Finding Australia's Climate Tipping Point

The letter from Australia is a weekly newsletter from our Australia office. Register now to receive it by e-mail. One of the fi...

The letter from Australia is a weekly newsletter from our Australia office. Register now to receive it by e-mail.

One of the first stories I wrote when I arrived in Australia was about climate change and its consequences. damaging impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Four years later, the consequences of global warming are only more visible, with fires, droughts and extreme storms, but Australia’s political parameters have not changed to match the emergency. of the problem.

At the federal level, the government is still debating whether to commit to a commitment that most developed countries (and a few Australian states) have already made: zero net emissions by 2050.

And that’s probably not enough. Days away from the United Nations climate conference in Scotland next month, many of Australia’s closest allies – including the United States, Britain and many of its own Pacific neighbors – have made it clear said the country was behind schedule and needed to do more to cut emissions this decade and move away from its role as a major user and exporter of fossil fuels.

Australia’s provocative inaction is already affecting the country’s image. As I wrote in a news analysis article this week, as coal is treated more like tobacco, like a danger wherever it’s burned, Australia looks more and more like the guy at the end of the bar who sells cheap cigarettes and promises to bring more tomorrow.

As Adam Bandt, the leader of the Australian Greens, explained to me in an interview, the world is finally starting to see Australia for what it is: a petro-state, where the coal and gas industries drive a policy in disregard of what the world must reduce greenhouse gases.

Indeed, the only two countries that ship more high-carbon energy into the world are notorious climate spoilers Saudi Arabia and Russia. Australia is now in this camp.

And yet, outside of government, the urgency is growing and a lot is already changing. To verify my story about Andrew Forrest from last weekend. He is trying to decarbonize his giant iron ore mining company by 2030 and turn it into a hydrogen superpower. I spent a week seeing what he’s up to in Western Australia, and while there are huge challenges ahead, he’s confident Australia will eventually become a leader in renewables, and he is prepared to invest billions of dollars to achieve this.

Zali Steggall, the freelance who toppled Tony Abbott in 2019 with a climate campaign, also told me she sees room for optimism. There is more interest in running independent candidates in the next election who will campaign for a change in climate policy. Climate science has also become even more definitive, sparking a new sense of urgency in the world which she hopes will eventually make its way to Australia.

“The day of accountability is coming,” she said.

“Am I frustrated, yes,” she added, “but it’s not a battle we can ever leave because the alternative is unfathomable. We just have to keep pushing everyone forward. “

Obviously, the pace right now is slow, too slow, according to science.

“We are at a tipping point between the old and the new,” Mr. Bandt said. “Right now the old man is fighting for his life. “

The question is, when will newer, cleaner lifestyles take over? When will the rate of change accelerate in Australia and elsewhere – and will it be soon enough to avoid the irreversible damage that would come from ever-rising temperatures?

Here are our stories for the week.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Finding Australia's Climate Tipping Point
Finding Australia's Climate Tipping Point
Newsrust - US Top News
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