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The Australian Government leadership is now dominated by two throwback climate change sceptics. Guy Trafford assesses where they are going, and why New Zealand may benefit

The Australian Government leadership is now dominated by two throwback climate change sceptics. Guy Trafford assesses where they are going, and why New Zealand may benefit
Australian PM Scott Morrison, and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce - two climate sceptics

While New Zealand has been making steady progress along the path to tackling the issues needed to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions, some events have taken place which makes it worthwhile having a look over the Tasman and see what is occurring in Australia.

They have had a fraught (recent) history when it comes to tackling GHG emissions and policies and when the policies have been seen to be going too far, generally to bringing in more GHG reductions, leaders have been de-throned, and governments have toppled.

The latest offering in Australian politics is the re-establishing of Barnaby Joyce as the leader of the National [Country] Party. As such he takes over the role of Deputy Prime Minister. Australian politics under the leadership of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already moved several notches to the right with Joyce as his deputy this shift is further rooted right of centre and as such in the fudge climate change territory. Climate Change politics may yet again create a change in Australian politics, this time however, it may be the catalyst for those resistant to change leaving some political parties.

While the current government has made some moves towards meeting their Paris Agreements (a 26%-28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030) they tend to be on paper rather than in actions. A recent Australian survey published in the Guardian showed that 59% of Australians were concerned the government was not doing enough and they “believe Australia needs to follow the lead of other countries and make action a priority”. With energy in Australia getting a lot of its source from aging coal fired stations when asked how they should be replaced, the vast majority wanted renewable energy as the solution.

While government coalition supporters were the most lukewarm of the respondents when it came to renewables, they still did not want to use fossil fuelled stations.

PM Scott Morrison has ‘seen’ the necessity to “articulate the preference for a net zero 2050”. His rhetoric is severely undermined by his junior coalition partner. In the meantime, Australia lacks a coherent GHG reduction policy while having one of the highest GHG emissions in the world.

The only clear policy that has been articulated is that they intend to replace coalfired stations with gas. An improvement but well short of ‘net-zero by 2050’. With the UK and others saying that they are considering placing tariffs on goods coming from countries they believe have not implemented enough actions to reduce emissions (how this would be applied is not clear and looks more like sabre rattling than a real threat, at this stage) many within Australia believe they need to put some real reduction policies in place.

When it comes to agriculture about 12%-16% of Australia’s GHG emissions come from that sector, depending upon sources. Of this, approx. 66% is methane.

What is perhaps surprising is that even farmers are calling on the Federal Government to get more aggressive in making reductions in national emissions. Much of this is driven by the recognition of the vulnerability agriculture has to extreme climate events (take you pick from fire, floods, dust storms, droughts, mouse plagues etc etc).

In August 2020, a forum comprised of business, farming, investment, union, social welfare and environmental sectors issued an extraordinary statement calling for the government to adopt a target for net-zero emissions by 2050. A  poll from June 2020 found that 70% of Australians expected the government to protect the environment as part of the economic recovery efforts. Another poll found 72% of Australians view the bushfires of November 2019 to January 2020 as a wakeup call on the impacts of climate change, with 73% agreeing that the Prime Minister should lead on climate change action. A federal-level commitment to zero emissions and a Paris Agreement consistent 2030 target as well as a renewable energy target beyond 2020 are necessary to ensure a consistent federal framework for a fast transition to a zero-carbon future.

Their federal government trumpets out reductions in the national emissions profile, including agriculture. However, more independent data cannot see how Australia can get close to its Paris Agreements let alone a “net zero by 2050” even agriculture is predicted to increase by 11% from 2020- 2030. The National Party wants agriculture to be excluded from any emissions reductions policies “Australia could follow New Zealand's lead in exempting emissions from the agriculture sector”. New Zealand farmers might be interested in finding out they are exempt. Treated differently, but not exempt.

If trading partners do begin to bring pressure onto countries that are not doing their bit to reduce GHG emissions, it could potentially play into New Zealand’s favour. Even China is aiming to be “net zero by 2050”. Given it already seems to be using any excuse to apply pressure on Australian exporters lack of a coherent Australian agricultural policy may benefit New Zealand.

Australia is similar to the USA with its combination of Federal (or Commonwealth) and State governments. And in both cases the national (Federal/Commonwealth) has seemed to be out of step with the State policies in regard to climate change. The US has remedied the situation with the dumping of Trump. Australia remains to be seen.

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29 Comments

3rd line in. "countries" should be "country's"
Possessive apostrophe + s denoting the greenhouse gas emissions belong to the country. What also doesn't make sense is the weighting in climate models over representing anthropogenic GHGs and under representing the albedo effect. But that's another story.

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I'd be interested to see your saucers Rosenstein? (sorry...;))

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I don't know what the view of ordinary Australians currently are but I'm sure Rupert Murdoch will tell them what they should think come next election.

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"This election is all about climate change" Bill Shorten, immediately prior to losing his unlosable election. Even I believed he had that one in the bag. Australians, it seems, are not over concerned with the popular institutionalized and media driven narrative of climate change. And good on them. This was expressed via the ballot box.

Also Scott Morrison is regarded as a safe pair of hands, in spite of his occasional awkwardness. This is what people gravitate to in uncertain times.

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I'd guess there is little risk of Scott Morrison running away from the crisis on holiday abroad now the borders are closed.

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They represent a previous mantra; there are always folk in that space (blacksmiths were vocal in decrying cars) but they are on the way out, not the way in. At the best, they can obfuscate and delay. If this cost the country (by being late in adapting); that is the cost they pay for such slowness of thought-change.

I suspect we can link the difference to their origins; they were descended from a pool of disenfranchised reactors-to.

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Maybe we are the ones not adapting. We need to learn to live with the climate change instead of sending us into poverty with so called new technologies that are not efficient.

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The world can't 'live with the climate change'. We can't just tell everyone in the middle east and Africa to 'move indoors and stick the aircon on'. We have all the resources we need to make the transition. The challenge is how we distribute those resources to where they are actually needed.

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The world can live just fine. By All accounts plants are thriving due to increased sunlight and CO2. As are the multitude of pest species in NZ.

Climate change is just that a "Change". Life will continue, it may just be different to what we have now.

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'Just a change' = 3 billion refugees by 2100, serious conflict across the globe as food shortages bite, the death of thousands of species, and sea levels on the rise to 10m - 40m above current levels (see you Auckland, most of Wellington, Christchurch etc).

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Throughout human history, there have been those who have made claims of various coming apocalypses. They have all later been proven to be either insane, or lying. One thing that remains constant in this world, is human nature.

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Interesting thinking here, in the sense of a bad idea: Stuff item on the recent rain in Canterbury.

See the introduction of ReWilding Rivers thinking to Local situation. Its real kitchen sink reporting. Throw everything at it see what sticks & clicks. Eg. - the usual climate change everywhere reporting etc.

https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2021/06/rewilding-project-nz-braided-r…

The idea may not travel well considering the NZ human need for hydro electricity.

https://rewildingeurope.com/tag/rewilding-rivers/
See how in Europe rewilding rivers means taking out dams.

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Having lived/farmed beside a number of braided rivers in the eastern bop the article made complete and total sense to me. The engineering we put in to river beds are only ever temporary and often cause lots of unintended consequences.

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Yeah, I don't think predictions by cranks, without the science of physics, global data sets and evidence you can see when you walk out your door, has much in common, do you Dave? You are right about human nature though, as you ably demonstrate. When disaster hits, better to sacrifice someone to appease the gods, than take notice of expert warnings.

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It is hyperbole like this that creates unhelpful climate change denial rather than a constructive conversation about what can be done.

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The world can live just fine... without humanity. Did so for millions of years.

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Yeah, I get tired of the "saving the planet" rhetoric when it's our civilization that's at stake. The planet will be fine no matter what happens.

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Except that global surface temperatures will continue until net greenhouse gas emissions equals zero.
The efficiency of an internal combustion engine is only 35% whereas an EV electric motor is over 85%, so I'm not sure efficiency is a valid argument either.

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"sending us into poverty with so called new technologies that are not efficient."

That doesn't make sense. Your 'wealth' was based on the extraction of a finite resource; it was doomed to end. On the basis that future generations should have been given an equal chance at the resource, you were already guilty of longitudinal colonialism; the rest of your comment is all about self, now.

We need to be about 'others', 'later'. Or why do we bother having offspring?

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[ Personal abuse not acceptable. Don't do it. Ed ]

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Thanks for letting me know calling someone a moron is an intolerable abuse.

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So is supporting genocide. Don't do it.

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Just try calling your lovely leader that Xi - goodbye kidneys!

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Can we have moron that interchange please?

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Australia will become a renewable energy super power over the coming decades. Blessed with oodles of empty land for wind and solar.

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I don't think Gina will be rolling out Solar on her property in a hurry.
Australia's biggest landholder is Gina Rinehart, controlling 9.2m hectares

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I think from now on I will think of upskirt shots when I hear the phrase solar power...

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That person and that phrase do not belong together. Vomit.

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From the Country that gave us under arm bowling, it's no surprise that they're at it ag, with dodgy rule interpretations and the "Australia Clause"

https://www.afr.com/policy/energy-and-climate/australia-cheating-on-par…

https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parli…

Are you really surprised?

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