Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scientist's singling out of Aust coal industry 'unfair'

Posted Wed Jan 7, 2009 5:41pm AEDT 

Updated Wed Jan 7, 2009 6:36pm AEDT

A mining group says a warning to incoming US President Barack Obama about Australia's coal industry is an unfounded exaggeration.

In an open letter to Mr Obama, a leading NASA climate scientist describes traditional coal plants as "factories of death" and says Australia's emissions policies are destroying life on Earth.

But Minerals Council spokesman Brendan Pearson says it was unfair of Professor James Hansen to single out Australia.

"Coal-fired power generation in Australia is probably less than half of 1 per cent of all global emissions, so he's got it completely out of perspective," he said.

"As to the efforts that Australia is taking with its emissions trading scheme, he's either misunderstood or doesn't appreciate the scale of those efforts which we believe will impose serious costs on the competitiveness of all Australian industry, not just the coal sector."

But the New South Wales Greens says the warning should be a wake-up call for Government.

The Green's mining spokeswoman, Lee Rhiannon, says it is significant that Dr Hansen singled Australia out.

"Dr Hansen has targeted Australia because we are now the leading exporter of black coal to the world with 230 million tonnes going out of Australia every year," she said.

"Obviously Dr Hansen has recognised that this is a key area that needs to be addressed if we're going to reign in runaway climate change.

"Australia, as the country that has the highest rate of exports of high quality coal, clearly is making a massive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and that's why we need to be playing a leading role here and no government should ignore the advice of a leading NASA scientist when it comes to how we deal with the challenge of climate change."

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