The unexpected victory of conservatives in Australia’s election Saturday is bad news for the future of global climate action, warn climate experts.
Polls had suggested that the Labor Party, which supports strong climate action, held a narrow lead in recent days. But in the end, Prime Minister Scott Morrison won re-election as his Liberal Party (which is actually conservative) swept to victory.
“Australians elected someone who once brought a lump of coal into Parliament urging us to dismiss the warnings from climate scientists, and to dig up more coal instead,” Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian cognitive scientist, told ThinkProgress in an email. “There is little doubt that his government will do precisely that.”
“We have lost Australia for now,” warned Penn State climatologist Michael Mann in an email. “A coalition of a small number of bad actors now threaten the survivability of our species,” he said.
These include “the fossil fueled Murdoch media empire, which saturated the country with dishonest right-wing campaign propaganda” working with a few “petrostates including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Trump’s America, and now Australia.”
Rupert Murdoch’s grip on the Australian media — and his support of climate disinformation around the world — led one Australian scientist to write in 2011, “The Murdoch media empire has cost humanity perhaps one or two decades of time in the battle against climate change.”
In re-electing Morrison, a long-time opponent of climate action, Murdoch and his allies have triumphed again.
In fact, Morrison first became prime minister back in 2015 following a party coup against then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who supported the climate action.
Turnbull’s efforts to cut carbon pollution and promote clean energy rankled right-wing members of his ruling Liberal Party, whose stances were closer to President Trump’s pro-coal (and anti-immigrant) policies.
Ironically, 2019 has already seen the hottest summer on record for Australia. The temperatures have been so brutal in South Australia, in fact, that heat-stressed bats are literally falling out of trees.
Australia is one of most vulnerable countries to climate change, since much of it is already very hot and dry — and so much of its population lives along the coast, which is threatened by rapidly rising sea levels.
Morrison’s reelection is thus a disaster for the future of the country — and the world, since avoiding catastrophic climate change requires a collective effort.
And so “we must redouble our efforts to make sure that the rest of the world works even harder to act on climate,” said Mann. “The stakes are too great to simply give up.”