In Melbourne, Australia, the Carmichael Mine of Indian multinational company, Adani, was defended in the Queensland court as a project that would not directly affect the world’s largest coral reef system, which is the Great Barrier Reef. A case was filed against the 16.5 billion dollar project by an environmental lobby that believes that the extracting of coals of the Carmichael Mine will have a terrible effect on the said natural reef, causing environmental, economic, and social problems.
Chairman Gautam Adani, Adani Group. Photo c/o The Hindu.
There is a great risk involved in the burning of coals to the climate level according to the Land Court, but it would not directly affect the Great Barrier Reef. This reef structure that is made of billions of tiny coral polyps is the world’s biggest structure made of living organisms that can be seen from outer space, and is also a world heritage site, and a very popular destination for tourists.
The Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site
The Great Barrier Reef supports a wide diversity of life which includes vulnerable and endangered species, and it was selected as a world heritage site in 1981. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world according to CNN, and it was named as a state icon in Queensland by the Queensland National Trust.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects a large part of the reef, and helps maintain it from being destroyed by different factors. It was said that the reef has lost half of its coral since 1985. The local groups in Australia such as the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander Peoples consider the Great Barrier Reef as an important part of their culture and spirituality. Since the reef is a very famous destination for the tourists, their tourism economy generates over $3 billion every year.
The Great Barrier Reef at Risk
There are a lot of factors that could destroy the Great Barrier Reef. These includes fishing, coastal development, outdated fishing methods, pollution, industrialization, and the greatest threat to it all is no other than climate change. Climate change causes ocean warming which increases the process of coral bleaching. As global warming continues, the corals will not be able to keep up with the increasing ocean temperatures. It is said that climate change will soon take its toll on the reef for decades to come.
The Queensland Government is making all the necessary actions to save the Great Barrier Reef from destruction. However, the environmentalists refuse to accept that the Australian government might consider approving the development of the Carmichael Mine of Adani which will be the biggest coal port at Abbot Point, which is 50 km from the Whitsunday Islands.
Adani in Question
Adani’s plans of coming up and building the largest mine in the Galilee Basin is being questioned by the environmental group, Coast and Country. According to the Indian conservation group, when the coal is burnt overseas in the said mine, not only would the carbon emissions acidify and damage the Great Barrier Reef, but this will also greatly contribute to the climate change. They also claimed that the process of acidification overseas caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to industries in aquaculture.
During the hearing, a marine science professor from University of Queensland, and director of the Global Change Institute, Ove Hoegh Guldberg, described and presented a picture of a reef that would turn into a bacteria-dominated ecosystem if carbon dioxide emissions would increase. According to the director, if the emissions of said carbon dioxide would continue, there will be no more Great Barrier Reef with corals in twenty years.
There is a UN agreement presented in the court that involves 200 countries that dictates that global warming should remain under 2 degrees Celsius, and that the threshold would actually be reached after an emission of around 850 giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Adani’s lawyer, on the other hand, explained that mining coal is just not for the mere purpose of supply, but is done because of the demand and necessity of the people for it. He even further explained that if the project does not push through, other coal-fired power stations will eventually try to find other sources.
Peter Ambrose, defence lawyer of Adani, explained that the Carmichael Mine Project is comparable to that of a motorist driving a car, who has his vehicle emitting carbon dioxide, but the damage it would cause to the environment is not to be addressed to its manufacturer. He also explained that the extracting of coals itself wouldn’t pose any danger to the Great Barrier Reef.
Ambrose adds that there are even advantages that will surface when the mine project pushes through as there will be a lot of job opportunities for the unemployed, and the economy would even boost with coal royalties.