Australia Joining US In Openly Trashing Global Climate Efforts

Fairfax - Bill McKibben*

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Here we are – Donald Trump is about to become the 45th president of the United States and we have to prepare for the onslaught.
It beggars belief that in 2016 an outright climate change denier could rise to the highest office in the US, dragging with him a Republican controlled Congress hungry to revive the old glory days of coal, gas and oil, not to mention a Secretary of State that until last month ran the biggest oil company on earth.
Bill McKibben (black cap) was among activists arrested outside the White House in 2013 protesting against the proposed expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline. Two years later, the expansion was canned. Photo: Getty Images
Yet while Australians may groan and worry at the destruction that Trump will bring, take a look at your own Trump-like administration.
Washington DC may be awash with fossil fuel operatives, but Australia is no stranger to fossil fuel barons holding political sway either – indeed, you elected one to Parliament a few years ago in the form of Clive Palmer. And as Trump thrusts the US firmly into a position as international climate pariah, we are sadly joining Australia as two rogue developed nations openly trashing global climate efforts.
Bill McKibben warns Australia risks missing out on the new jobs and investment opportunities offered by renewable energy industries. Photo: Nic Walker
Similarly, while Trump and his team talks big about slashing environmental regulations and opening up new federal lands to drilling, the Turnbull Government is pushing ahead to develop the first new minerals basin in 40 years through the Adani coal mine project in Queensland.
Driven by Resource Minister – and coal zealot – Senator Matt Canavan, the Adani proposal runs roughshod over the wishes of the local Traditional Owners and the glaringly obvious science that shows to stay within the safe limit of 2 degrees of warming there can be no new fossil fuel projects.
If all the coal in this mega mine is dug up and burned it will produce as much pollution as all the European Union countries put together and would put not only the Great Barrier Reef in harm's way but clearly the global climate.
The call for no new coal, oil and gas is not an ideological position. It is basic physics. It is the Trump and Turnbull governments that are pursuing their dangerous ideological agendas in the face of facts, science and the Paris climate agreement.
Illustration Matt Golding
Let's be clear – there is no mandate for these governments to destroy the global climate. Trump was not exactly swept into office – he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million people and aided by mass electoral interference by a foreign country.
I have met Malcolm Turnbull and I actually believe he wants (or once wanted) to see action on climate change. He believes, I think, in the role of science and innovation to create a cleaner future and a strong economy, but is being held hostage by fringe elements in his party and sadly seems unable to provide strong leadership. He has shrunk into his role and allowed rabid climate deniers to prevent Australia from benefiting from the rapidly growing low-carbon economy.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org Photo: Supplied
The fossil fuel era now has an expiry date. Investors know it, businesses know it and global markets know it.
Large scale renewable energy projects are now cheaper than new coal power plants and every year the costs get cheaper. This year China has pledged to spend $US360 billion ($482 billion) over the next four year on renewable projects. This is as much as the whole world spent over the past four years.
Can you imagine what this will mean for clean technology in China? Not only will it create 13 million new jobs, but an investment of this size will drive even greater innovation. By vacating this space not only are Australia and the US blocking faster action on climate change, they are opting to miss out on the new jobs and investment opportunities offered by these industries.
We all have a role to play in ensuring our governments remain culpable for their failures and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. When our governments and laws fail to act in our best interests we have a responsibility to step up and take action.
That is why I will continue to protest the Donald Trump Presidency and all it stands for. I expect my friends in Australia to do the same. The next few years are going to test us. But with the cresting power of clean energy at our backs, we have a chance.

​*Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, an author and former New Yorker staff writer.


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