This Opinion piece is by David Clarke. For further information: http://ramblingsdc.net/.
On Sunday 1st March, Clean-up Australia Day, we saw our Prime Minister Tony Abbott picking up rubbish. I wonder how much he picked up? Let’s be generous and suppose that he didn’t just do it while the cameras were pointing at him; let’s suppose he stuck at it for an hour and picked up a kilogram.
In 2012 the Australian coal industry, which our PM is so fond of, mined 430 million tonnes of coal. That is about 14 tonnes each second. It can be approximated that these 14 tonnes of coal, when burned, produce about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The technical bit – I’ll assume that the coal is 70% carbon, which is probably conservative. Carbon has an atomic weight of 12. Oxygen has an atomic weight of 16. So an atom of carbon combines with two atoms of oxygen to form CO2 with a molecular weight of 44. Hence, one tonne of coal produces about 1.9 tonnes of CO2 when burned.
Getting back to our PM’s effort to clean-up Australia; in the hour in which he (optimistically) picked up one kilogram of rubbish, our coal industry was responsible for dumping 25 * 60 * 60 = 9000 tonnes of CO2 into our planet’s atmosphere. One kilogram of rubbish against 9000 tonnes of CO2? And that’s not counting the CO2 from the burning of coal and gas. You’ll have to work a lot harder if you want a positive outcome Mr Abbott.
Discarded rubbish can be either visible or invisible. The invisible CO2 that goes into our atmosphere is doing much more harm than the unsightly rubbish on our roadsides (http://ramblingsdc.net/cleanup.html).