Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Prime Minister, Canberra, 27 October 2015. Photo: Eatglobe

By Michael Mann and Christopher Wright
6 February 2017

(The Guardian) – It’s been a bad couple of weeks for the world’s climate and environment. The inauguration of billionaire property developer and reality TV star Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States has presaged a new Dark Age of climate politics.

In an opening fortnight of controversial executive orders, President Trump has decreed the expansion of major fossil fuel developments including the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, and the neutering of long-standing environmental protections. In addition, he and his leadership team have made it plain they intend to dismantle many of the Obama administration’s climate initiatives and withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. All this runs in direct counterpoint to the rapid decarbonisation required to avoid dangerous climate change.

For Australian fossil fuel interests, President Trump’s war on climate appears particularly opportune. Just last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his senior ministers floated the idea of government backing for new coal-fired power stations as part of the government’s response to Australia’s “energy security” and expressed reticence over the country’s Renewable Energy Target.

For a country that has nurtured world-leading innovations in solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy technologies and that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – be it in the form of record heat, devastating floods, more widespread drought, coastal inundation from sea level rise combined with stronger tropical storms, or the demise of the Great Barrier Reef – doubling down on the traditional fossil fuel energy path is particularly short-sighted.

Of course this hostility to climate action and the decarbonisation of our economies is not new. The attacks on climate action by the Trump presidency and the Turnbull government’s embrace of the discourse of “clean coal” reflect the toxic, partisan political war that has engulfed US and Australian climate policy over several decades. Sound policy has been held hostage by the same vested interests of a large and powerful fossil fuel sector and a traditional vision that jobs and economic growth can only come from the “extractivism” that has defined 19th and 20th century economics. [more]

In Australia and the US, sound climate policy is being held hostage by vested interests

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