Australian Coal, Gas & Iron Ore Exports Threaten Humanity
Australia is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas pollution and ignores top German climate change scientists who estimated in 2009 that the world must emit no more than 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) before 2050 if it is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise. Australia’s annual domestic plus exported greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is so high that it exceeded its “:fair share” of this terminal GHG pollution budget by mid-2011. Worse still, Australia’s commitment to unlimited gas, coal and iron ore exports means that it is committed to polluting the atmosphere with over 3 times the world’s total terminal GHG pollution budget. Australia’s annual domestic plus exported per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is about 70 times greater than the annual per capita GHG pollution of acutely climate change-threatened Bangladesh.
In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU) determined that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2 degree C temperature rise, the World must pollute less than 600 Gt CO2 (600 billion tonnes CO2) between 2010 and essentially zero emissions in 2050.
This means that the "fair share" of this global terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget of 600 Gt CO2 (600 billion tonnes CO2) for Australia (population 22.9 million in 2012 as compared to a World population of 7,010 million ) is 600 billion tonnes CO2 x 22.9 million/7010 million = 1.960 billion tonnes CO2 = 1,960 million tonnes CO2.
Australia’s annual domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution was 578 million tonnes CO2-e in 2010 (this figure taking into account not just CO2 but other greenhouse gases (GHGs) excluding water (H2O) that were emitted e.g. methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) derived from land use) and accordingly Australia has 1,960/578 = 3.4 years at this rate to use up its “fair share” of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget.
However simple “cause and effect” means that we must also consider the GHG impact of Australia’s huge coal, natural gas and iron ore exports to the GHG pollution of the one common atmosphere of all countries. If Australia left it all in the ground then this material would not be used to generate GHG pollution of the atmosphere.
Australia's domestic plus exported GHG pollution in 2010 was 1,708 million tonnes CO2-e, this being made up (in million tonnes of CO2-e) of 578 (Domestic) + 803 (coal exports) + 34 (LNG exports) + 293 (iron ore exports) (Google "2011 Climate Change Course") and hence Australia had 1,960/1,708 = 1.1 years to get to zero emissions i.e. by the middle of 2011).
Australia has thus already used up its “fair share” of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget and is now stealing the entitlement of all of the countries in the world. For a detailed analysis see “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions”, Green Blog, 1 August 2011).
However, Australia has huge reserves of black coal, brown coal, natural gas (conventional gas and unconventional gas such as shale gas and coal seam gas or CSG) and iron ore (which contributes to GHG pollution when processed industrially. It is accordingly useful to examine ti the implications of Australia extracting and exporting all of its reserves of these resources. The answers are quite shocking.
1. Natural gas
Australian conventional gas resources are 111 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 53 Tcf SDR (Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 20 Tcf Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 184 Tcf. (see ABARE and Geoscience Australia, “Australian Energy Resource Assessment”, Chapter 4 “Gas”).
However Australia also has unconventional gas resources, specifically Australian coal seam gas resources are 15.1 Tcf Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 27.2 Tcf SDR (Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 111 Tcf Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 153 Tcf plus tight gas resources (in shale deposits) of 20 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of Inferred Reserves (IR), for an overall total of unconventional gas reserves of coal seam gas and shale gas variously requiring “fracking” of 173 Tcf.
Now 1 tonne of LNG = 48,700 cubic feet of gas (0.0487 Mcf or million cubic feet of gas) and accordingly Australia's conventional gas reserves = 184 million Mcf x 1 t LNG/0.0487 Mcf = 3,778 million tonnes of LNG.
Australia’s unconventional gas reserves = 173 million Mcf x 1 t LNG/0.0487 Mcf = 3,552 million tonnes of LNG.
The major component of LNG is methane (CH4) which on combustion yields CO2 and water : CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2O. CH4 has a molecular weight of 16 and CO2 a molecular weight of 44. Accordingly combustion of 16 tonnes of CH4 yields 44 tonnes of CO2 and combustion of 1 tonne of CH4 yields 2.75 tonnes CO2.
However CH4 is a gas, it leaks (an average of 3.3% in the US and up to 7.9% for unconventional gas from fracking shale deposits according to Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea, “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations”, Climatic Change, 2011) and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time frame and including aerosol impacts according to Drew T. Shindell , Greg Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch, Gavin A. Schmidt , Nadine Unger and Susanne E. Bauer , “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718).
For 100 tonnes CH4 from conventional gas, leakage of 3.3 tonnes CH4 yields 3.3 tonnes CH4x 105 tonnes CO2-e/ tonne CH4 = 346.5 tonnes CO2-e and combustion of the remaining 96.3 tonnes CH4 yields 96.3 x 2.75 = 264.8 tonnes CO2 for a total of 611.3 tonnes CO2-e. Accordingly 1 tonne of CSG-derived CH4 yields 6.11 tonnes CO2-e and hence Australia's conventional reserves of 3.778 billion tonnes would yield 3.778 x 6.11 = 23.1 billion tonnes of CO2-e.
For 100 tonnes CH4 from unconventional gas, leakage of 7.9 tonnes CH4 yields 7.9 tonnes CH4x 105 tonnes CO2-e/ tonne CH4 = 829.5 tonnes CO2-e and combustion of the remaining 92.1 tonnes CH4 yields 92.1 x 2.75 = 253. 3 tonnes CO2 for a total of 1082.8 tonnes CO2-e. Accordingly 1 tonne of CSG-derived CH4 yields 10.83 tonnes CO2-e and hence Australia's unconventional reserves of 3.552 billion tonnes would yield 3.552 x 10.82 = 38.4 billion tonnes of CO2-e.
Thus exploitation of Australia’s presently discovered conventional and unconventional gas resources would generate 61.5 billion tonnes of CO2-e or about 10% of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes CO2, noting that Australia’s “fair share” is only 2.0 billion tonnes CO2-e.
Australian black coal resources are 39.2 Gt (billion tonnes) Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 8.3 Gt Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 66.6 Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 114.1 Gt i.e. 114.1 billion tonnes black coal (ABARE and Geoscience Australia, “Australian Energy Resource Assessment”, Chapter 5 “Coal”).
Australian brown coal resources are 37.2 Gt Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 55.1 Gt Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 101.8 Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 194.0 Gt i.e. 194.0 billion tonnes brown coal.
According to the “Australian Energy Resource Assessment”, “Australia ranks fourth in the world in terms of combined recoverable economic coal resources. Australia’s total coal resources are substantially larger than this with total identified resources of black coal being around 114 Gt and brown coal resources of 194 Gt. However, the full extent of Australia’s very large coal resource base is not known: potential resources have not been assessed because the existing identified resource base is so large. The resource potential of coal is probably in excess of one trillion tonnes. There are over 25 sedimentary basins with identified resources or coal occurrences and there are areas within these basins that need further exploration. Significant potential also exists in poorly explored basins across the continent” (ABARE and Geoscience Australia, “Australian Energy Resource Assessment”, Chapter 5 “Coal”).
If the “resource potential” of over “one trillion tonnes” has the same proportion of brown/black as Australia’s currently proven and inferred resources (194.0 Gt brown/114/1 Gt black) then this would involve 194.0 x 1 trillion t/(194.0 + 114.1) = 629.7 Gt brown coal and 370.3 Gt black coal.
Burning 12 t carbon yields 44 t CO2 i.e. burning 1 t carbon yields 44 /12 = 3.67 t CO2 Accordingly complete combustion of black coal (about 80% carbon ) would yield 0.8 x 3.67 = 2.9 t CO2 and complete combustion of 1 t brown coal (about 30% carbon:) would yield 0.3 x 3.67 = 1.1 t CO2. Thus, for example, because a lot of brown coal (lignite) is used for power generation in the US, on average burning 1t coal for electricity in the US yields 2.1 t CO2/t coal.
Using these estimates of 2.9 t CO2/ t black coal and 1.1 t CO2/ t brown coal we can calculate the CO2 from combustion of Australian coal resources as set out below.
CO2 from combustion of established Australian black coal resources would be 113.7 Gt Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 24.1 Gt Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 193.1 Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 330.9 Gt CO2 i.e. 330.9 billion tonnes CO2 or 55.2% of the world’s terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2.
CO2 from combustion of established Australian brown coal resources are 40.9 Gt Economic Demonstrated Reserves (EDR), 60.6 Gt Sub-economic Reserves (SDR) and 112.0 Inferred resources (IR) for a total of 213.4 Gt CO2 i.e. 213.4 billion tonnes of CO2 or 35.6% of the world’s terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2.
Thus CO2 from combustion of established Australian black and brown coal resources would total 544.3 billion tonnes CO2 or 90.7% of the world’s terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2.
However, CO2 from combustion of Australia’s coal resource potential of 1 trillion tonnes of coal would be 692.7 Gt CO2 (from brown coal) plus 1,073.9 Gt CO2 (from black coal) for a total of 1,766.6 Gt CO2 i.e. 1,766.6 billion tonnes CO2 or 294.4% (2.9 times) the world’s terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2.
3. Iron ore
In 2010 the world produced 2,400 million tonnes of iron ore of which Australia’s production was 420 tonnes. (see “Iron ore”, Wikipedia ).
According to The Australian: “Australia raised its forecast for 2011/12 iron ore exports to a record 473 million tonnes, from a previous projection of 460 million tonnes, reflecting expectations demand from top buyer China will remain strong…Australia exported 407 million tonnes of ore in 2010/11. Longer term, Australia's exports are expected to rise by an annual rate of around 11 percent to reach 767 million tonnes in 2016/17, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) predicted” (see “Australia raises iron ore exports forecast to record”, The Australian, 20 March 2012). At this rate of increase one predicts Australian iron ore exports of 1,048 million tonnes by 2019/2020 and 1,164 million tonnes by 2020/2021 i.e. about 1,106 million tonnes in 2020.
SSAB (the major Swedish steel company ) states that: “According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the iron and steel industry accounts for approximately 4-5% of the global CO2 emissions. This is due to the fact that steel production requires large amounts of energy, often based on fossil fuels. SSAB's steelworks are among the most efficient in the world”. ).
In 2010 world CO2 emissions totalled 33.5 billion tonnes (see “List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions”, Wikipedia).
Taking the upper estimate of the steel industry accounting for 5% of the global CO2 emissions (IEA), in 2010 Australia’s production of 420 tonnes iron ore was associated with 0.05 x 33,500 million tonnes CO2 x 420 million tonnes iron ore/ 2,400 million tonnes iron ore = 293.1 million tonnes CO2. The predicted iron exports of 1,106 million tonnes in 2020 would correspond to 293.1 million tonnes CO2 x 1,106 million tonnes iron ore /420 million tonnes iron ore = 771.8 million tonnes CO2.
Australia’s “economic demonstrated resources” of iron ore total 24 billion tonnes, this corresponding to 16.7 billion tonnes CO2 or 2.8% of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget, noting that Australia has only 0.3% of the World’s population.
4. Australia’s domestic plus exported GHG pollution
From Treasury, ABARE, US EIA and the above data and assuming an 11% annual growth in iron ore exports, 2.4% annual growth in coal exports and 9% annual growth in gas exports, Australia’s Domestic and Exported greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is as follows (million tonnes CO2-e; Google “2011 Climate Change Course” ):
2000: 555 (Domestic) + 505 (coal exports) + 17 (LNG exports) + 105 (iron ore exports) = 1,182.
2009: 600 (Domestic) + 784 (coal exports) + 31 (LNG exports) + 97 (iron ore exports) = 1,512.
2010: 578 (Domestic) + 803 (coal exports) + 34 (LNG exports) + 293 (iron ore exports) = 1,708.
2020: 621 (Domestic) + 1,039 (black coal exports) + 80 (LNG exports) + 59 (brown coal exports) + 772 (iron ore exports) = 2,571
In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU) determined that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2 degree C temperature rise, the World must pollute less than 600 billion tonnes CO2 between 2010 and essentially zero emissions in 2050. Assuming an Australian population of 22.9 million and a world population of 7,010 million (2012) the Australia’s “fair share”of this terminal GHG pollution budget is 600,000 million tonnes CO2 x 22.9 million /7,010 million = 1,960 million tonnes CO2 per year. Accordingly, in 2010 alone Australia used up 1,708 x 100/1,960 = 87% of its “fair share” of the world’s terminal 2010-2050 GHG pollution budget. However, on current projections, in 2020 Australia aims to use up 429% (4.3 times) of its “fair share” of the world’s terminal 2010-2050 GHG pollution budget.
5. Australian miners are stealing the GHG pollution entitlement of other Australians (notably farmers) as well as of all other people worldwide.
For 4 decades I have been teaching biochemistry to second year university agricultural science students, many of whom come from farms. In recent years I have drawn their attention to the upwards revision by World Bank analysts Goodland and Anfang of man-made GHG pollution Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009). In short, Goodland and Anfang have estimated that man’s GHG pollution is 50% bigger than hitherto thought and that livestock alone contribute over 51% of the bigger estimate. An alternative estimate is given by the Australian Government National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS) that states that “Around 24 per cent of Australia’s human-induced greenhouse gas emissions come from activities such as livestock and crop production, land clearing and forestry” (see “National Carbon Accounting System”, Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency).
I have told my students from animal husbandry farms that we are all in this together, that we all must face up honestly to the problem facing mankind and that one group in society cannot be singled out as we transition to zero emissions and thence the reduction of atmospheric CO2 from the present damaging 392 parts per million (ppm) to the circa 300 ppm required for a safe and sustainable existence for all peoples and all species (Google “300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm”) . Put simply, I say “You guys milk cows or raise sheep, I drive a car”.
However Australian farmers have common cause with environmentalists and scientists over Australia’s huge exported GHG pollution. The iron ore miners, coal miners and coal seam gas extractors are not merely despoiling the landscape, variously violating agricultural land (notably through strip mining and Coal Seam Gas extraction) , despoiling aquifers, and generating a 2-speed economy through revaluation upwards of the Australian dollar, as shown above they are essentially stealing the terminal GHG pollution entitlement of other Australians as well as of all other people around the world.
According to the Australian Greens, 83% of Australia’s mining industry is foreign-owned and it will ship $50 billion in profits overseas in the next 5 years (see “Greens target billionaires in tax push:, Australian Financial Review, 29 June 2011: ). However, an RMIT University report has estimated that closure of the coal mining industry would cost 200,000 jobs and $34 billion pa to the GDP (see “Greens’ plan to shut down coal industry to cost Australia 200,000 jobs, $36b a year in GDP”, Courier Mail Business, 4 July 2011).
The huge economic impact of the mining industry has horribly distorted public discussion in Australia. Thus Australia’s huge GHG exports are ignored in the public debate by everyone except the Greens. The neoconservative, pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-iron ore Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Federal Opposition (the Liberals or the Libs) and the neoconservative, pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-iron ore Australian Labor Party Federal Government (the Laborals or the Labs) have a common derisory, Business As Usual (BAU) policy of “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020” coupled with unlimited coal, gas and iron ores exports. A common but utterly false BAU argument is that Australia is so small population-wise (22.9 million out of a global population of 7 billion) and that any GHG pollution constraint by Australia would be negligible – but as shown above, Australia has already exceeded it fair share of the terminal global GHG pollution budget and exploitation of its likely coal reserves would generate CO2 pollution about 3 times greater than the total permitted for the whole world before zero emissions in 2050. A difference between the Liberals and Laborals lies in the significant climate change denialism within the Liberals and the fraudulent and ineffective Carbon Tax-ETS policy of the Laborals that pretends to “tackle climate change” for a “clean energy future” while actually doing the opposite (see “Australian PM Julia Gillard’s appalling record of climate change inaction”, Green Blog, 8 March 2012 ). Indeed the Liberals have been aptly described as climate change deniers and the Laborals as climate change pretenders.
The Mining Industry has a malignant effect on public life in Australia. Australia, like the other Western democracies, is a Murdochracy (Big Money buys public perception of reality and votes) and a Lobbyocracy (Big Money buys politicians, policies, parties, public perception of reality and votes. Thus it cost the Mining Industry a mere $22 million in advertising to remove a very popularly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the June 23/24 2010 overnight Coup. The Mining Lobby is continuing a massive advertising campaign against the current Labor Government’s Mining Tax (the Labor voter has shrunk to 30%, one of its lowest levels ever in Australian history). Australian Mining Australia reports “The nation's leading counter-terrorism organisation is monitoring some environmentalists following Government warnings that protesters pose greater risks than terrorists. According to Fairfax Media Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has warned coal protests could have "major trade and investment implications" for Australia's economy” (see “Green groups are worse than terrorists: Government”, Australian Mining, 12 April 2012).
There is a huge gulf between the perception of reality by scientists and that perceived by the general public. Scientists are intimidated by fear of losing research grants, by codes of conduct restricting comment (see Gideon Polya, “Current academic censorship and self-censorship in Australian universities”, Public University Journal, volume 1, Conference Supplement, “Transforming the Australia University”, Melbourne, 9-10 December 2001). and through outrageous censorship by media including taxpayer-funded media (Google “Censorship by The Conversation”; “Censorship by ABC Late Night Live”, “ABC Censorship”, and censorship by The Age”; and Gideon Polya, “Censorship in Lobbyocracy Australia”, MWC News, 30 April 2012).
In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU) determined that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise, the World must pollute less than 600 Gt CO2 (600 billion tonnes CO2) between 2010 and essentially zero emissions in 2050. Australia’s high domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution means that Australia would use of its “fair share” of this global terminal GHG pollution budget within 3.4 years. However Australia’s huge coal, gas and iron ore exports and its consequently high annual domestic plus exported GHG pollution mean that in 2010 alone Australia used up 1,708 x 100/1,960 = 87% of its “fair share” of the world’s terminal 2010-2050 GHG pollution budget and, on current projections, in 2020 alone it will use up 4.3 times its “fair share”.
However Australia’s commitment to climate racism and climate injustice goes even further because the major parties (the Liberal-National Party Coalition and the Labor Party, aka the Lib-Labs or Liberal-Laborals) are committed to the same derisory, Business As Usual (BAU) policy of “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020” coupled with unlimited export of coal, gas and iron ore of which Australia has huge resources.
Australia’s “economic demonstrated resources” of iron ore total 24 billion tonnes, this corresponding after industrial steel making to 16.7 billion tonnes CO2 or 2.8% of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget, noting that Australia has only 0.3% of the World’s population. Exploitation of Australia’s presently discovered conventional and unconventional gas resources would generate 61.5 billion tonnes of CO2-e or about 10% of the world’s terminal GHG pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes CO2, noting that Australia’s “fair share” is only 2.0 billion tonnes CO2-e. However, CO2 from combustion of Australia’s huge coal resource potential of 1 trillion tonnes of coal would be an estimated 692.7 Gt CO2 (from brown coal) plus 1,073.9 Gt CO2 (from black coal) for a total of 1,766.6 Gt CO2 i.e. 1,766.6 billion tonnes CO2 or 294.4% (2.9 times) the world’s terminal pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2.
Australia has had an appalling and ongoing secret genocide history that is hidden by a look-the-other-way culture, ignoring, censorship and denial (Google “Australia’s secret genocide history”). However Australia’s bipartisan commitment to climate racism and climate injustice means that it is committed to hugely disproportionate GHG pollution that is making a disproportionate contribution to a worsening climate genocide that is set to kill 10 billion people this century. Australia’s annual domestic plus exported per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is about 70 times greater than the annual per capita GHG pollution of acutely climate change-threatened Bangladesh. Thus “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 64 in 2010 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included). (Google “Climate Genocide”).
Australian politically correct racism asserts love for humanity while being disproportionately involved in war crimes and climate crimes. The world will eventually respond to Australia’s dog-in-the–manger climate criminality through Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, Green Tariffs, Sporting Boycotts, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions. Decent people can take action by (a) informing others and (b) urging and applying sanctions against all countries (notably Australia, Canada and the US) involved in disproportionate and deadly pollution of our one common atmosphere that threatens Humanity and the Biosphere.
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|F. William Engdahl|