How much is the largest living structure on the planet worth? Some would say that the Great Barrier Reef is priceless, but a new report by Deloitte Access Economics has calculated that it is valued at AU$56 billion ($42.5 billion), far outstripping that of the proposed Carmichael coal mine.
While we should save the reef simply for its immense beauty, biodiversity, and importance to the planet, in the eyes of many politicians it has to earn its keep, and money talks. This is particularly true when it is competing with industrial projects such as the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which is edging closer to being green lighted.
The mine is seen by many as a retrograde move by the Australian government, who are seemingly ignoring the threat climate change poses to their greatest natural treasure, while favoring the fossil fuel industry that has been a major contributor to the issue. Not only that, but the mine will also see hundreds of millions of tonnes of the black rock shipped directly through the reef.
So how does the Great Barrier Reef compare to what will become one of the largest coal mines in the world?
It think it’s fair to say the reef comes out on top. This latest report estimates that the total value of the Great Barrier Reef is somewhere in the ball park of AU$56 billion ($42 billion), which comes in at more than twice the value of the Carmichael mine valued at AU$21.5 billion ($16 billion).
This figure can sometimes seem quite arbitrary, so the report also looked at the annual income of the reef. The reef generates around AU$6.4 billion ($4.8 billion) annually, while the mine will bring in roughly AU$203 million ($154 million).
So the reef brings in more money than the projected mine is expected to. But what about employment? Well that’s a fairly straightforward one, as the reef is thought to employ around 64,000 people in a range of tourism-related jobs, from dive shops to hotels to restaurants, whereas the mine is expected to have 10,000 people working at it.
“This report makes it clear that the Great Barrier Reef is a treasure that is too big to fail,” said Dr John Schubert, chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. “It is a call to action for us all – individuals, businesses, foundations and governments – to respond in equal measure to ensure that we don’t fail our natural wonder.”
The report comes amidst a concerted effort from environmental groups to try and halt the construction of the mine. Lets just hope the politicians are listening.