Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Australian PM Vows to Kill the Nation's Green Dream

The new government of Australia has vowed to abandon efforts to combat climate change and they have also made it clear that they will increase the nation's exploitation of coal. Under the leadership of Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard Australia was working towards a low carbon future. However, the election of a new center-right government has killed the nation's green dream.

Coal exploitation has grown rapidly in Australia with production rising 80 percent since the early 1990s and its exports more than doubling in the past decade. Due largely to coal the nation currently has the world's largest per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Over the last 30 years Australia has exported more coal than any other nation on Earth.

Australia is currently the world's second largest exporter with the fourth largest coal reserves (estimated 76.4 billion tons, or nine percent of global reserves).  The newly elected climate denying Prime Minister Tony Abbott has vowed to make Austria the world's largest coal exporter and in the process he has brought an end to Australia's green dream. In addition to expediting approval for nine new mega-mines, Abbott has vowed to put an end to the nation's carbon tax scheme, and shut down a climate advisory body.

According to a government-commissioned report, the planned expansion of sea-ports to accommodate the planned increase in coal exports could seriously disturb the Great Barrier Reed. The increased sea traffic also risks accidents. The increased greenhouse gases generated by increased coal exports will also threaten the reef though global warming.

How did a Luddite like Abbott get elected? In part he won due to Labour party infighting, but mostly he won because of people's short term time horizons. Australians, like Canadians who also elected a climate denying government, put short term economic interests ahead of civilization changing global warming.

With its cities located on the coasts Australia is vulnerable to rising seas from climate change. Storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and droughts are already more common in Australia. Going forward rising seas and extreme weather events like these will continue to remind Australians of their electoral folly.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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