Here’s a great article by the ABC News quoting David Wachenfeld (the Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) that places the recent ship grounding on the Great Barrier Reef in perspective:

Oil not the main threat from the coal ship (ABC News, 6th April)

“From my point of view as Prime Minister of Australia, there is no greater natural asset for Australia than the Great Barrier Reef,” said Kevin Rudd today after he flew over the reef to survey the damage caused by a Chinese coal ship that ran aground.

“I take any threat to the Great Barrier Reef fundamentally seriously,” he said.

David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority says while he fears for the fate of the oil in the ships tanks, he is far more concerned about the impact of climate change on the reef than a lost Chinese coal ship.

“There is no doubt that climate change is the greatest long term threat to the reef.”

Oil spills are considered far less of a threat both because they are less likely, and their damage is localised if it does occur.

“Climate change is not a localised impact,” says Wachenfeld. “Unlike an oil spill, it doesn’t happen in one place; it happens everywhere. So the issue is scale. That’s what brings climate change to the top of the list. It’s simply the scale of the impact.”

There is an irony that the cargo the stranded ship is carrying is coal. Even if the ship lost its entire supply of oil, the environmental catastrophe would still be less than the impact of the world’s continued burning of fossil fuels.

So if Kevin Rudd is sincere about taking “any threat to the Great Barrier Reef fundamentally seriously” he should perhaps be looking more closely at the cargo on the ship, than its route or the hole in its fuel tank.

Valuable words. Hat tip to Chris McGrath for pointing out the article.


4 Responses to "If Kevin Rudd is sincere about taking 'any threat to the Great Barrier Reef fundamentally seriously' he should perhaps be looking more closely at the cargo on the ship"

  1. KeenOn350 says:

    And what did Rudd accomplish by flying over the wreck – except a “news op”, and more pointless, superfluous burning of fossil fuels

  2. Chris Doroppoulos says:

    Well said David Wachenfeld. Anna Bligh may also want to seriously think about QLD’s coal exports in relation to the State’s most valuable icon.

    For example:

    “In 2008, the state’s 54 coal mines produced a record 188 million tonnes of coal. We are a major player in the international coal market, with Queensland coal exports accounting for some 20% of the global trade.”

    “With current expansion plans, the Queensland Government is looking to more than double our coal production and exports by 2030. Even at conservative estimates, this will emit an additional 460 million tonnes of CO2 per annum into the atmosphere – equivalent to the annual emissions of 65 average coal-fired power stations.”


  3. OveHG says:

    Well said Chris.

  4. For anyone interested in the issues raised in this post, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) has a very interesting looking summit planned for 11 May 2010 in Brisbane on the topic of “Courageous Decisions: Queensland’s Economic Transition under Climate Change”.

    Speakers include Guy Pearse, author of High & Dry, who is now at the Global Change Institute at UQ.

    Topics include “coal exports” and “Queensland without the Reef”.

    Further information is available at:

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