Is Australia more conservative than the US
The country suffers from droughts and forest fires, one of its main tourist attractions - the Great Barrier Reef - is in danger, and many areas banned watering the lawn during the day with fines of several hundred euros. All of this is apparently related to global warming. You'd think that Australia would therefore be at the forefront of the fight against pollution and climate change.
But nothing like that: the country is one of the largest coal producers and exporters in the world, its CO₂ emissions per capita are among the highest in the world. And the climate goals that Australia brings to the climate conference in Paris are extremely low by international standards.
By 2030, the conservative government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent compared to 2005, this figure was presented by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott in August. According to the Australian climate change agency, which calls for a much more radical reduction, Germany's climate target for the same period is 45 percent, and even the USA is more ambitious than Australia with 35 to 39 percent.
Nowhere are more climate change skeptics than in Australia
Abbott's low level of ambition did not come as a surprise: Shortly before he became head of the conservative Liberal Party and thus opposition leader in 2009, Abbott had described the scientific arguments for climate change as "crap". When the Labor government at the time discussed an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which finally came into effect in 2012, Abbott fueled fears that the law would destroy Australia's economy. He stylized the 2013 parliamentary elections as a referendum on the ETS, which he consistently referred to as a "tax".
According to a study by the University of Tasmania based on surveys of 14 industrialized countries in 2010 and 2011, nowhere were there more climate change skeptics than in Australia. 17 percent of the Australians surveyed said that climate change does not exist; in Germany it was four percent, in the USA twelve percent. In 2012, according to the think tank Climate Institute, only 28 percent supported the ETS, 52 percent were explicitly against it.
Abbott's strategy apparently worked: In the parliamentary elections in 2013, his party alliance won 90 out of 150 seats, Labor only won 55 seats. Abbott was barely in office when he abolished the ETS. To replace it, he introduced a system he called "Direct Action". In essence, it offers taxpayers' money to air polluters for making the air less polluting. Abbott's government was also characterized by a lack of interest in environmental policy: it stayed away from international conferences on the subject, it lowered the target for renewable energies, and the climate change agency wanted to abolish them by law. According to media reports, she planned to appoint a "wind farm officer" to receive complaints about noise and damage to health from wind turbines.
With its extreme climate, Australia will particularly suffer from global warming. In the center and north of the country, the average summer day is over 35 degrees, often over 40. Almost all Australians live on the east and south-east coast, where temperatures are more moderate; In the future, authorities expect hotter weather, less rain (which will fall more often in the form of storms), even more bushfires and a significantly higher sea level. The corals of the Great Barrier Reef are endangered as the sea is getting warmer and more acidic.
Without drastic measures, Australia's average temperature will rise by up to five degrees by 2090, according to a forecast in the summer. The Australian Academy of Sciences expects crop failures, fish deaths, diseases and conflicts over water. The livelihoods of farmers and fishermen are at risk and the tourism industry will suffer severe damage. The number of people dying from heat waves will double in the next 40 years.
The doctor Sallie Forrest writes in a comment for the public ABC, the health effects of climate change are already noticeable: more heart attacks in adults, more asthma in children. Forrest writes that there are already 1,500 deaths from air pollution every year, more than from traffic accidents.
Abbott's policies had to do, on the one hand, with economic figures. Australia generates about 70 percent of its electricity from coal; According to the Australian statistical office, 8.5 percent of the gross domestic product comes from mining and the production of crude oil and natural gas (in Germany it is less than one percent). On the other hand, Australia, which has a de facto two-party system, is divided along the party lines on the issue of the environment; According to the political scientist Peter Chen of the University of Sydney, the fact that the conservative Prime Minister Abbott saw "red" on the subject of wind turbines is because they embodied the political left.
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