Japan’s greenhouse-gas emissions rose to the second-highest on record in the year ended March 2014, revised government figures showed on Tuesday, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power after the indefinite closure of nuclear power plants.

Since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Japan has relied heavily on imported fuels for electricity production to fill the gap left after suspending operation of all their nuclear power plants.

Chart of Japans net energy generation

The gap of 280TWh of electricity production was filled up entirely by coal and gas power plants. The Australian Department for Industry notes that since 2011 thermal power generation in Japan increased 61% from 2011 to December 2015. Coal exports from Australia to Japan increased 5% in 2015.

Since the shutdown in 2011, there has been an increased movement by anti-nuclear environmentalists to delay or stop the restart of the nuclear power plants. With the alternative of burning coal and gas into the foreseeable future, is that an acceptable choice to make as an environmentalist?

Moreover, the ripple effects for Japan’s new reliance on coal could be leading to the further development of coal ports near the Great Barrier Reef where dredging could interfere with the struggling ecosystem.

A tough dilemma for an anti-nuclear environmentalist.