We Don't Have Time
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We Don't Have Time

Is Australia’s Ruling Political Elite on a Race to the Bottom?

As previously reported by WeDontHaveTime, The New York Times and many others, Australia is on a loosing streak when it comes to combatting climate change. This is alarming far beyond it’s national borders. The country is one of the world’s worst polluters in terms of emitted CO2. This way, it’s politics concerns the rest of us.

The New York Times in this August 21 article called the Aussie’s bluff saying:

Australia’s resistance to addressing climate change — by limiting emissions in particular — is well documented. — Cave, D. (The New York Times)

This is why We Don’t Have Time decided to investigate the political situation in Australia. Many have laughed, shrugged or cried out in agony over the American president Donald Trump in favoring the coal industry. But few outside of Australia know about the “coal stained hands” of the Liberal Party of Australia. It’s time that change.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison (3rd from left) holds the lump of coal in the Australian parliament. From left then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Luke Howarth (MP) who recently tweeted his endorsement of coal for another 20 years, Scott Morrison (then Treasurer, now Prime Minister), and Christopher Pyne (MP) all representants of the Liberal Party of Australia. Photography: The Conversation. Original title: “Alpha Males and the Lump of Coal.”

Australian then Treasurer, recently appointed Prime Minister, Scott Morrison last year held a lump of coal in the parliament and made fun of those not favoring coal saying:

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you… It’s coal!” — Australia’then Treasurer, as of August 2018 newly appointed Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

This short video provide a crash-course on Australian politician’s lack of ability to fight climate change.

The three and a half minute video from the article “If we want strong climate action, we need to get the moderate Liberals on board” (Jackson, E.) gives everyone a quick insight to what The Guardian call “Australia’s climate wars: a decade of dithering”.

Coal provide 85 percent of Australias electricity making it a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s players under the umbrella of the governmentally run “Minerals Council of Australia” a extremely powerful player that stretch it’s blackened hands into the Australian parliament. These recent events have lead me to wonder:

What is the influence from conservative climate skeptics on the Australian parliament and within the ruling cabinet of the Liberal Party of Australia? And how are they living up to their motto of ‘securing the future’ for it’s residens?

When the leaders of a country like Australia with the impact on climate change it has, fail to face the reality and scientific facts of the perils of climate change, a change of that political will is needed. If the power to make those changes is not evident in political will and policy making, the Liberal Party of Australia need to step down or the influence by it’s conservative factions be eradicated as of today. The later seems very unlikely judging the party’s current top leaders.— Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

The CNN has the story (Wescott, B.) of how August 20th, the then Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull just merely came out as the winner after being challenged for the leadership of the Liberal Party by it’s Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton lost the ballot which in the end resulted in him leaving his duties asking to be resigned. Another result of this will likely be less positive climate policy and more GHG emissions by Australia. How are these stories connected? CNN reports (Yeung, J.):

Soon after the vote Dutton resigned from the cabinet, stepping down from his dual roles as home affairs and immigration minister, which includes oversight of Australia’s strict border protection policy.

It followed a day of policy chaos in Canberra after Turnbull dramatically backtracked on a key part of his signature climate change policy over concerns from his party’s conservative faction.

The Australian leader dropped all carbon emission targets from his National Energy Guarantee (NEG) Monday to quash leadership rumblings, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy dissent. — Yeung, J. CNN

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot had a fight for leadership of the Liberal Party of Australia with Mr Turnbull before he came into power. Similarly with Mr Turnbull who now have dropped climate friendly policies, Abbott too backed away from signing the Paris agreement, saying:

“When the big emitters are not meeting Paris, why should we?” — Tony Abbott (Yeung, J. CNN)

Abbott had signed the Paris Agreement while in office, but later withdrew his support after losing a leadership challenge to Turnbull. This may very well be the smoking gun showing how hard it is to pass anything resembling proactive in terms of climate policy in Australia at current regime.

The media’s and political reactions

Sophie Lewis and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatric wrote the following about the situation in their August 22 piece Australia burns while politicians fiddle with the leadership for The Conversation:

In light of the clear evidence, it takes a very special kind of politician to ignore the role of climate change in extreme weather events. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would choose to play party political games as whole townships are threatened by fire and drought extends through NSW and Queensland. — Sophie Lewis and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, The Conversation

The already mentioned The New York Times article is another critics of the current Australian regime and policy and lack of climate action.

The Guardian Australia’s political editor Katharine Murphy too commented the Dutton Turnbull debacle August 23rd by saying “The Government is killing itself” (video).

Neighbouring New Zealand’s The Domino Post on August 25th wrote that:

New Zealand, with ambitions to combat climate change and geo-political meddling in the Pacific, must now deal with a new person in charge across the Tasman, which might mean a tweaked or even new agenda and a different foreign minister promoting it. There is even the possibility of an early election and an entirely new government.

There are few winners from that scenario, certainly not the hapless Australian voter. — The Domino Post

Climate change and social unrest are major drivers of political instability. Australia is coming into election times. One need not to be alarmist or friend of conspiracy theories to connect the hoofs.. excuse me, I mean, the dots ;).

The situation is getting heated up inside of the Australian parliament too. Some may already have heard and seen the leader of The Australian Greens, Richard Di Natale that almost lost it in Parliament last week. Do watch the 1 minute version of the video:

The 1 minute version of the video “Won’t let them Win” where Richard Di Natale (Australian MP) adress the Liberal Party of Australia for “leaving climate change”, to fuel social unrest and xenophobia. Mr Di Natale claims the Australian liberals are planning a dirty political campaign in the upcoming Australian national elections.

.. or the 7 minute version of the video:

The 7 minute version of the video “Won’t let them Win” where Richard Di Natale (Australian MP) adress the Liberal Party of Australia for “leaving climate change”, to fuel social unrest and xenophobia. Mr Di Natale claims the Australian liberals are planning a dirty political campaign in the upcoming Australian national elections.

The Seattle Times reported , in a re-write of the The New York Times article, reported that:

“Conservatives just see red when anything like a price or tax on carbon is introduced,” said Bruce Wolpe, the chief of staff for Julia Gillard, the former prime minister who passed such a plan only to see it dismantled after losing an election to Tony Abbott. “That has become as powerful a driver here as it is in America. Scientists all over the world have become increasingly disappointed in the country’s climate policies.” — Damien, C. (The Seattle Times)

Another PM bites the coal dust

And so August 23rd it has happened once again. The Liberal Party of Australia has once again sacrificed it’s former Prime Minister Mr Turnbull on what seems to be an altar of fossil fuel.

The not-so-secret recipe of money buying influence and power

Short-termism in politic, financial contributions, lobbyism and sleek messaging from The Mining Council of Australia and well-rehearsed storytelling videos seems to have leaders of the Liberal Party of Australia eating from their hands.

There is another sticky side of that influence, and that’s when critical mass of people question the leaders lack of action towards a decarbonized world. To put it in the words of world-renowned economist Prof. Jeffrey D. Saschs world:

Oil drives you crazy. Oil corrupt politics. Oil buys politicians.

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We have to move from a economy depended on coal, oil and natural gas to a world economy based on zero-carbon energy whether wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, nuclear bioenergy or other kinds of energy that don’t emit carbon dioxide. And we need to do this essentially by mid-century.

— Jeffrey D. Sachs in the 2018 WeDontHaveTime Climate Conference, April 22.

More quotes like this are to be found in this short version and in this full version of his keynote speech at the conference.

You can exchange “oil“ for “coal” with the same results. The ‘Mineral Council of Australia’ amount for 85 per cent of all minerals extracted from Australia. Thus it’s not hard to understand that they are saying things like:

Australia’s minerals industry is innovative, technologically advanced, capital intensive, and environmentally and socially progressive. The industry is a major contributor to national income, investment, high-wage jobs, exports and government revenues in Australia. — Mineral Council of Australia

Australia act as a powerful resistance , a forced regression on constructive climate policy and human development, to the world’s scientific consensus namely that humans cause climate change (ACC) and that 1/3 of all known fossil fuels reserves need to stay in the ground in order to meet the Paris agreement and live in a livable world.

Are Australia not aware of that the word is on the ‘global streets’ that it’s liberal politicians leaders are slowly drowning in a swamp filled with oil and the blood of it’s former Prime Minister’s? — Mårten Thorlsund, Wedonthavetime.org

This image show the Cessnock Bush Fire of NSW, Australia on January of 2013.

Analysis

Our take on the development and this weeks events is that The Liberal Party of Australia seem to be under severe pressure from internal conservative and climate skeptic factions making sound climate policy a hard bargain. They have either not yet connected the dots of the threat of climate crisis and action and leadership needed to adress the perils of climate change or, worse, they live a lie.

This is a sad development on the Australian continent that already suffer from climate change. Furthermore it threatens to halt climate policies needed and increase instead of decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Australia. And it sets a poor example, pollutes and deepens the climate crisis for the rest of the world. This must stop and only the Australian people can do this by stepping up to the challenge in the voting booths.

Demolition of Richborough Power Station in the UK. Photography: shirokazan (CC BY 2.0)

Are Australia’s political leaders really that bad for the climate?

Australia has for decades been one of the top 5–10 worst CO2 polluting countries in the world both as of total numbers (The Guardian) or actually worse when looking at the more fair emissions per capita (The World Bank). The World Bank do have a full list of details. It has also moves in the wrong direction in recent years as outlined in this comparison to UK and Sweden.

According to Australian Ndevr Environmental, a consultant specialized in “carbon, energy and sustainability”, it’s data suggest the country’s GHG emissions is going in the opposite direction to it’s Paris commitments. The world trends on GHG emissions show how on a global level, action on emissions to meet the Paris Agreement lagg behind (The World Bank).

I suggest that we should all complaint loudly about the lack of climate action from it’s political leaders wherever this is the true. At current it certainly seems to be the case in Australia. The prospects for living a healthy and prosperous life there and elsewhere is being neglected and dragged face down into the dust, 65 million years back into time and to a fossil fueled aged doomed to fail. Todays Australian political leaders should be held accountable to it’s people and to the world. — Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

The Liberal Party of Australia has ‘A stronger economy’ and ‘A secure future’ as it’s overarching promise to the Australian people. Having read that I can help but wondering :

How is not protecting them from climate change ‘securing their future’? - Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

The same goes for the rest of us considering that Australia is one of the worlds largest GHG emitters.

Actually as The Guardian reports the Australian parliament and senate have discussed and agreed on this staggering testimony:

Climate change is a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia, a Senate inquiry has told parliament, one that could inflame regional conflicts over food, water and land, and even imperil life on Earth. — Doherty, B. (The Guardian)

The inquiry according to Mr Doherty went on to say:

The Asia-Pacific was the region “most vulnerable” to the security and humanitarian impacts of climate change, the committe say, we face “existential threat”. — Doherty, B. (The Guardian)

To represent it’s people an elected political leader should adressed the issues of the climate crisis accordingly. As someone looking at this from abroad I can’t help but thinking that:

We get the politicians we deserve. They remain in power only by the grace of the people in free elections and as long as we allow them to. If they fail to convince us they can serve and protect us from harm, then it’s our obligation to remove them from power. That is vital step for all of us to vouch for a livable Earth and to secure democracy going forward. — Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

The leader of the Australian Green Party, Richard Di Natale, addressed the lack of action on climate change and other issues. Di Natale made his disappointments with the liberal and conservatives in parliament clear in a fiery speech (video).

“The world is finally waking up to climate change” as the author of “hothouse Earth”, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said to the Guardian. It seems natural that that should, but currently doesn’t include Australia’s political rulors.

Current political regime in Australia act like they are above the climate crisis. By doing so the political leaders of the Liberal Party of Australia are misguided in their belief they keep it’s people safe, when they are rather keeping them “unsafely asleep” to the perils of climate change. — Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

“The Aussie Connection” either lead to disaster or a solid foundation

The story that eventually became the Walt Disney story of The Three little Pigs come in handy here. They all tried to build a house to fence out the dangers of the Big Bad Wolf. This serves as a way of reading moral lessons into todays Australian situation.

In 1933, Walt Disney released an eight-minute animated film of the “Three Little Pigs.” According to the Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts, the short film inspired many Americans through the Great Depression. Americans used the Big Bad Wolf as a symbol of the strife in their lives. — Soden, J.M. (Pen and the Pad)

How to make future Australia more resilient to deal the threats of climate change? Exchanging it’s current “architects”, in this case the two pigs that build their houses in a hast and with bad material and foundation. They simply wont be standing after the huffing and puffing of the Big Bad Wolf has intensified..

The Big Bad Wolf can bee seen as the threats challenging the ruling powers that like to portrait themselves as protagonists of “economic development, peace and stability” but in fact in doing so are protector’s of the BAU (Business As Usual) model that created the mess to begin with. — Mårten Thorslund, WeDontHaveTime.org

How to talk to a climate skeptic?

Unfortunately yet understandably, ordinary citizens may dislike challenging the BAU, the “Business As Usual” model. This model is fueled by fossil fuels and the fossil-dense industries and lifestyle. Or rather, all of us are a part of that world and model. This way we are both the problem and the solution.

The model that brought the climate crisis is extremely influential, well-funded and powerful. When confronted with a person disliking the truths of climate change this is a good article to read before talking to them.

Another way is following WeDontHaveTime.org , subscribe to our newsletter to get counterarguments. On a national level since the world and global data may be hard to comprehend but to realize we made this mes it also helps to illustrate the state of a crisis that we are in by showing temperature anomalies on a national level since the world and global data may be hard to comprehend.

Australia and many other countries of the world are included in Antti Lipponen, Research scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute work. He has posted several videos where he use data from NASA and other reliable data sources, making them easy to understand the human impact on Climate change (ACC).

Temperature anomalies by country 1880–2017. By Antti Lipponen, https://twitter.com/anttilip. CC BY 2.0

It makes another simple and powerful tool to use when facing a climate skeptic or a normal person novice to facts of climate change.

Temperature anomalies by country 1900–2016. By Antti Lipponen, https://twitter.com/anttilip. CC BY 2.0

Epilogue

I wouldn’t like to be in Mr Abbott’s, Mr Morrison’s, Mr Turnbull’s or Mr Dutton’s shoes right now. Nor would I like to be in those of politicians or business leaders for a proactive climate policy or anyone else that want to step on their shoes in Australian parliament.

But first and foremost: I feel bad for thee people of Australian and for the rest of us that will live with the effects of the lack of leadership and opposition of scientific facts, common sense and for people putting their trust in someone that promise a “brave new world” but are likely to deliver the opposite.

Climate change is real and it’s happening to all of us. It’s here and now. And it’s banging on our doors, front steps and heads. Only a blind, deaf and numb person can try to get some sleep in an environment like that.

We should instead realize that we borrow planet Earth from the coming generations, as well as from previous ones. We can stop the most devastating effects from ruining the prospects and prosperity of our children and those to follow them. The window to do so is getting narrower by the minute. Let’s write a story of “Active Hope” instead of active fact resistance.

Let’s hold the accountable for their lack of climate action making them pay accordingly to the universal ‘polluter pay principle’.

I’ll finish off with a quote by a genius man who passed away on the same day as a not quite a genius man won the election to become the highest political leader in a neighbouring country. The man who I like to quote will never be forgotten, Mr Leonard Cohen:

There is crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. (Cohen, L. from the song “Anthem”)

Mårten Thorslund, Chief Marketing Officer, WeDontHaveTime.org

Facts about We Don’t Have Time

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On Earth Day, April 22 2019 We Don’t Have Time Climate Conference will air. Get more videos and information about the 2018 conference here.
And please drop us a line if you want to forward your idea of a theme for a keynote, a speaker, panel member until then. See you on April 22 2019!

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We Don’t Have Time is a social network for everyone who wants to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis. The power of many enables us to influence businesses, politicians and world leaders. But We Don’t Have Time to wait.

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