“The roar of the engine is amazing. The oxygen is being taken out of the atmosphere, you can feel it,” said the paramedic, a 57-year-old who was at the time treating burns and broken bones for volunteer firefighters.
The second incident happened in February, when relentless rain burst into the Richmond River banks, sending a tsunami-like surge through Woodburn in northern New South Wales. Morrison lives there. To free the boat he had stored in his shed, he waded in darkness.
“I’m in complete darkness. I got leeches all around me. CNN interviewed him about being “covered” after a second flood in April. He was standing in boots that were covered with mud in his backyard.
Australia is known as the “lucky” country. This is partly due to its abundance of coal and natural gas, as well iron ore minerals, which have fueled generations of economic growth.
Despite being exposed to the crisis Australia has one of worst records on climate action in developed countries. Under the current government, plans are to cut emissions by just 26-28% by 2030 from 2005 levels. This is a target that pales when compared to those set in the United States, the United Kingdom, or the European Union. Even the Business Council of Australia, which represents mining interests, supports a higher goal.
The Prime Minister’s bid for a second term might be thwarted if he is defeated by Anthony Albanese (Labor Party leader), who promises to cut emissions by 43% before 2030.
Saturday’s vote will be a crucial one. It will either give the country a mandate to do more of the same or set it on a new path.
But public surveys have often been wrong in the past.
Opinion polls predicted that Labor Party, the center-left opposition party, would win in 2019, with its ambitious plan to increase the use of electric cars and renewable energy. Labor lost and the vote only vindicated coalition’s inaction regarding climate change.
Ken Morrison states that he doesn’t know who he’ll vote, but he does know it won’t either of the main party parties. “Liberal, Labor, they’re both the same horse, with different stripes.”
“This is coal. Don’t worry!
Scott was a student before he was elected prime minister. Morrison established his status as an unflinching friend of the fossil fuel sector when he used a lump coal in parliament to mock the opposition’s renewable energy policy.
“This is coal. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt. He snorted over jeers. “It is coal, that has ensured that Australia has enjoyed an energy competitive edge for over 100 years.”
Although that was five years ago, the Australian government continues to be a staunch opponent of climate action. It has been a major international stumbling block on climate action since 1997, when the Australian government urged delegates to participate in the Kyoto talks. This allowed them to reach a deal to not only reduce its net emissions, but to increase them to 108% from 1990 levels by 2012.
Australia is dependent on fossil fuels for its economy. In the last 10 years, Australia’s mining industry has made 2.1 trillion Australian dollars (1.5 trillion USD) in foreign revenues. This represents 21% of the total GDP growth.
While much of the world works to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues, Australia is looking at more than 100 potential fossil fuel projects. Many could be online in the next decade.
According to independent research from The Australia Institute, all fossil fuel developments in Australia could contribute an extra 1.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annual emissions if they were implemented. This is a lot more greenhouse gas than Australia already emits. It’s also nearly twice the amount that global aviation produces in one year.
The federal government has been supporting coal and gas with subsidies of 10.5 billion Australian Dollars (US$7.2billion) in the budget for 2021-22. Now, its economic recovery plan seems to be overwhelmingly “gas-fired.” Scarborough-to-Pluto development in Western Australia is one of its new gas projects. It will emit 1.37 Billion metric tons greenhouse gasses over its lifetime, including emissions sent offshore. Climate Analytics estimates that this is equivalent to almost 15 new coal-fired power plants.
According to the Climate Action Tracker, which tracks climate commitments by governments, Australia “appears intent on replacing fossil fuels”
Both major parties on paper say they want net zero emissions They are aiming to reach that goal by 2050, spending around 20 billion Australian dollars ($14 trillion).
This means more gas projects for the coalition and more investment in emissions-reducing technologies, such as carbon capture storage (CCS), which is a method to trap and store carbon from fossil fuels to allow their continued use. However, the technology is not 100% efficient and scientists warn against using it to achieve climate goals.
Labor believes that reaching net zero will require a complete overhaul of the electricity grid, including discounts for electric cars and the creation of new solar banks and community battery systems. Albanese doesn’t rule out additional coal projects, however, saying that applications will only be approved if the “stack up economically, and then commercially” — a reference to how popular coal mining jobs are among the party’s traditional voting base.
The Greens have promised to end the mining, burning, export, and export of thermal coke by 2030. However, as a minor party, their influence will be limited unless their candidates can secure enough seats in parliament to make a difference.
The ‘lucky’ country
Somebody is back in Woodburn, northern New South Wales. 11 weeks after the February flood, residents still live in tents and caravans erected in front of mud-stained homes. You would think that after having lost everything, they would turn to parties promising greater climate action. But that’s not always the case.
Tamara Collins is a remote nurse who lives near Ken Morrison’s house. She said she will vote Labor because her local candidate answered the phone while she and Tim Phillips were removing toxic mud from their newly renovated house.
Cam Hollows is a doctor and son of Fred Hollows. He lives and works in the area. He flew a helicopter to remote areas to assist in relief efforts after floodwaters rushed into his homes. He said that many people who live in the bush are not drawn to it because they’re fortunate in life. “The “lucky” country has many unlucky people.
A third of the nation’s 26million inhabitants live outside major cities, in rural towns and villages. Although rural Australia is more affordable, it can be difficult to live in. Farmers have been deprived of their livelihoods by prolonged droughts and fewer jobs.
Hollows describes “two very different classes” of caravans in Australia as “two very distinct classes”. Hollows says that there are two types of caravans: There’s the $80,000 caravans that are towable behind $100,000 cars and caravans without wheels for 40 to 50 years. Some are used as permanent homes, while others are used for extended vacations.
Woodburn is a federal electorate in Page, which is a safe seat that is held by the National Party and the Liberal Party’s conservative alliance partners. These seats typically represent regional voters.
Hollows says that the Liberal National Coalition will “bleed yellow” as Page refers to the United Australia Party. This is a reference to the bright yellow billboards placed on roads and highways throughout the country by the party. The right-wing party consists of candidates led by and funded by Clive Palmer. He is a former mining magnate and brusque. On a platform of capped loans and pulling all Australian investments from Europe and the US. Palmer has no climate policies at all.
A new wave of Australian politics
The Independent “teal” candidates are at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum to Palmer. They are named after the color they used in their campaigns and are launching challenges to 22 marginal electorates.
Nearly all of the candidates are female.
They plan to seize the inner-city seats currently held by Morrison’s government and offer climate action to fiscally conservative voters, who don’t support Labor but are tired by the coalition’s business as usual approach to fossil fuels.
These candidates are independent but all are supported by Climate 200, an organization that aims to elect Independent voices capable and capable of negotiating higher emissions reduction targets.
Jo Dyer, an Australian theater producer and film producer, is one of the teal candidates. She decided to run after becoming frustrated by the “revolving doors” between Australia’s political classes and the fossil fuel industry.
“Climate Change is seen as an ideological issue here as opposed a impending global crisis — It’s been reduced as part of the culture wars,” Dyer said to CNN during a meeting at Boothby, her local seat in South Australia’s driest state. Boothby includes sprawling foothills and rugged coastline.
Cheryl Lange, a local resident, complained about Dyer’s lack of urgency at a climate forum.
“I vote for a climate candidate because big parties are controlled by fossil fuel companies. She said that there’s no sense in taking action when it is urgently needed.
Dyer believes this is a last-chance vote — one that could reveal some uncomfortable truths about Australia’s priorities.
Dyer stated that people often say that this is “not who we are as countries.” “Well, if the government is rewarded, then we’d have a hard time not to say that this is who we are.”
A different pathway
The 2015 Paris Agreement was a landmark agreement that saw 200 nations come together to agree to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the year 2000. This commitment was further strengthened at the Glasgow summit last year.
According to climate scientists, however, neither of Australia’s major parties is currently able to set targets that are compatible with these goals.
Hare is acutely conscious of the existential threats facing his country. However, he says that if enough climate-conscious candidate win their seats and apply pressure to Parliament, then the election could be “transformative.”
Hare said that “Understanding this terrible inaction lies a huge opportunity to lead in clean energy.” He explained that “a lot Australian’s things to enable mining and gas extract are very relevant to rapid scaling up the basic supply infrastructure for renewables.”
Australia is a country that has the tools to harness more renewable power. It also has the natural resources to do so, with more solar potential per square foot than any other continent and some of the most impressive wind assets in the world.
According to the sector peak body, renewable energy now accounts for almost 33% national power. South Australia, where two-thirds is generated by solar and wind, has been a leader in the transition away from fossil fuels.
Woodburn is still a place where the sound and rain keep locals awake at night. Ken Morrison and other voters are banking on their self-reliance, as they look down the barrel for more extreme weather events rather than any type of government change.
The boat he used to store in his back shed is now stored in his garage under his two-story home. It is ready for use in case of a flash flood.
He said, “And the kayak,” “so that we can get in-and-out quickly.”
Woodburn satellite imagery supplied by Geospatial Intelligence Pty Ltd, and Airbus DS. Credits for intro video: Seven Network, Nine News (affiliate), Sky News Australia Affiliate, European Union/Copernicus Emergency Management Service and AFP TV