For environmentalists across Australia, particularly those who campaigned for climate change action, saying the election result was a disappointment would be a massive understatement.
That disappointment is all the more poignant because while a vast majority of Australians rated climate change as their greatest concern, it seems that most are more interested in immediate threats to their personal well-being.
While I was handing out how to vote leaflets, one lady informed me she firmly believed climate change predictions were nonsense, and the changes that are occurring were simply a 20 year weather cycle. That is the level of denial we are facing, because our feuding political class refuses to be up-front with the Australian people, and acknowledge the threats facing the planet, and what needs to be done to limit their impact on our children and grandchildren.
In the lead up to the election, neither major party had any ambitious plan for action on climate change, beyond a few grandiose uncosted statements from Labor. Those were negated by a series of conciliatory promises to the mining industry that appeared to support an expansion of coal mining and 'fracking' for unconventional gas, actions guaranteed to further drive global warming.
Regrettably, mining industry backed scare campaigns, and political stunts like waving lumps of coal around in parliament, have made the whole climate change debate so toxic, that no-one in government is game to act.
The consensus of scientific opinion agrees there is now no way to save our iconic Great Barrier Reef, and the immediate extinction of tens of thousands of the earth's species is now inevitable. The only hope for the remainder, they say, is immediate and drastic action, something now put on hold, in Australia at least, for another 3 years.
Only this week, research results by the respected Pottsdam Institute were released showing that polar melting of ice caps is accelerating at a much faster rate than expected, something that cannot be reversed for thousands of years.
These are just some of the challenges the new government faces. For our grand-children's sake, let us hope they are up to that challenge.
- John Edwards
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 27, 2019