Matthew Canavan and Healthy Utilization of Uncertainty

I recently read an article by the Gaurdian about the Carmichael coal mine project in Austrailia, which may become one of the largest in the world. There have been several concerns raised about the environmental impact of the new mine, and similar projects to follow in the area. The article focused on the discussion of climate impacts, and it really struck me how well the article portrayed the difficult trade-offs that have to be made when weighing environmental and economic concerns. 

The recent Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) initiative will be be making recommendations for projects like the Carmichael coal mine to the resource minister of Northern Australia, Matthew Canavan. Although Canavan has been somewhat dismissive about global warming, he also understands that there are real consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions that we need to address.

His thoughts and tone about balancing Australia’s economic needs struck me as a very reasonable approach to a complicated issue. Many of us, especially climate scientists, may not share his view that the effects of CO2 have been exaggerated, but we are not under pressure to help improve the economy of a large region.

My personal view is that Canavan is exaggerating the uncertainty of global warming impacts, but on the other hand he is correct to recognize that there is a degree of uncertainty in climate projections. I also agree with his sentiment that a rapid, large-scale move to 100% renewable energy is a naive pursuit.

The best part about the discussion reflected in this article is that no one is being vilified! It’s important to recognize that politicians making difficult decisions are trying to consider the needs of a population with diverse values. We need to avoid painting them as the bad guy, just as they need to respect the concerns of us who put environmental protections higher in our list of priorities. Hopefully we can see more of this type of honest, level-headed attitude from politicians in the US.

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