NASA chief climate scientist James Hansen has written to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asking him to consider halting plans for mining and export of coal in Australia.
Dr Hansen is one of the world's leading climate scientists and in a letter addressed to Mr Rudd, he has asked him to show leadership on the issue.
He says the "continuing mining of coal, export of coal, and the construction of new coal-fired power plants" should be halted and a transition is needed to solve the global warming problem.
He says choices of alternative energy sources are local considerations, but a decision to phase out coal use is a "global imperative".
The letter has been delivered to Mr Rudd's office today and has also been sent to the state and territory leaders.
Former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impact Group Barrie Pittock supports the letter and says Australia must take urgent action if climate change is to be addressed.
"We're increasing the global emissions at the rate of about 3 per cent every year now, and what we have to do is decrease emissions by 2 or 3 per cent every year," he said.
"That's the only way we are going to keep global temperatures down to something that might be safe.
"What he is asking [is] for us to not to do any more until the carbon capture and sequestration is in place."