By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
In July 2014, I attended the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, reporting from there for the Jackson Advocate. More than 13,000 delegates from at least 200 countries attended.
I learned a lot about the scientists’ work to address that global pandemic, and Australia. The people I met along the way, as I visited several metropolitan communities and traveled the countryside, were welcoming. The nation has vibrant cities, gorgeous views of clear blue water, and the most antiquated railroad system on which I have ever traveled.
Not on my radar at that time was Australia’s booming coal mining industry and its disastrous environmental challenges looming on the near horizon.
According to the USA’s CIA World Factbook, among the current environmental issues facing Australia are: “soil erosion from overgrazing, deforestation, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; limited natural freshwater resources; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; drought, desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; disruption of the fragile ecosystem has resulted in significant floral extinctions; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; overfishing, pollution, and invasive species are also problems.”
Nature.com reports the recent unprecedented wildfires in Australia “that razed more than 18 million hectares of bush in Australia late last year were significantly more likely because of human-induced climate change, say an international group of climate scientists who have analysed the disaster.”
Eighteen million hectares of land is equal to 44,478,968 acres of land. By comparison, the devastating wildfires raging all summer in California currently have burned about two million acres.
Despite decades of urgent climate change warnings, Australia’s current Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly announced his nation’s plans to mine coal “well beyond 2030” and to continue exporting this planet-harming fossil fuel to other nations. Australia exports more coal than any other nation except Indonesia and ranks 10th in the world for yearly coal consumption.
Australia is one among many nations with economies relying upon the extraction and international sale of fossil fuels. It is among those nations experiencing climate change. And, it is among those nations not doing enough to help the world community reach net zero emissions by the year 2050.
When – by what date certain – will we stop the international trade of planet-harming fossil fuels?