Thursday, 9 May 2019

Climate change: the key to Australia's general election

Climate change is really hitting Australia:
Futures Forum: Tasmania is burning: "It's extremely inconvenient for any government that does not have a cogent answer for what they’ll do about climate change, to see the effects of climate change putting more and more people and homes at risk."

And to many, this is the land of dystopia:
Futures Forum: "The real-life Mad Max will be about water"

Unfortunately, the debate has become highly politicised across the Anglo-Saxon world:
Futures Forum: "Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."
Futures Forum: Climate change: denialism in a country on the brink of ecological collapse.

However, student climate strikes have been gathering momentum:
Futures Forum: Climate change: "there is a sense of a new consciousness abroad concerning the future of our planet"

And so the debate hots up ahead of the general election on 18th May: 

Australia’s Politics May Be Changing With Its Climate

By Somini Sengupta
May 7, 2019

HARDEN, Australia — It’s been a year of extremes for this country. The hottest summer ever. Torrential rains in the north. A crippling drought in its southeastern farm belt. Now, with national elections scheduled for May 18, a vital question looms: To what degree will climate change sway the way Australians vote? The answer could provide important lessons for other democracies in the age of climate change.

Australia is acutely vulnerable to climate change, just as it is also a culprit. The continent has warmed faster than the global average; its cherished Great Barrier Reef has been devastated by marine heat waves; and heat and drought this year took a bite out of the country’s economy, according to a top official of the country’s central bank. At the same time, central to its prosperity is the extraction of the dirtiest fossil fuel: Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal for power generation.

Against that backdrop, the governing conservative coalition, led by the Liberal Party, is under pressure in key districts as independents assail longstanding members of Parliament like Tony Abbott, a former Liberal leader and prime minister, over their climate positions.

Australia’s Politics May Be Changing With Its Climate - The New York Times 

Tony Abbott bet me $100 the climate will not change in 10 years

Cassie Flanagan Willanski
Wed 8 May 2019 

Tony Abbott has bet me $100 that in 10 years’ time the climate will not have changed. When I found myself in a Manly coffee shop last week being offered the bet, I was incredulous. Abbott was smiling, charmingly dismissive. This person with the power to help steer the world away from anthropogenic disaster wasn’t having a bar of my concerns about climate change. He wasn’t going to help; he was going to wield his status and wealth to show how confident he was in his position of not doing anything.

Tony Abbott bet me $100 the climate will not change in 10 years | Cassie Flanagan Willanski | Opinion | The Guardian 

Climate change a bigger threat to Australia's interests than terrorism, Lowy Institute poll suggests

By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael Slezak
Updated Wed at 5:14am

Climate change is a "critical threat" to Australia's interests according to almost two-thirds of Australians — ranked as a more serious concern than international terrorism, North Korea's nuclear program or cyber attacks from other countries. This is the first time climate change has led the list of potential threats in the long-running Lowy Institute poll since the question was first included in 2006. The poll also confirmed Australians were more concerned about climate change this election than at any time since Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007 — when both major parties proposed an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change a bigger threat to Australia's interests than terrorism, Lowy Institute poll suggests - Australia Votes - Federal Election 2019 - Politics - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) 

Climate change takes centre stage in Australia's election

Two contenders for PM have very different messages about how to address environmental emergency

Kate Lyons
Wed 8 May 2019

As political leaders travel across Australia to deliver their election talking points in farms, factories and sports fields, they are criss-crossing a country in the grip of a rolling climate emergency.

In the year leading up to the election on 18 May, huge swathes of eastern Australia have endured their worst droughts in a century. There have been apocalyptic scenes along the Murray Darling river system in which up to 1 million fish have died. In Queensland, floods have wiped out half a million cattle and bushfires have burned close to pristine rainforests. In the usually cool southern state of Tasmania more bushfires have raged across 190,000 hectares of land and devastated old-growth forests.

Last year was Australia’s hottest year on record and as winter begins many of the country’s major cities are staring down the barrel of water restrictionswith Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Brisbane all facing the prospect of dams at just 50% capacity.

But on the campaign trail, through warming cities, blackened bush and scorched outback, the two contenders for prime minister are trumpeting starkly different messages about what, if anything, should be done to address the crisis.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, represents the ruling conservative Liberal party. The slogan-loving former head of Tourism Australia came to power after toppling his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2018. Morrison’s stance on climate change can be summed up by an address to parliament in 2017 while brandishing a lump of coal. In a speech supporting fossil fuels, he goaded the opposition: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal.” Scott Morrison brings a chunk of coal into parliament

The idea that many in Morrison’s party consider climate change and its effects to be something to be laughed at is not hyperbole from the left. In 2015, the former prime minister Tony Abbott – who once called climate change “crap” – was caught on camera laughing at a joke about rising sea levels in the Pacific.

In this election, the ruling Liberal and rural National Coalition – or “COALition” as they have been dubbed in attack ads – are pushing for a “climate solutions” fund that pays polluters to lower their emissions, with the aim of meeting Paris commitments of lowering emissions by 28%.

The country’s environment minister, Melissa Price, has been labelled the “invisible minister”, notable for her absence at the sites of environmental calamities, and her refusal to meet environmental groups. The party is also embroiled in a scandal dubbed “Watergate” involving the $80m purchase of water from a company with links to the Cayman Islands that was co-founded by the energy minister.

Morrison himself kickstarted a scare campaign based on the opposition’s ambitious electric car policy as a “war on the weekend”, suggesting that pick-up trucks, which are beloved by Australians, will become unaffordable.

But in rural areas a number of high-profile Liberal and National party MPs are facing independent and minor party challenges on the climate, the conflict between farming and mining, and sheer anger at being ignored on water management, as well as integrity issues. Independents are also chipping away at the Liberal vote in cities.

Meanwhile, the Labor party, which is leading in the polls by 52-48%, has promised significant action on climate change.

In his speech launching Labor’s official campaign, the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, a former union man who has struggled with the perception that he is uncharismatic, said: “If we have the privilege to serve as the next government of Australia, I will not bring lumps of coal to parliament for a laugh while temperatures soar and bushfires rage and flood and drought batter our land.”

Labor has made itself a “big target” in this election campaign, laying out a suite of policies including controversial tax reforms and the target of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030. Despite this, the party can’t bring itself to fully commit on climate change, and is refusing to say whether it would stop a highly controversial proposed coalmine that environmentalists say will threaten the Great Barrier Reef. Labor’s equivocation on the Adani project led the Australian Conservation Foundation to give the party a score of 56% on its environmental policies ahead of the election. The Liberal party scored just 4%.

Meanwhile, the Greens, the fourth-largest party after the Liberals, Labor and the Nationals, was given a score of 99% by the ACF. The Greens have just one federal MP but are a force in the Australian Senate, with nine out of 76 senators. They are pushing for much more serious action on climate change, but have been accused of strategic blunders after they voted down Labor’s carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009 on the grounds it did not go far enough, which helped hamstring Australian climate policy for a decade.


This is not the first Australian election in which climate change has been a defining issue, but last time did not work out well for those demanding action. Abbott rode to power in 2013 on a campaign of three-word slogans, promising to “Stop the boats” (of refugee arrivals) and “Scrap the tax” (repealing Australia’s cutting-edge carbon pricing scheme).

Labor is hoping that Australia – burned from that experience – has moved on.

Climate change takes centre stage in Australia's election | Australia news | The Guardian

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