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Coal has a role yet in keeping economies as healthy as possible

By Gary Johns - posted Friday, 24 February 2017

Meanwhile, each party can tell its remaining branch members what Bangladesh, a nation most prone to rising seas, is likely to do.

The mindset in Australia, the US and Europe, is to stop digging and burning coal to lower the emissions from coal. The Bangladesh priority, however, is that it needs not less coal, but more.

According to Copenhagen Consensus Centre economists Herath Gunatilake and David ­Roland-Holst, the benefits of ­increasing energy supply by importing coal are more than 24 times the cost, even when ­accounting for the cost of added greenhouse gas emissions.


The question is, assuming that climate hazards increase with time, what will be the best strategy for a poorly developed country like Bangladesh? The answer is that building resilience to climate change should be a top priority.

A developing country could spend its money trying to abate carbon dioxide emissions or it could invest in carbon-intensive energy, buy productive technologies and accumulate enough ­resources to tackle climate change successfully.

The question for Bangladesh is how much it should spend on abatement and how much on ­adaptation. Should it build cyclone shelters or shift the population to higher ground? Should it build higher barriers to withstand rising waters or build a stronger economy to pay for them?

In a parallel Copenhagen exercise, Alexander and Elena Golub found that relocation of the population inland was the most effic­ient risk mitigation intervention. They recommended that over the next 20 years one million people now exposed to a high cyclone threat (and these occur regardless of climate change) should be relocated.

And what would help drive the climate change responses? Cheap energy: gas and coal. Among those in the world who take climate risks seriously, most will do what we have chosen not to: keep a healthy economy, and adapt.

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This article was first published in The Australian.

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About the Author

Gary Johns is a former federal member of Parliament and served as a minister in the Keating Government. Since December 2017 he has been the commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

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