[PREFACE: If you are Australian, it’s pretty important you know the following information, though it may disappoint you]
I’ll start with a fact you might already know: since 1980, the amount of permanent sea ice has decreased by 80%. EIGHTY PERCENT. Four fifths, gone. Almost none left in just three decades. If you're like me, that makes you shiver every time you think about it.
Here’s another fact, seemingly more obscure: in 1984, Australia became the biggest global coal exporter. We remain the undefeated, undisputed champions of the world in coal production. For the last thirty years ice has been melting while our economy has boomed.
It seems fitting that I am currently in Newcastle. I love it up here, which is bitterly ironic as Newcastle is the worlds largest coal port. Not Australia’s, or Asia’s, but the world’s most extensive coal facilities.
Yep, I’m still shivering, but not just because of this horrifying correlation. No, I’m shivering from a deeper chill, upon my realisation of just how responsible Australia is for the climate crisis.
We are the world’s largest exporter of coal and we have the highest per capita carbon emissions of the developed world. It’s hard to imagine a worse rap sheet, but in fact Australia burns less than 15% of the coal we produce. Imagine if we burned more, the ladder isn't any lower but I guess we’d be playing for the loserboard?
Everyone is pretty quick to shit on China in environmental discussions, but I wonder who everyone thinks is supplying China with coal?
Even with the ability to stem the furious flow of fossil fuels, Australia continues to produce coal and ship it to China. Whilst I understand the economics involved, it makes me feel sick to the bone, and yet more shocked that we don’t have large fingers pointed at us from the world over.
Somehow we’ve avoided a deserved and widespread reputation as worst environment offenders on the planet. But the statistics don't lie!
Perhaps such is the true beauty of our land so girt by sea, so diverse, so wild and raw. PerhapsAustralia is just so beautiful that despite these grievous domestic credentials, observers are unable to form the vitriol warranted for the inhabitants of such a breathtaking land. Perhaps this country is so intoxicating that despite the glaringly obvious responsibility of stewardship, visitors continue to come and go with nonchalance even when any such stewardship is quantifiably absent.
Good grief, where to from here?! Well, start by acknowledging that despite being dirty, Australia offers infinitely better personal liberties than most other countries, and you have power over the things you do.
If you don’t like climate change, do something about it! Be a voice for good! Let’s do something before the rest of the world realises!!!