NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Queensland ports targeted in anti-coal export campaign
, April 27, 2013
The Thomas Foundation has asked wealthy environmental philanthropists to double the $1.5 million fund for a campaign to stop the expansion of the Australian coal industry.
The appeal was made by David Thomas, founder of Cellarmasters home wine sales and of the Thomas Foundation, at a dinner for selected philanthropists in Brisbane.
His foundation will provide $2 for each dollar contributed. The funds are to be used in a concentrated television advertising blitz during this year’s federal election.
The Thomas Foundation recently brought to Australia marine conservation biologist, Callum Roberts from Britain’s York University, to raise the campaign’s profile.
Professor Roberts said that the campaign’s focus is on the Great Barrier Reef being at risk from a “perfect storm of threats”, such as over-fishing, rising sea temperatures (from global warming), acidification (from rising carbon dioxide levels), disease spread and industrial development adjacent to the coast.
As for over-fishing, one of the world’s leading reef marine scientists Dr Walter Starck has pointed out that, with 346,000 square kilometres of reef and lagoon area, the total catch from the Great Barrier Reef is just 17 kg per square kilometre annually compared to averages of about 7,700 kg per square kilometre from many other Pacific Ocean reefs. Fisheries experts say that this is a sustainable level of harvesting.
Professor Roberts’ claim that the oceans are becoming more acidic fails to account for the fact that seawater has a pH of over 8, meaning that it is alkaline and would require a net 10-fold increase in its acid content to make it chemically neutral, let alone acidic.
Moreover, seawater is a complex “buffered solution”, meaning that its chemical composition automatically resists changes to its pH-base balance.
Therefore, increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — which dissolves in water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), a weak acid — will have little or no measurable effect on the alkalinity of the ocean.
Whether big new coal-mines and coal export facilities have detrimental effects on the environment will depend on the nature of the planning approvals.
For example, while problems can arise from coal dust being blown from coal rail-trucks and from stockpiles at ports, environmentally-friendly suppressant sprays are available. Vital Chemicals’ Bon-Matt products are already being used in some mines, coal trucks and export ports. Some are also water-resistant to minimise seepage from rain. These can be applied for as little as 2¢ per tonne of coal.
This latest campaign to stop the expansion and development of new coal ports is part of the anti-coal campaign revealed in the leaked “Stop the Australian Coal Export Boom” planning document, and exposed in News Weekly.
The campaign objective is to massively reduce the export of coal to India and China, in order to cut carbon dioxide emissions that could otherwise contribute to “creating a global climate tipping point”.
The campaign aims to stop the dredging of Gladstone Harbour in Queensland and the building of ports at Abbot Point, Dudgeon Point, Balaclava Island and Newcastle in NSW.
Recent reports say that the campaign is now being run by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Marine Conservation Society, and being backed by Greenpeace and smaller groups up the Queensland coast.
Local campaigns are now being run in Rockhampton and Yeppoon by the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance.
Further north, the Mackay Conservation Group has formed the Communities Protecting Our Region campaign and brought in activists to help run the campaign, including Ellen Roberts and Jack Redpath.
Ms Roberts is a veteran environmental activist. She is an environmental and legal advocate from Friends of the Earth Victoria, where she has been on FoE’s committee of management.
Last year she was part of Climate Action Moreland that campaigned to shut down the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
In 2010, she was spokeswoman for the Camp for Climate Action protest, which saw two protesters chain themselves by their necks to the Hunter Valley conveyer-belt carrying coal to the Bayswater power station north-west of Sydney.
Mackay Conservation Group has also brought in Jack Redpath, who was recently the University of Tasmania students’ representative council (SRC)’s environmental officer and founder of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC).
On February 1 this year, a day of action against coal mining in Central Queensland’s Galilee Basin was organised by the AYCC, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth and Beyond Zero Emissions.
According to a Greenpeace advertisement, the protests were run on the back of anti-coal-seam gas protests in Melbourne (authorised by AYCC), Canberra (authorised by AYCC), Brisbane, (authorised by AYCC and Greenpeace), Yeppoon-Rockhampton (authorised by the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance), and Mackay (authorised by the Mackay Conservation Group’s Communities Protecting our Region campaign).
Most of the main groups involved in this campaign enjoy gift tax-deductibility status.
Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.
 Tasmania University Union Inc. State Council, Minutes, August 7, 2012.