Thermal coal is not the answer

Letters, Normal

The National

I REFER to the letter “Thermal coal emits miniscule sulphur dioxide” by “Still in the dark ages” (The National, Aug 24).
I do agree that having limited knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Therefore, the writer should get more information from NRI before arguing his case in the media.
He should not only rely on the limited information published in the media to base his arguments on coal emissions.
NRI has publications available, both in hard and soft copy, and can be obtained from the institute or its website.
I was not happy with the article “Coal project dangerous” because the writer distorted most of what I said.
But I could not do much because I understand that climate change and carbon trade are complex issues that are beyond the understanding of journalists, and they are bound to make mistakes.
In fact, the PNG Media Council is hosting a conference in October to address the issue of misreporting of climate change.
I made a presentation on Aug 13 on carbon trade, not coal and sulphur dioxide emissions.
It was a policy debate on how best to utilise carbon trade to the benefit of ordinary Papua New Guineans, businesses and the environment.
It was attended by the media, bureaucrats, policy-makers, NGOs, UPNG students, donor partners and the public.
It was not a scientific seminar, the audience was non-scientific so I had to simplify to make them understand the issues of climate change and carbon trade.
I used the “acid rain” phenomenon to demonstrate how the world came to realise the importance of environmental pollutants and how it went about reducing the problem through the “cap and trade” mechanism.
In my presentation, I gave a pictorial illustration of how sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide from coal power stations dissolved in rainwater and polluted lakes, rivers and vegetation.
To explain the combination of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide with other gases to form acid rain was beyond the scope of the seminar.
In climate change and carbon trade debate, there is the issue of carbon leakage.
Baselines will have to be set for greenhouse gas emissions for each country.
From that, a country will have to offset its greenhouse gas emissions below the set baseline.
If the emissions go above the baseline, then there is a leakage, and carbon credits will have to be paid.
Introducing coal power stations to PNG is not an option.
It adds to the problem of global warming and environmental degradation.
Release of miniscule amounts of sulphur dioxide into the air from coal power plants still adds up to greenhouse gas emissions.
In the quantification of a country’s carbon dioxide emissions, all gases like methane, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and others will be quantified and converted to carbon dioxide emissions.
Therefore, it makes no difference if sulphur dioxide from coal power plants are emitted in miniscule amounts, everything will add up to greenhouse gas emissions.
Coal power plants are regarded as the dirtiest sources of electricity in the developed world.
In Australia, it is projected that coal consumption will go up, but there is opposition from NGOs and landholders due to the environmental damage.
From a professional perspective, I would appreciate it if the writer could organise a seminar and argue his/her case for the establishment of coal power stations in PNG.
I would be happy to turn up, listen and debate in a more professional manner.


Nalau Bingeding
National Research Institute