COMMENT: AUSTRALIA HAS BECOME the poster child for oil-producing countries seeking to shirk their responsibilities on climate change. We have a coalition government and its media spruikers in absolute denial of the enormity of the problem and our potential for change, or admitting that climate change is real but claiming that as a small country there is nothing we can do To do. All the while, they conveniently ignore that this tiny country has some of the highest per capita emissions in the developed world.

But we can’t pretend we didn’t see it coming.

In 2007 I returned to university decades after obtaining his first degree. A science degree this time, fulfilling the childhood dream of a girl who used to ponder her older brother’s “How and Why Wonder Books” and whose most precious possession was a microscope.

As a stereotypical, hard-working middle-aged student, I managed to get myself admitted to an advanced biology program. It was a flow that included informal meetings with various researchers who discussed their recent research with us on a weekly basis.

We half-joked began to think of these sessions as our weekly depression. The researchers were all passionate about the topics they had devoted their professional lives to, eager to inspire us, but they couldn’t hide their emotional distress at what they observed: the effect of climate change on their ecosystems of interest.

There was the shrinkage of alpine grasses and the threat to insect species that depend on them; the effect of increased heat on the sex determination of green sea turtles, which distorts the male / female ratio and threatens their reproductive future; flooding of seawater on low-lying agricultural lands, rendering them infertile; herbivorous insects developing two breeding seasons rather than one each year due to prolonged hot weather, causing devastation of crops and forests; and shrinking glaciers and snowfall limiting seasonal river flows.

Perhaps the most disturbing change we heard about was the increasing acidity of the oceans due to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Since the industrial revolution, the pH of the oceans has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1. It doesn’t sound like much, but pH is measured on a logarithmic scale. This means that, on average, our oceans have become 25% more acidic since pre-industrial times. For corals and calcifying plankton species, which directly and indirectly provide food to countless other sea creatures, the consequences are dire.

Coral not Coal protest during Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s visit to Australia. (Source: Wikimedia)

Week after week, we heard these biological horror stories and witnessed the frustration and silent despair of the scientists who watched them.

One day we were discussing whether or not there was hope. Would the world start listening to the evidence of climate change and register the threat? Would we be able to act on time? The class was divided on the issue but the teacher smiled and said, yes, he thought we would get there. He believed that common sense would prevail.

But as I listened, I noticed his smile was a smirk. He was forcing himself to believe it because he had to. If he didn’t believe it, then what was the point?

Ideologists and fools

I have often thought of that desperate smile in years of lost opportunity, presided over by ideologues and fossil fuel dupes.

Like John Howard, in the last days of his reign, feigning a Damascene conversion to science and then later admitting – after losing both his government and his seat – that he was feigning just because he realized his government had to look like it was “doing something”.

Tony Abbott, with the infamous ‘climate change is crap’ statement and the covert mantra ‘with the ax of the tax’, and his MPs prancing with illusory glee after killing the ALP-Greens award on the carbon; a measure which, although insufficient, was working.

Malcolm Turnbull, whose attempts to bring rationality to his government were doomed from the start, thanks to the stranglehold of the Coalition’s junior partner and his now traditional constituency of billionaire miners.

And finally Scott Morrison, stroking a lump of coal in parliament, mocking the opposition and every thinking person in the country with his grotesque: “It’s coal … Don’t be afraid.” Do not be afraid.

Throughout these years, there has been debate among biologists and other scientists about our work. Should we be impartial seekers of epistemological truth or should we be advocates of change? Or could we find a way to be both? Could we find a way to keep our hope and our purpose?

The real cost

Given the existential nature of the climate crisis, this is an issue that has spread throughout the community.

While the policies and attitudes of the Liberal-National coalition have remained largely unchanged since those days of discouragement in the museum of biology, other crucial aspects have changed dramatically.

Science and technology are finding solutions for renewable energies and limiting emissions unimaginable twenty years ago. Companies, seeing what Morrison and society are failing, are investing in new technologies and realigning their strategies. Governments impose low emission policies.

Significantly, mainstream economics now looks at the real cost of fossil fuels, calculating both explicit (direct subsidies) and implicit (costs of pollution, health, environmental damage, etc.). The IMF, in a recent article, showed that the combined explicit and implicit subsidies were in the order of US $ 5.9 trillion in 2020. That’s a staggering 6.8% of global GDP.

The next time someone tells you that renewables are not affordable, you might ask them how exactly are fossil fuel subsidies?

Anger and passion

In 2021 we see a groundswell of educated and independent women, largely little liberals, angered by inaction, sexism and complacency of the party they might normally vote for, rising and running for parliament. . It is a group that has learned the power of shared anger and passion. This is a phenomenon that we have never seen in Australia, as party memberships and tribal party loyalties decline. How significant this change was made clear in the recent Truth and Integrity Project report, “Disgust and Distrust… and what communities are doing about it”.

The Liberal Party is afraid. They can see their constituency drift away and feverishly strive to discredit these independents through editorials and social media.

It is not surprising that they feel threatened. Chances are the independents will give Australia another minority government.

The losers will be the so-called “moderates” liberals, MPs who display a public image of environmental purity while voting with Barnaby Joyce and the rest of the nationals on every climate and renewable energy bill.

All. Only. Time.

Liberals like Tim Wilson, whose seat is threatened thanks to high-profile Voices of Goldstein candidate Zoe Daniel. He took to Twitter with this irresistible gem.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who backed the Gillard minority government, refuses to use the term “suspended parliament”. He prefers the ‘power-sharing parliament’ and makes a good point: why use such a negative term for a form of government that can give us hope for better representation, negotiation and discussion and sound policy?

This is why I stand up and do what I can to put in place a power-sharing parliament in Australia, a parliament where those committed to real climate action must finally be heard; where the PLA will be forced to accept goals that science tells us we need, and one where the liberal-national coalition is sidelined.

They had their chance and they missed it. Move on, Scott and Barnaby, the women are there.