Despite a global movement to shift away from it as the main source of fuel, the Australian government through Prime Minister Tony Abbott insists that coal is the future for Australia and that the country will remain a top exporter of the fossil fuel.
Recently, Abbott underlined the benefits of coal saying that it helped people in developing countries become more prosperous. He called the fossil fuel as the foundation of Australia’s prosperity, arguing that it provides energy that is essential to a modern lifestyle.
His statements run contrary to the pronouncements of other world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama, who acknowledged that a clean energy economy would be the engine of growth in the future. Other countries are also embracing clean energy. China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, has slowed down its usage of the fossil fuel while increasing its investments in renewable energy.
Majority of the energy needs of the world are sourced from burning of fossil fuels. Australia is the top coal exporter, delivering the fossil fuel to some of the biggest economies in Asia like China, Japan, India, and Korea. This, in turn, fuels a significant portion of the Australian economy in terms of tax, jobs, and royalties.
Dangerous emissions from coal
However, the burning of this fossil fuel has long been considered to contribute to global warming as it produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
Aside from the environmental impact of the fossil fuel, it has also been associated with health problems. Emissions of the fossil fuel include bronchial and respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. Around the world, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people die yearly due to coal burning.
Australians got a closer look at the hazards of coal mining earlier this year at Hazelwood Mine in Victoria. A fire occurred in the Hazelwood mine where brown coal production occurs. The fire lasted for 45 days, in the process releasing toxic smoke, ash, and carbon monoxide.
Residents in nearby towns complained of headaches, bloodied noses, and sore eyes. Other residents who had pre-existing medical problems complained of worsening of symptoms.
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Abbott championing coal
Despite these developments, Abbott has remained firm in his stand that the fossil fuel represents the future of Australia. During a coal mine opening last month, he lashed back at those who were demonising the fossil fuel.
He was quoted as saying that coal is good for humanity and prosperity, and that it is an essential part of the economic future not just in Australia but around the world.
His statements are quite surprising given that many scientists have all pointed out that coal alongside other greenhouse gases are causing a significant increase in the global temperature.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report bringing together researches from different scientists around the world. The report basically cited that continued greenhouse gas emission will result to severe and irreversible effects of climate change. It added that green house gas emissions would put the earth on track for a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius.