Liberals fiddle while the country burns

April 26, 2015

One of the most unjust aspects of climate change denialism is that many of its more vocal proponents will not be around to suffer the consequences of their insistence on inaction, inaction which itself is denying a safe future for our children and the world as we know it. With this injustice comes a huge arrogance, given that thousands of scientists around the world agree it is an indisputable fact that the burning of fossil fuels is affecting our climate, and unless we act decisively and soon, we will have runaway climate change.

Let’s be frank here. The Liberal ethos, which seems to have quickly evolved into a belief in the right of the individual to do just about whatever they choose as long as it contributes to profit for themselves and growth for the economy, is at the heart of the problem, manifesting in the government’s refusal to act in our best interests when it comes to climate change.  

But even without taking into account the damaging effects of climate change, we still have so much to lose by continuing to mine and burn coal and coal seam gas, or rather, so much to gain by leaving it in the ground and moving to renewables. We would save productive farmland. Decrease the likelihood of species extinction by protecting valuable habitat areas. Prevent thousands of people a year from suffering and dying from respiratory diseases brought on coal dust and associated pollution. Save the pollution and destruction of parts of the Great Barrier Reef by negating the need to build export infrastructure and allow access to ships. Guarantee tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of new jobs in research and development in and installation of renewable energy infrastructure. The list goes on. But instead, this government is not only supporting the long-term continuation of existing coal mines and coal-fired power, but is actively facilitating the opening of new coal mines at a time when the world, including China, currently one of our biggest export markets, is moving to renewables.

While much of the rest of the world acknowledges the need to act by rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, recognising that “Direct Action” simply doesn’t cut the mustard, Greg Hunt has this week blatantly misled Australians in his claim that Australia will “breeze past” its carbon emissions targets, despite the figures released by the Clean Energy Regulator which show that in fact Australia is on track to miss the 2020 target by a whopping 52 million tonnes and five years.

This is a disgrace. But it doesn’t end there. Astonishingly, while taking funding away from organisations that have been vital in keeping the country informed and researching and developing ways to address this most pressing of problems, this government’s latest act of negligence has been to offer $4 million funding to the Danish climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg so he can establish a new “consensus centre” at the University of WA.

The organisations that have had their funding cut or completely abolished by this government include the Climate Commission (whose $1.5 million a year operating costs were immediately deemed too high by the new Coalition Government in 2013), Australia’s Renewable Energy Agency, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australian Research Council, Bureau of Meteorology, Co-operative Research Centre, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Industry grant programs, National ICT (Information Communications Technology) Australia, National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme, National Water Commission, Office of Water Science Research Programme, Research Training Scheme, Sustainable Water Use and Infrastructure Programme.

With all manner of temperature and weather records regularly being broken and bushfires, especially in this part of the world, set to increase in intensity, the Liberal Party is simply fiddling while the country burns. We know what must be done, but the government leadership that is urgently needed is deliberately absent without leave.

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