross River virus. Further warming will undermine many of the global health gains secured over the last century. The impacts of climate change will unfairly affect people in developing nations, the poorest in those countries, those least able to cope and those least responsible for the problem.

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