You don’t need to be a climate scientist or energy expert to talk about climate change, but you might find a few key facts come in handy! 

The vast majority of Australians are concerned about climate damage and want our government to act, but some people are confused about basic facts. While it's generally better not to barrage people with facts and figures, you might find a few key facts come in handy: 

Climate damage is here, now

  • Digging up and burning coal is cooking our planet and harming the people we love. It’s killing our reef. Fuelling blistering heatwaves, fierce bushfires, endless droughts and supercharged storms. And it’s getting worse.
  • People under 34 have never experienced a year of ‘normal’ temperatures. Climate damage is smashing temperature records month after month, year and year (source)
  • Catastrophic underwater heat waves have already killed a third of the coral on our Great Barrier Reef in back-to-back bleaching events in 2017-18 (source)
  • Heatwaves are getting hotter, longer and more deadly. They kill more Australians than floods, storms and fires combined. Elderly people in cities are most at risk (source)
  • It’s global, with wildfires burning in the Arctic circle, from Greenland to Siberia. Extreme heatwaves overwhelming Tokyo and Montreal. Thawing arctic permafrost in Alaska releasing plumes of climate-wrecking methane.

Digging up and burning coal is damaging our climate

  • Burning coal is wrecking our climate. To avoid catastrophic climate breakdown, the world’s scientists say all countries must rapidly phase out coal. (Source) Climate scientist Dr James Hansen says ‘coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet.’ (Source)
  • Coal is the biggest single source of climate damage. Australia’s 21 coal-burning power stations are the number one cause of climate pollution in Australia, fuelling dangerous, extreme weather. They need to be replaced with clean, renewable energy. (Source)
  • Burning coal pollutes our air and kills people. Coal is the biggest cause of​ ​air pollution​ ​in Australia, contributing to 3,000 deaths each year – nearly three times the national road toll. It causes asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic pulmonary diseases. It also pollutes our oceans and rivers with mercury, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. (Source)
  • Burning coal is dirty, outdated and unreliable. Coal fired power is too dirty, too dangerous, and too expensive for the 21st century. Most of our coal plants are over 40 years old.(Source) They’re rust buckets that cause blackouts in summer because they can’t deal with the heat, are expensive to upgrade, and the toxic pollution they belch out is making people sick.(Source) There is no reason why coal fired power stations can’t be replaced with renewable energy and batteries.
  • Replacing coal with renewables is inevitable, but without government managing the transition, it will be slow, chaotic and disruptive. Communities impacted by coal closure need support to transition to industries with a future. (Source)

Adani wants to build the biggest coal mine in Australia's history

  • At a time when we must rapidly phase out coal, the proposed coal mine in Queensland would dig up so much coal that burning it would generate an estimated 4.7 billion tonnes of climate pollution into the atmosphere. (Source)
  • If it goes ahead, Adani’s mine would open the Galilee Basin to eight more climate-wrecking, water-guzzling coal mines. It would be the biggest expansion of coal mining on planet Earth (source)
  • Adani's mine is one of the largest expansions of coal mining on the planet, profoundly threatening our way of life – along with the Canadian tar sands, fracking in the Amazon and oil drilling in the Arctic.
  • Adani’s mine will drain precious groundwater. More than half of Queensland is in drought, yet Adani has a license to take unlimited groundwater for 60 years for free. (Source) Adani’s mine would drain at least 270 billion litres from aquifers next to the Great Artesian Basin. (Source)
  • Adani’s mine will irreparably damage the Great Barrier Reef. Burning coal is fuelling underwater heatwaves, bleaching coal and killing the reef. Adani’s mine includes a massive industrial port expansion along the reef coastline at Abbot Point, which would dredge the seafloor for hundreds of coal barges crossing the reef each year. (Source)
  • Adani’s mine, rail and port project will harm Aboriginal land rights, country and culture, destroying the ancestral lands, waters and culture of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. Adani does not have the consent of the local Wangan and Jagalingou people. (Source)

Solutions are here, now

  • We have the technology to power Australia with 100% clean electricity within the next 12 years (source)
  • Although Australia has world-record sun and wind, we currently only generate around 16% of our electricity from clean, renewable energy. The rest is from burning coal and gas (source)
  • Clean energy is growing fast. In 2017, the world added more new solar power than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined (source)
  • Australia has the highest uptake of rooftop solar in the world with over over 1.8 million rooftops making the most of our bountiful sunshine (source). Queensland rooftops make more electricity than Gladstone, the state’s biggest coal-burning power station (source)
  • Australia’s ageing coal power stations and gas plants failed 53 times in the summer of 2017/18 (source)
  • Scotland and Belgium have already burnt their last lumps of coal for electricity. The UK plans to stop burning coal within a decade (source)
  • Countries like Denmark, Albania, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Norway, Iceland, Scotland and the Maldives are all at or rapidly moving towards 100% clean energy (source)
  • Proper climate and energy policies can create one million new jobs while reducing Australia’s climate pollution by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2040 (source). 

We are here, now

  • There’s massive community support for stopping climate damage and switching to clean energy. 86% of Australians understand climate change is happening. 87% think we should invest in clean energy. 63% say they are an environmentalist at heart. Only 4% say coal is their preferred energy source (source)
  • The Australian Conservation Foundation community is over half a million people who show up, speak out and act for a world where our rivers, forests, people, reefs and wildlife can thrive.
  • The community campaign against Adani’s polluting mine stopped private and public funding – with all four Australian banks and 28 big international banks ruled out financing the mine. Together we successfully pushed the Queensland government to block a $1 billion publicly-funded loan (source).

Remember – you don’t need to be a climate scientist or energy expert to have a conversation. It’s enough to be a citizen who cares. The more your conversation explores shared values and experiences, the better.

Tessa Fluence

Public Narrative Coordinator at Australian Conservation Foundation