Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that coal is 'good for humanity' and world prosperity, sparking swift rebuke from critics who said his comments were alarming.
Abbott made the comments at the opening of the Caval Ridge coal mine, which is expected to produce 5.5 million tons of coal per year. It's located in the northeast state of Queensland, which exported "a record 158.5 million tons [of coal] in the January-September period," Reuters reports.
"Let's have no demonization of coal," Abbott said on Monday.
"Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world," he said.
It "is essential for the prosperity of the world," he added.
Underscoring his vision of a coal-producing future, he said, "Energy is what sustains our prosperity, and coal is the world's principal energy source and it will be for many decades to come."
The mine's opening "is a good day for Queensland and it’s a great day for the world because this mine will keep so many people employed, it will keep so many businesses powered and it will make so many lives better and that’s what we celebrate today," he said.
Abbott's comments are "alarming" and reveal that the prime minster continues to ignore the urgent climate crisis that Australians recognize, said Queensland Senator Larissa Waters, the Australian Greens environment spokesperson.
"People will be shaking their heads in disbelief at the Prime Minister’s alarming comment today, and future generations will wonder how our Prime Minister could be so short sighted," Senator Waters said.
"While our Prime Minister continues to ignore reality, Australians understand coal is threatening our very way of life and our planet, with global warming, sea level rise and acidification and more extreme weather events."
Waters said that the prime minister's approach favoring fossil fuels thwarts investments in a clean energy future.
"Tony Abbott is ignoring global pleas for Australia to stop digging up climate-destroying coal and instead ticking off on more mega mines to dramatically increase our national contribution to climate change and threaten job-rich industries which rely on a healthy climate," she said.
"We have renewable alternatives that can provide sustainable, local jobs, but Tony Abbott is threatening renewable investment and putting the big mining companies ahead of Queenslanders and the climate."
Greens Leader Christine Milne said last week that "divestment from coal and investment in renewable energy is the key for the future of the Australian economy but it is the opposite of what the Abbott Government wants to do."