Why Coal and Climate Change Hurt Our Oceans

People often ask – how does burning coal hurt our oceans?

Mining and burning coal is driving global warming, causing waters to warm and become more acidic. This causes huge stress for corals, causing them to “bleach”and if conditions do not improve- die.

Catastrophic climate change – fuelled by burning coal and other fossil fuels – is the biggest threat to our Great Barrier Reef. 


What is climate change doing to the Great Barrier Reef?

The world’s coral scientists have given us a dire warning – we must act on climate change to give the Great Barrier Reef its best chance of survival. What happens next is up to us.

Our Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger from global warming – and time is critical. Our Reef has already experienced devastating coral bleaching due to global warming. Extreme underwater heatwaves severely stress corals, leading them to bleach and  die. During the summers of 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef suffered two severe marine heat waves, resulting in the death of about half of all its shallow water corals. This means a 1500 km area, greater than the distance between Sydney to Adelaide, has suffered terribly. Repeated bleaching events like those over the last two years send us a dire warning we cannot ignore.


Coal Kills Coral

Coal is to blame. Our earth is warming because of pollution fuelled climate change. As the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal is the single biggest culprit. Runaway climate change is warming our oceans, leading to severe coral bleaching and more extreme weather events.

A hotter world means warmer oceans. Warmer oceans means more damage to coral reefs.

The Adani Carmichael mine proposal would create one of the biggest coal mines in the world. The coal and carbon pollution from Adani’s Carmichael mine will create a climate catastrophe. It will further drive dangerous climate change which would be a disaster for our precious Reef


Can our Great Barrier Reef bounce back?

Coral reefs can be resilient. Our Great Barrier Reef has survived for over 30,000 years, and many catastrophic events. Coral that becomes bleached can bounce back – if it has time and stable conditions.

But the combined effects of human impacts like industrialisation, pollution and ocean warming are taking a toll on the Reef. These constant stressful conditions are placing our Reef in peril.


The Solution? No new coal – switch to a renewable future!

Many countries around the world are rapidly moving away from coal and reducing their carbon pollution to limit global warming. The world is rapidly moving away from coal and reducing its carbon pollution, honouring commitments in the United Nations’ ‘Paris Agreement’. The majority of the countries around the world have committed to the United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement, which seeks to “holding the increase in the global average temperatures to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”.

But Australia is not doing its fair share. Australia’s emissions have risen, rather than fallen over the last 4 years. Our leaders are not taking climate change and the Paris agreement seriously, continuing to approve and support the development of large coal mines despite the global crisis we are facing.

As if they had spare planets to burn, the Australian government has approved the largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere – the Adani Carmichael coal mine – and is considering an application from Waratah Coal for another massive mega-mine in the Galilee Basin. It has also approved an expansion of the Abbot Point coal port that would allow more shipment of coal through our Reef and out to the world.

As a developed nation and custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, we should be actively moving away from fossil fuels and be a world leader on the transition to cleaner, renewable energy.

If we act now, we can help protect our Reef for future generations to come.

We must stop Adani’s mine and transition away from thermal coal. Research shows if the world’s nations keep their pledge to combat climate change, they must leave most of the remaining coal reserves in the ground. If the Great Barrier Reef is to survive into the future, Australia must not allow any new coal mines. All coal in the Galilee Basin must remain in the ground.

We must have stronger climate action now to halt ocean warming – before it’s too late for our Reef.