The Australian psyche holds a special place for gold. During the early 1850s, the gold rush helped in propelling the country’s economy, grow its population, and stimulate the industries. As the second biggest producer of gold in the world, the country’s gold sector flourished. Its record gold prices and mine production speak for themselves. After all, gold remains the country’s third major commodity export.

The sense of optimism, however is at risk of disintegrating in the face of the raging bushfires of unprecedented magnitude and intensity. As the Sunday Herald described recently, it is one of the seminal moments in Australian history.

The fires have raged since September, 2019, and it is hard to comprehend the massive scale and resulting destruction. More than a billion animals and dozens of people have perished. Thousands of homes were razed to the ground, and at least 6,000,000 hectares of land were burned. Many flora and fauna species will most likely end up extinct.

While Australia has experienced bushfires before, the drier conditions brought about by climate change, without a doubt, has created what educators described recently as “a more flammable, new world.”

Humanity is facing its most present challenge today: climate change. The atmosphere’s CO2 concentration caused by reckless human activity is now creating havoc in weather patterns and environmental systems. Sadly, the consequences are often catastrophic.

In August 2019, the North Atlantic experienced the most powerful storm in history in Hurricane Dorian. In the past 3 years, the US suffered a total of 3 floods. Previously, flooding was considered only as a once-in-5-centuries event.

Wildfires simultaneously raged across Alaska, the Amazon, California, and Siberia. Still, they didn’t prepare the world for the Australian bushfires. The sad part is, these fires further aggravated climate change, with all the carbon literally going up in smoke!

The Australian Debate
The heated Australian debate on the relationship between the wildfires and climate change has been polarising. Amid the tragic and alarming facts, and the finger-pointing, the urgent need to come up with solutions is often overlooked. The concern should be on how to accelerate actions to lower emissions and stabilize the climate. All sectors must now show the path to carbon neutrality that they have embarked on.

Gold’s Impact on Global Climate
It is worth noting that when the gold sector and its future and current impact on the global climate is considered, there is mounting evidence that it potentially can play a productive role in transitioning to a net-0 carbon future.

Most emissions linked to gold are from production, mining and processing; to be specific, from fuel and energy consumption. Recent research shows that gold mining can shift fast to a net-0 pathway in an affordable and practical way.

There are now various options allowing gold miners to veer away from fossil fuels, as well as decarbonizing their transportation and electricity. In a 2018 research, gold mining companies were shown to be moving in the right direction. In the coming decades, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and hydropower, as well as complementing technologies, are expected to be more cost-effective than the carbon-intensive options that miners use today.

Gold’s overall carbon footprint and annual emissions may be considered “small.” However, it isn’t insignificant. The industry has the chance now to assert sectoral leadership, and take a concerted action in further reducing its emissions and impact. This will help control the present climate trajectory, and its possible destructive repercussions.

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