Australia has elected a new prime minister who doesn’t believe in climate change, and who has vowed to kill a carbon tax and other climate initiatives introduced by the country’s Labor Party government. On Saturday, Australians chose Tony Abbott, in a national election that was dominated by climate debate.
The nation’s Labor Party (the liberal party), which has been in power for the last six years, introduced the carbon tax in 2011. Australia is one of the world’s largest contributors of CO2 per capita, and has been trying, for the last few years, to reduce its carbon emissions and focus on climate change.
The climate tax was met with fierce opposition by powerful corporations and industry groups. Tony Abbott initially warned that the tax would be a “wrecking ball” to the economy, yet even he admitted that the introduction of a price on carbon had not been “catastrophic” to the economy.
In a speech to the Tasmanian state council of the Liberal Party (Australia’s conservative party) in August of last year, Abbott admitted that the introduction of a carbon tax had not yielded the results he warned of for months. However, he added that while the “initial impact of the carbon tax may not be absolutely catastrophic,” it will only get worse as time goes on.
Yet, a year later, results show that the carbon tax has been partly responsible for a decrease in carbon emissions, and that its positive effects are only expected to increase as time goes on.
This year, Australia experienced the hottest summer on record. Temperatures were so unprecedented that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology had to add a new color (incandescent purple) to its temperature map.
January 2013 was the hottest month recorded in the history of the observational record for the country, and records were set for duration of extreme heat in numerous individual locations as well as for Australia as a whole, The Guardian reports. The record temperatures fueled bushfires across some of the most populous areas of Australia.
“Those of us who spend our days trawling – and contributing to – the scientific literature on climate change are becoming increasingly gloomy about the future of human civilization,” Elizabeth Hanna, a researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra told The Sydney Morning Herald. “We are well past the time of niceties, of avoiding the dire nature of what is unfolding, and politely trying not to scare the public.”
According to native Australian, and reporter for the Guardian Environment Network, James West, Australia was “gripped to the point of near-hysteria over carbon abatement policies” during this past weekend’s elections. Carbon pricing has been referred to as the “killing fields” of Australian politics, and Brown states that it “has cut to the quick of Aussie politics and become a symbol for deep ideological divides.”
This week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation announced that the Prime Minister-elect had instructed his team to begin drawing up legislation to quash the carbon pricing initiative. Abbott’s spokesman, and prospective minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, said that eliminating the carbon tax will be the new government’s “first order of business.”
According to the news outlet Grist, Abbott’s priority is “Repaying the mining and fossil-fuel industries that helped elect him by immediately moving to scrap that tax – just like he promised.”