[Coral-List] Deteriorating ethical norms

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Mon Apr 17 22:31:29 EDT 2017

I do not want to get into lengthy political battles, but had to respond to Matt Nolan's question.  He asked: "if Australia didn't export 375 million tonnes to meet the demand for coal would some one else not have met that demand?"  This is the standard argument against taking any action on GHG mitigation, but directed specifically to Australia's incongruous desire to keep extracting and exporting coal.  Yes, there are other suppliers of coal out there, just as there are other suppliers of oil and gas.  If one country ceases to extract fossil fuels that does not automatically reduce fuel availability by that same amount, but it does tighten supplies, making costs of the fuel greater.  This hastens the move towards renewables which are already nearing price parity with fossil fuels in many regions.

Nolan implies that the world would be better off if responsible countries continued to produce fossil fuels.  I suggest a country with responsibility for one of the greatest coral reef regions on the planet is perhaps particularly well placed to see the absurdity of business as usual given the environmental consequences.  True, it requires innovation and substantial realignment of a national economy to move way from an industry that has been a major contributor to GDP, but responsible governments recognize their duty and take difficult steps all the time.

And before anyone points out the obvious, yes, Canada exports fossil fuels, much as Australia does, and some here make exactly the same argument for continuing to do so.  We don't have reefs, but we do have a dangerously melting Arctic, and we are at last beginning to price carbon and set caps on our fossil fuel industry.  Soon enough for me - no - but sooner than if we continued to say we must export our 'ethical oil' (that is what the previous PM tried to brand the stuff as) in order to prevent other countries digging up their oil.

Reefs and polar bears both benefit if GHGs are reduced as quickly as possible.

Peter Sale
University of Windsor

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