Greenpeace called the Australian mega-mine proposition "reckless" and potentially "catastrophic" in a report released last week. The organization predicts the coal basin will become the world's seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels. The CO2 emissions, the new port terminals, the seafloor dredging, and increased ship traffic through whale habitats would all put the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in danger.
The Australian coal industry dismissed Greenpeace's numbers as "mythical" and accused the organization of scaremongering.
Recently the UN weighed in on the proposal. Its World Heritage Committee urged
Australia not to permit any new port development or associated infrastructure beyond existing and long-established major port areas. Still, at least one part of the mega-mines proposal is moving ahead. In August, the $7.1 billion Alpha mine got state and federal approval.
Pollution and politics aside, the Great Barrier Reef can be a dangerous place to visit in person. Last week a Chinese tourist drowned during a tour. For me, at least, a virtual visit seems like the safest way to see it. That said, if all the mega-mines get built, Google's underwater views might be all that remains.