Politics

While Two Rich Old Dudes Fight Over A Job, Remember That We Have No Climate Change Plan

A reminder that the real loser in all this is... us.

There’s a sea off the north coast of Greenland known as the “last ice area”. Scientists predict that when all other summer arctic ice has disappeared, this huge chunk would still be there. This year, for the first time ever, the last ice area has started to break up.

It’s been described as “scary” and “dramatic”, and is the latest in a series of record-breaking climate change-related events — this winter was the arctic’s warmest ever, and July was Queensland’s hottest on record. 2016 is the hottest year on record and 2017 in the third hottest.

Studies on climate change have suggested that if global warming increases temperatures by more than three degrees it would likely lead to “outright chaos”. Bangladesh and Florida would be mostly underwater. Shanghai, Lagos and Mumbai would be abandoned. Extreme weather events would increase significantly.

Australia Does Not Have A Climate Change Policy

At the moment Australia doesn’t have a climate policy. The closest we got recently was with the National Energy Guarantee, which barely covered our country’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.

PM Malcolm Turnbull abandoned all the climate change elements of the NEG on Monday in an attempt to prevent Peter Dutton from taking his job. The policy would have helped reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent over the next decade and a half.

Turnbull had tried before. Just before Christmas in 2016, he suggested to his cabinet that an “emissions intensity scheme” could help deal with the threat of climate change. But after quick pressure from the likes of Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi, that idea was dropped like a hot potato.

And this might all be Turnbull’s own fault. Back when he was getting ready to challenge Tony Abbott for the Liberal party leadership, Coalition MPs were telling the media that one of the big promises Turnbull had made was to keep all of Abbott’s climate change aims if he were to become leader.

We’ve Been Here Before

This isn’t the first time that attempts to prevent global warming have been ignored due to a leadership battle.

In 2011, Kevin Rudd lost the Labor leadership to Julia Gillard, partly over his support for an emissions trading scheme and his decision to abandon a key climate change policy in the face of opposition. After that, Abbott won an election on the back of his promise to axe the Labor government’s carbon tax.

Abbott himself implemented a climate change policy, but it couldn’t have been weaker: it contained a five percent emissions reduction target by 2020.

Over the past half decade our Climate Commission has been disbanded, and the government has more or less abandoned the Climate Change Authority.

And if Dutton does become leader, that likely won’t change. We already know about his careless attitude towards climate policy:  back in 2015 he was caught under a hot mic muttering a joke about how Pacific Island nations might be caught under rising sea levels.

A Few Rich, Old Dudes Deciding Our Future

Turnbull, Dutton, Abbott and most other federal politicians won’t be alive to see the worst of climate change, but we will be.

After asylum seekers, climate change is the most important issue for young people in Australia. And we’re increasingly pessimistic about the government’s chances at solving the crisis. A survey released this week found that 47 percent us have trust and confidence in the federal government — down from over 80 percent in 2008.

It’s bad enough that news about the last ice area has been buried by yet another leadership challenge. However the ongoing spill ends up, the result will remain the same: Australia will have no climate change policy.

To think that our future is being decided by a bunch of old blokes who care more about their job than the planet worries me.