Protesters in Canberra hold banners against Adani

Adani is not just another coalmine, it is a turning point for the nation

If the government approves this monstrous mine it will be committing environmental treason against every Australian who values our farmers, our coasts, our bush and our way of life

In an almost unbroken line from Monkey Mia, down across the Bight and then all the way up the other side to Mackay, the Australian coast is etched in various shades of brown. This is the historical precipitation map. Annual rainfall has dropped, it shows, across this enormous stretch of coastline, by as much as 100 millilitres since 1951.

In another map, concentric rings of increasingly angry red emanate from the centre of the continent. This one shows that, assuming we keep going as we are, the temperature in our country will increase by as much as 5C by the end of the century. Eight, if we’re unlucky.

This, by the way, is not the marketing material of some lefty environmental organisation. This is the product of thousands of the world’s top climate scientists, using some of the most sophisticated computer models ever built, to generate projections so fine-grained they simulate even the amount of moisture in every parcel of soil on the planet, and in the poles, the thickness of every chunk of sea ice.

These models give a glimpse of the Australia we are creating. They show the nation’s wheatbelts, from Esperance to the Wimmera, dried to a crisp. They show the Queensland coast being thrashed more relentlessly by fiercer storms. They show a rash of summer bushfires that make Black Saturday look like candles on a cake. But they do not show the reef. By the end of the century, we will have boiled it to death.

This is the Australia we are creating. Even more, it is the Australia we will have to accept if the Adani mine is approved.

Research published last year by four Oxford economists and scientists concluded that to keep climate change to below 2C, no new coal plants can be built after 2017 unless they have zero emissions. That means perfectly efficient carbon capture and storage would have to be deployed on every coal plant in the world – an absurd fantasy.

The paper also finds we already have in place sufficient “capital stock” – the global network of mines and electricity generators – to push us over 2C. At the same time, global coal demand has already peaked and is now falling, China and India have frozen construction on over 100 coal plants, and the economics of energy are pointing only in one direction: renewables.

This points to a stark lose-lose equation for potential new mines like Adani’s: either we burn their coal and induce dangerous climate change, or we don’t and waste billions of dollars.

Unless, of course, we take the third option: don’t build the thing. This is not, then, just another coalmine. It is a turning point. If we build Adani, we commit to irreparably harming Australia’s precious environment. If we don’t, we might still have a chance to save it. This is where we as a nation decide if we will be Asia’s rockpit for another 50 years, or a prosperous nation for the next 500.

Research just released shows that to avoid dangerous climate change, we need anthropogenic emissions to halve every decade. Building the biggest coalmine in history, when there is already a global glut and sufficient investment to tip us over the edge, is not what responsible conservative governments should be doing. They should be conserving all that is precious to us. Serving us. Instead, they are preparing to betray us.

If the world in 2077 is still burning as much coal as we are today, and the financial model of the Adani assumes it will, Australia as we know it – our wheatbelts, our reefs, our cities, and our lifestyles – will cease to exist.

Our government, sworn to protect the nation, should be doing everything it can to avert this looming crisis, not be falling over themselves to pay for the executioner’s bullet. If the government approves this monstrous mine, and the banks fund it, it will be committing environmental treason against every Australian who values our farmers, our coasts, our bush, and our way of life. We are about to choose Adani or Australia.

The argument against Adani achieves that rare distinction of finding purchase among all parts of society: patriots and cosmopolitans, environmentalists and economists, parochialists and internationalists, the job-hungry regions and the growth-hungry cities. We must all stop this affront to our nation. We must choose Australia.