Skip to content

Why Australia Won’t Shut Its Coal Industry

January 6, 2020

By Paul Homewood


 Articles like this one from the Telegraph could have appeared, and probably have, in any newspaper in the last few days:


For decades, coal mining has been a cornerstone of the Australian economy: it is an industry worth $70bn (£53.6bn) that employs tens of thousands of people. 

But as devastating bushfires – some of the worst in the country’s history – have destroyed large swathes of countryside and left at least 15 people dead, Australia’s coal industry has come under increasing scrutiny.

Experts say the severity of the fires are being exacerbated by climate change – a phenomenon which already disproportionately affects Australia. Coal is the most environmentally damaging fossil fuel, producing about a third more carbon dioxide than oil.

Nevertheless, Australia is the biggest net exporter of coal globally, accounting for almost a third of all shipments, and is the world’s fourth-largest producer.

It is deeply entrenched in Australian life. Every state produces coal in some form, providing jobs for 50,000 people and employing another 120,000 indirectly, according to the Minerals Council of Australia. More than $5bn in royalties is paid annually by miners to the federal government.

Between 2018 and 2019, Australia exported 210 million tonnes of thermal coal – used to fuel power stations – worth $26bn, and 184 million tonnes of metallurgical coal – used for steelmaking – worth $44bn. Most is exported to Asia, but some is used domestically to produce electricity. 

The Telegraph report goes on to how everyone from the Church of England to Norway’s government pension fund (funded by big oil, naturally) is busy divesting from coal miners.

The message is unmistakeable – Australia must immediately start pulling out of coal production if they don’t want to see their country burning up. And journalists, such as Ed Clowes who wrote this piece, seem to be genuinely puzzled why Australians don’t see things in quite the same light.

I would have thought the answer to that last puzzle lies in the penultimate paragraph. The coal industry supports 170,000 jobs. Given that Australia’s population is about a third of the UK’s, that would be the equivalent of half a million jobs here. Would any government deliberately destroy that many jobs? And for what effect?


In reality, Australia only accounts for 6% of the world’s coal production, which is dominated by China and India:



BP Energy Review


Much of Australia’s coal is exported, about 85%. If they stopped supplying to the likes of China and India, it is likely countries like Indonesia and South Africa would simply step in to make up the shortfall.

As far as emissions of carbon dioxide are concerned, Australia could shut down its coal industry tomorrow, and it would not have the slightest effect on global temperatures, climate change or above all on wildfires.

So what about the fires? If Australia really wants to get the problem under control, it badly need to get to grips with its fire hazard reduction management, things like clearing undergrowth and creating fire breaks.

There have been concerted attempts by environmentalists and others to deny this is a problem, for instance the Met Office’s Richard Betts, who would like you to believe climate change is the real problem:



However the fire experts in Australia don’t agree with Me Betts.

The Royal Commission Black Saturday report for instance, into the devastating bushfires of 2009 which killed 173 people accused the Victorian State of a “minimalist approach to prescribed burning", and warned that the state had "allowed the forests to continue accumulating excessive fuel loads". The report called for a radical increase of prescribed burning.

However, as Jaime Jessop writes for Climate Scepticism, prescribed burning has remained at woefully low levels in both Victoria and NSW. Meanwhile there are instances of farmers being fined swingeing amounts for daring to construct fire breaks around their properties.

The reasons for this neglect of basic bush management are many-  misguided green ideology, vested interests, political failure and mismanagement. But it’s far easier to blame climate change!

Has climate change played any role at all in the current batch of wild fires? Maybe, given the underlying warming of the earth’s climate.

But things are not quite as simple as that. First of all, we need to recognise that Australia has been much wetter since 1970 than before, notwithstanding the year just ended:



Secondly, the severity of the recent drought has been largely due to two natural meteorological factors:

1) The Indian Ocean Dipole, which has been much stronger than usual since last summer. When this happens, Australia gets bad droughts and India gets a good monsoon, which is exactly what has happened.

2) Antarctic Sudden Stratospheric Warming, which again brings reduced rainfall to Australia, particularly NSW.

Both phenomenon are naturally reoccurring events, and have nothing to do with global warming.

Indeed the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been aware of both of these factors for several months now, and warned about the likely severe droughts to follow.


Whatever the exact causes of the drought and fires, one thing is absolutely clear.

Shutting down Australia’s coal industry won’t make the slightest difference. But proper bush management will. Even the Aborigines worked this one out hundreds of years ago.

  1. January 6, 2020 6:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

    • nadeembutt permalink
      January 8, 2020 12:19 am

      Not you again…

  2. IAN PHILLIPS permalink
    January 6, 2020 6:26 pm

    Hi, Paul.Have you seen this yet?Best,Ian Phillips. watch

    | | | | | |


    | | | | What I Wasn’t Told About Climate Change With Luca Rossi

    Did you know that polar bear numbers have increased by around 400% since the 1950s? What about that carbon dioxi… |



  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    January 6, 2020 7:07 pm

    I guess Richard Betts’ interrogation of data on reducing brush build-up being a fire-hazard is the same as his attitude to climate data that has been doctored to fit his belief system. Monckton on WUWT could educate him – but I bet he wouldn’t read him.

    Then again, if it’s not coal, it’s gas: I’ve just watched a news item (in the Midlands) about a scheme – in prototype mode – to mix 20% hydrogen with natural gas for home heating boilers and cookers. It’s good that they don’t need to change (much of) the user infrastructure but they do not explain what the cost will be; what users’ bills will be like; what the safety repercussions will be; and what the efficiency will be like. They ended up telling their viewers that going for hydrogen will reduce our emissions by 14%. (Oh WOW!!!!) They didn’t dare tell us, 14% of what. The world is going mad!!!

    • Broadlands permalink
      January 6, 2020 8:53 pm

      And when they lower their carbon emissions ASAP their petrol products will be in great shortages and taxed to the max. No fire engines, no helicopters or first-responders… except those in their electric vehicles? Yes, the world has gone mad.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 7, 2020 1:45 pm

      I would say certain parts of it have already gone mad – especially councils in the UK. There is a race to be the first to close a city to traffic to general traffic. York, Bristol, Oxford? How will they decide what is essential traffic? White lists for camera systems? There is a big cost in all of this that only comes from penalty charges but what if the offence rate is low? Poor old taxpayers picking up the bill? Or you now need to pay for an essential traffic permit at £100, £200 a year?

  4. layor nala permalink
    January 6, 2020 8:34 pm

    Here is the link to Luca Rossi’s outstandingly simple but effective video noted above by ian Phillips.

  5. Teaef permalink
    January 6, 2020 9:08 pm

    Where did they say the H was coming from?

    • January 6, 2020 10:12 pm

      Some convoluted processes using excess wind power probably. Just burn gas!

  6. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 6, 2020 9:13 pm

    To confirm the accuracy of the article I must point out that South Australia doesn’t mine coal anymore. It relies on renewables such as natural gas and diesel which have been increasing since the State wide blackout.
    So if we in Australia stopped burning coal like those countries in Europe then the contribution to reducing the world’s (increasing) output of CO2 would be a theoretical maximum of 0.29%. Theoretical beause we would have to switch to burning gas and diesel in order to avoid blackouts. That is if we could afford the diesel fuel as eliminating coal exports would also eliminate a deal of foreign exchange thus drastically reducing the standard of living of those who think the government has endless money to give them.

  7. January 7, 2020 12:28 am

    Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it!.

  8. January 7, 2020 12:38 am

    Live now the bbc is pushing 50 years of Limits to Growth
    saying it’s all true
    The book that warned of an end to civilisation
    The History Hour
    The environmental warnings from 1972 which were *ignored*

    .. ignored cos the Book Limits to Growth has proved to be BS

    with Prof Dennis Meadows from MIT who worked for the Club of Rome and whose deceased wife wrote the book.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 7, 2020 8:59 am

      I still have my copy from all those years ago. If a reporter wants to make a point he could ask why it is that Australia is exporting record levels of coal when LTG predicted coal would be gone by 2015 (I think is was: oil was 1995)

  9. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    January 7, 2020 2:51 am

    Further, where nature conspires to produce fuel, society needs an 11th commandant, namely “Thou shall restrict actions that cause fires.”

    In the USA, 84% of wildfires in the United States that required help by firefighters between 1992 and 2012 were a result of something humans have done. See this well documented report with maps, graphs, and tables:

    Title of the Research Article
    Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States, by Jennifer K. Balch and others

    One subheading:
    “Human-Related Ignitions More Than Tripled the Length of the Wildfire Season”

    PNAS = Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

  10. Ken Ransom permalink
    January 7, 2020 5:35 am

    Coal is the problem?

    Barry Sanders, in his book, The Green Zone (2009) figured the US military consumes as much as one million barrels of oil per day and contributes 5 percent of current global warming CO2 emissions. But some say jet fuel emissions are likely to be three times higher per gallon than those from diesel and oil. Further, aircraft exhaust has unique polluting effects that result in greater warming effect by per unit of fuel used. Radiative effects from jet exhaust, including nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, soot, and water vapor exacerbate the warming effect of the CO2 exhaust emissions. Because military jets fly at much higher altitudes than commercial jets, they use additives, not coal, to ensure that the fuel lines do not freeze.

    Militarism is the most oil-intensive activity on the planet while the U.S. has been the number one war maker in the modern era. There have been over 80 U.S. military interventions since 1945. War fighting uses a lot of oil, not much coal.

  11. January 7, 2020 7:49 am

    ‘Even the aborigines’? Why ‘even’?

  12. Ian Wilson permalink
    January 7, 2020 7:54 am

    “Would any government deliberately destroy that many jobs?”

    Yes, ours, with first the Climate Change Act and now ‘zero carbon’ legislation.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 7, 2020 1:53 pm

      They will be left standing there scratching their heads and wondering why nobody has jobs anymore and why tax income is drastically down. The UK steel industry is still hanging by a thread as the media avoid the problem caused by expensive electricity and any other global warming taxes that increases the costs of steel production.

  13. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    January 7, 2020 8:50 am

    Ex spurts. Former drips, under pressure. When do they stop the lies?

    • Derek Reynolds permalink
      January 7, 2020 12:35 pm

      When they stop getting funded, basically.

  14. JohnP permalink
    January 7, 2020 9:00 am

    The Telegraph is joining in again. Tuesday’s Nature Notes tells us that methane is responsible for 25% of global warming. Not sure where they got that figure from.

  15. Athelstan. permalink
    January 7, 2020 9:40 am

    betts the alarmunist shill and blogger of blah mindless blah, blah.

  16. January 7, 2020 10:03 am

    “Australia must immediately start pulling out of coal production if they don’t want to see their country burning up”

    The people who made that statement should ne required to provide convincing empirical evidence to support it or face legal action, at the least in the form of a lawsuit. A case of confirmation bias gone wild!

  17. Rowland P permalink
    January 7, 2020 10:25 am

    The Editorial in the Telegraph today broadly supports the fact that Australia is no stranger to bushfires and that environmentalists have been impeding the controlled burning of forest litter. The fierceness of the latest fires has to be directly due to the build-up of the fuel load, causing the flames to engulf the crowns of the trees which will now presumably be dead. Some of the news footage appeared to to show forest litter had accumulated right up to the road edges. Of course, the usual lip service is given to climate change at the same time.

    The editorial is backed up more succinctly by one letter while a second letter spouts the usual climate change drivel.

    The former government bushfire scientist, David Packham, warned in 2003 that “The mix of fuel, unsafe roadsides and embedded houses, some with zero protection and no hope of survival, will all ensure that when a large fire impinges on the area a major disaster will result”. The audience proved to be deaf.

  18. January 7, 2020 10:39 am

    Will be out tomorrow mostly backburning I hope.As Graeme No 3 points out South Australia no longer has any coal fired power stations.My cynical observation is that there therefore cannot be any bushfires there.Unfortunately this is not the case.
    We have had the funeral today of one of our fellow firefighters so I have kept those comments to myself in deference to his memory.(Except of course to denizens of my birthplace.

  19. Vernon E permalink
    January 7, 2020 11:10 am

    Now that fracking has been disposed of I can concentrate my six peno’rth on the main issue. Since around the 1980s when all this nonsense started atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen from about 360 ppm to just over 400 ppm – that is, a rise of about 1 ppm per year on average. Is anybody on this planet stupid enough to believe that an increase in the presence of an already trace gas of ONE PART PER MILLION per year is contributing to the mayhem ascribed to it by the loonies (who include politicians)?

    • Derek Reynolds permalink
      January 7, 2020 12:43 pm

      Sadly, too many. The reason? The emotive card is played big time by the ‘Greens’, never the science card. They’ll quote stuff from IPCC reports, but cherry picked for their arguments and never the retractions which there have been.

      Check out ‘An Inconsistent Truth’ on the ‘Tube’. People interviewed in the street believe CO2 is warming the atmosphere and the cause of climate change. When asked how much of the atmosphere is CO2, most don’t know, one actually believed it was 20%. Pure ignorance.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        January 7, 2020 12:55 pm

        My favourite, Derek is to ask people to name the top three constituent gases in the atmosphere – and for bonus points, their concentration. It’s amazing how often CO2 appears.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        January 7, 2020 1:19 pm

        I wonder, do they ever guess the third most (by volume) constituent gas…………….

        I guessed Ar but had to look it up to be sure.

      • BLACK PEARL permalink
        January 7, 2020 6:12 pm

        If the CC subject arises I usually ask them how much CO2 is in the air
        Usually get a distant look and come back with a ‘way out’ wild guess.
        No one I ever ask has a clue as they just appear to listen just to MSM
        Propaganda repetition does work effectively

      • Athelstan. permalink
        January 7, 2020 8:05 pm

        BLACK PEARL.

        I just don’t think that people can appreciate the enormity of the earth’s atmosphere nor in the slightest comprehend the scale of the dynamics of the various interacting forces acting upon it – no chance.
        They hear throw away quotes about man made CO2 “billion tons this and that and the other” but fail to realize it is akin to a spit in the ocean and for that matter, indeed across the vastness of the mainly cool to cold oceans, it is a carbon sink.
        The proportion of a trace gas like CO2 in relation to the Atmospheric volume as a whole is not even vaguely understood either.

        Alas, people can be impressed by liars and when the truth is seldom made known, the public have no chance of appreciation of relative scale – at all.

      • dave permalink
        January 8, 2020 12:04 pm

        “…third by volume…”

        Argon is third by volume out of all the long-residence constituents.

        Water vapour is a difficult one; for the amount varies between 0% and 4%, from place to place and from time to time; it constantly turns into clouds of droplets and back; and generally it is only resident for ten days.

  20. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 7, 2020 5:49 pm

    Even the article admits that the current fires are only “exacerbated” by Climate Change, not caused by it. What’s pretty clear us that have been exacerbated far more by poor management practices.

    And wheres the evidence for any role for Climate Change? Nobody can prove the lack of rainfall is not natural, nor the slightly higher temperatures.

    Just lie after lie after lie.

  21. mjr permalink
    January 8, 2020 12:37 pm

    given the current spat between the GMB weather girl Laura Tobin and the Australian MP who she accused of being a “denier” i did notice that she gave a lot a facts which she says are true which support her assertion that everything including the australian fires, the indonesian floods etc is due to climate change. It would be good if these could be checked out as some looked quite dodgy

  22. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 9, 2020 9:01 am

    As a further thought on this report, it totally ignores the point. Let’s say the fires are caused by Climate Change let’s say stopping coal production would prevent such bad fires.

    So what?

    Stopping coal production also has a cost. So we must look at the cost of the fires versus the cost of shutting down an industry and all the knock-on effects of that. That is a political/economic decision, not an environmental one. These reports and the Green activists simply claim that any detrimental effects of Climate Change must be avoided. But that’s not science.

    Yes, the costs of Climate Change might be high. But that’s just half the data we need to decide what to do. And if we are brutally honest, Australia us not going to have a bad fire in these areas again for quite some time,is it?

  23. January 9, 2020 9:33 am

    A question: as the Indian Dipole Oscillation and Antarctic Sudden Stratospheric Warming (ASSW) are probably the main (natural) drivers of the present awful weather in Australia why is the dreaded Ozone hole not also a player. I have just read Stephen Wilde’s interesting piece on the role of the inactive Sun on Ozone production at the poles. If there is none, or very little Ozone, over Antarctica could this exacerbate the effect of the ASSW and the meridonal track of the Southern polar Jetstream?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: