Australians are living in denial: Samoa Conservation Society

The President of Samoa Conservation Society, James Atherton, believes Australians are living in denial about climate change following the re-election of Scott Morrison and his Liberal/National Coalition during the weekend.

According to the ABC, Prime Minister Morrison has won 76 seats in Parliament to the Labour Party’s 65. There are still four seats undecided. With this majority in the house, the Coalition will not need independent members of parliament to help them pass legislation.

A Lowy Institute poll released earlier this month revealed climate change ranks the top concern out of 12 possible threats to Australia’s interests. 

“A majority of Australian adults (64 per cent) see climate change as ‘a critical threat’, an increase of six points from 2018 and 18 points since 2014,” the Australian think tank reports. 

“This is the first time climate change has led the list of threats since the Lowy Institute first asked this question in the 2006 Lowy Institute Poll.”

But with the Coalition scoring a mere four out of 100 on the Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate change policy scorecard, environmentalists have reason to believe the new government is not taking climate change seriously.

Mr Morrison said the Coalition intends to cut emissions by 26 per cent in accordance with the Paris Agreement, but that is less than half of what scientists say need to be cut.

The Coalition does not have renewable energy goals beyond 2020, but intends to review the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which scientists say does not go far enough to protect the environment.

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The Guardian reports the Coalition’s plans regarding Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living structure, is “designed to reduce local pressures and increase resilience to climate change, but not deal with climate change itself".

Another key election issue is the building of a coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland by Adani Mining. Observers say the mine will likely be built in the wake of the Coalition win. The Economic Times reports: “the coalition benefited from a stronger-than-expected showing in Queensland where Adani Group is developing large Carmichael coal mine".

Mr. Atherton said any party in the Pacific not taking climate change seriously is “bad news” for the region.

“And with the impacts of climate change on Australia, with droughts, severe weather, fires, it really is quite a surprising result,” Mr. Atherton said.

While Australia remains a close partner and major donor in the region, Mr Atherton expects Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi will speak up on Australia’s less than ambitious climate change action, as he has in the past.

“He’s not likely to sit back and allow them to stay in their climate change denying bubble, and that goes for most Pacific Leaders,” Mr. Atherton said.

Last August, Tuilaepa told an audience at the Lowy Institute that “all that is left would be some political courage, some political guts, to tell people of your country there is a certainty of disaster".

To those undecided on their role in the fight against climate change, Mr. Atherton said stewardship of the earth should be top of mind.

“All leaders need to think of themselves, and about people as stewards of the earth. It’s about the way we see our role on the planet, and choosing to not be consumers but to think about the health of the planet, and the future generations.

“It’s a paradigm of short term thinking versus long term thinking, and when politicians pander to short term interests we have a problem.”

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