Crikey! Australia elects climate change skeptic Tony Abbott

This past weekend Australians gave (with some help from Murdoch) Tony Abbott, the leader of the Australian Liberal Party, a landslide victory in the country's 2013 federal election. But environmentalists fear that the conservative leader, who has said that climate change "is absolute crap", will destroy decades of hard-fought environmental and climate policies.

In 2009, Abbott said that "the argument [behind climate change] is absolute crap." Since then his climate denialism has softened up a bit. Now in 2013 he says that "I think that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution." So instead of just bluntly denying climate change, Abbott now only denies the need to act on it. So it's no wonder that some commentators and environmentalists have likened Tony Abbott and his policies to the same anti-science and climate denying stances that Sarah Palin or Rick Santorum advocates.

Abbott has already promised that, if elected, he will repeal the carbon tax that was introduced in 2011 by Julia Gillard and her former ruling Labor Party. The historic carbon-pricing legislation was supported by the Greens and has charged industries and energy companies for their emissions. Instead Abbott plans to replace the carbon-pricing legislation with his Direct Action program. The program is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by five percent from the levels in 2000 by 2020. Abbott himself says that his climate policies will "take strong and effective action to tackle climate change, action that doesn't damage our economy."

But critics say that even this meager reduction target will be impossible to reach. Among others, George Monbiot has said that the Direct Action program "is incapable of delivering the cuts it promises, absurdly underfunded and surrounded by a swarm of unanswered questions."

"Were it to become big enough to meet its promises, it would be far more expensive than a comparable carbon trading scheme, which Abbott has falsely claimed would incur "almost unimaginable" costs. But it won't be big enough, because he refuses to set aside the money it requires. Direct Action is a program designed to create a semblance of policy, in the certain knowledge that it will fail to achieve its objectives," Monbiot writes.

Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter and despite commitments from Australia to limit global warming to below two degrees, the country's coal export are planned to expand by more than double current levels in the coming years. Both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard from the Labor Party has rightfully received criticism for their inaction on climate change. But with Tony Abbott as the new Prime Minister, the climate outlook in Australia looks even bleaker than before.


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Simon Leufstedt
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