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A climate reckoning is coming to our political hothouse

8 22 0

When Tony Abbott was prime minister, he ordered more Australian strike aircraft and troops into Iraq. Not because Australia was big enough to turn the tide of battle against the barbarians of Daesh, so-called Islamic State or ISIL. But because he believed in the fight.

Climate is no longer a lefty concern. Illustration: Jim Pavlidis Credit:

"It's absolutely vital that the world sees and sees quickly that the ISIL death cult can be beaten," he said in 2014. Australia's commitment ultimately made up less than 1 per cent of the combined effort against the terrorist thugs but it was early and firm. Abbott described it as "an important global concern" and he was right. And, with more than 60 countries co-operating, it was a success.

When it came to another important global concern, Abbott argued a very different case. He and like-minded Coalition conservatives have long maintained that Australian action against climate change was futile: "Even if carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring trace gas that’s necessary for life, really is the main climate change villain, Australia’s contribution to mankind’s emissions is scarcely more than 1 per cent," Abbott said last year.

On terrorism, Abbott argued for Australian leadership. On climate change, he argued for wilful helplessness. Australia is a 1 per cent contributor in both cases. In one case, it used its 1 per cent to show leadership and effective action. On the other, it used its 1 per cent as an excuse for inaction.

The defining difference, of course, is will. Specifically, political will. Australia is at another decision point on climate change as it heads to the May 18 election.

All indications are that Australia is heartily sick of the "climate war". In the decade that the "war" has raged between the political parties, the country has been harmed and opportunity lost. Australia, an energy superpower, now has the most expensive electricity in the world.

The power grid has become so unstable that the energy market operator says it is intervening in the market every day "to keep the lights on". If it handn't, we would have celebrated Australia Day with mass blackouts across Victoria and South Australia.

And no, despite the public impression of such things, it wouldn't have been because of renewable energy. "The contribution from coal generation was significantly less than expected and renewables was slightly more than expected"........

© The Age