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Australia still reluctant to respond to climate crisis

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The Albanese Government needs to distance itself from the Coalition's legacy of fossil fuel dependency (Image by Dan Jensen)

Despite the clear warnings and a change of government, Australia is still behind on responding to the global climate emergency, writes Bilal Cleland.

THERE IS NO DOUBT that we are facing a major crisis.

The United Nations General Secretary has issued very clear warnings, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023.

It stated:

‘Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health (very high confidence). There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all (very high confidence).’

Even this report, widely approved by the world, may have been doctored for financial and political purposes.

Discussing the timid stance of the Albanese Government towards the climate crisis in Swimming between the flags, Dr David Shearman writes:

It is crucial that all who wish to understand our likely future read the article by David Spratt on the recent IPCC report. This explains that the huge scientific report has been significantly modified by the political representatives of governments but predominantly those of the fossil fuel producers...


The scientific report itself indicates the current emission reduction targets of nations are totally inadequate to avert the dire consequences of a rise to 1.5 degrees.

Spratt points out that ‘Saudi Arabia vetoed a proposal saying that burning fossil fuels was the main cause of human-caused climate warming, despite the overwhelming evidence’.

Responding to the climate crisis

Despite the clear warnings and a change in government, there is some reluctance here in Australia to respond to the urgency of the situation.

In June 2022, the Albanese Government commissioned Australia’s most senior intelligence chief to review the security threats to Australia posed by the climate crisis.

Retired Admiral Chris Barrie strongly supported this initiative, warning that the Government should plan for ‘disruptions to trade, more severe drought and increasing demands on emergency services and the military’ which would accompany change.

Although this study was provided to the Government towards the end of 2022, it has not been released.

Admiral Barrie was again in the news asking the Government to take the Australian people into its confidence.

The excuse for the secrecy is that the climate risk assessment used classified material:

Barrie said it was “rather surprising” that the Albanese government was continuing the previous Morrison government’s framing of China as the predominant security threat to Australia.


“Climate change as a security threat seems to be totally overlooked,” he said.

We remain the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels despite the compromise with the Greens for the Safeguard legislation which controls domestic emissions.

With the U.S. and the UK we join in allowing new fossil fuel sources, despite these dire warnings.

Dr Shearman writes:

‘The three AUKUS countries now walk together down the same street, but unfortunately in the wrong direction. All are excluding themselves from world leadership on climate.’

The crisis is accelerating.

A recent study of the world’s oceans revealed:

‘More than 90% of the extra heat caused by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and deforestation has been taken up by the ocean.’

They are at 21.1ºC since April 2023, up from 2016 and the heating appears to be accelerating, penetrating deeper into the sea and laying the basis for more extreme weather.

Warmer seas mean more melting of ice sheets and rising sea levels.

Particularly concerning is the fact that this could affect the food web leading to the growth of toxic algae and a reduction in the species humans can use for food.

The Fossil Fuel Crime File: Proven Crimes and Credible Allegations

According to Greenpeace, the fossil fuel industry spends billions of dollars on advertisements and sponsorship, aiming to deflect attention away from its destructive business models and to greenwash its public image.

This Fossil Fuel Crime File it has complied is restricted to the crimes of fossil fuel companies headquartered in Europe:

‘The fossil fuel industry is knowingly driving us deeper into the climate crisis and it’s doing so through unlawful activities all over the world. To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects must be terminated in 2023, the production of oil, gas and coal should immediately be reduced, and all fossil fuels must be phased out globally by no later than 2050.’

The fossil fuel lobby is politically active and has deep pockets:

‘Some fossil fuel companies lobby or bribe political decision-makers to protect their businesses... But it’s important to remember that fossil fuel extractivism feeds on the exploitation of people, natural resources and entire communities, particularly in the Global South, and endangers human life and the environment.’

Back in 2019, keen observers saw that authoritarianism, racism and love for fossil fuels were rising together:

From Brazil to India to the United States authoritarian governments are waging war on minority populations.


The world's burgeoning far-right movements are far-flung and diverse, but in government they share a few core tendencies: They attack minority populations. They criminalise dissent. And they're horrible for the planet.

These far-Right movements, Trump in the USA, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and the Morrison Government in Australia, protected the fossil fuel industries to the hilt.

L-NP rejection of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament related to its love of the coal industry

It is striking that the Indigenous peoples of the USA, Brazil and Australia have been opponents, in the main, of the destruction of the environment which accompanies those industries.

What is dismaying is that changes in government in Australia and the USA have not resulted in the acceleration towards rational climate change policies we had envisaged.

That again is to the credit of the lobbying activities of the fossil fuel lobby and its allies in media and politics.

Remember the blind response to the Australian bushfires while our then-PM was in Hawaii?

‘Incredibly, the response of Australia’s leaders to this unprecedented national crisis has been not to defend their country but to defend the coal industry, a big donor to both major parties — as if they were willing the country to its doom,’ observed The New York Times in an article entitled ‘Australia is Committing Climate Suicide’.

Racism, corrupted media, intimidated government “between the flags” and the acceleration of the climate crisis form a cluster of negative factors around the continuing power of the fossil fuel lobby.

The bravery of the First Nations people of Australia, Brazil and the U.S. in trying to protect their homelands should not be underestimated, nor should the continuing influence of the fossil fuel lobby.

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. You can follow Bilal on Twitter @BilalCleland.

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