World

Australian PM finally admits climate change is real

SYDNEY: Three years ago, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, then Treasurer, brandished a lump of coal in Parliament as a totem of how the ruling conservative coalition planned to keep the lights on and power prices low.

Now, with the country experiencing one of its worst-ever bush fire seasons and facing criticism for his pro-coal policies, Mr Morrison is acknowledging climate change is real. He is also talking about "adaptation" and "resilience".

"I think we want to have a high level of confidence that as a nation we are improving our resilience and our adaptation to respond to the reality of the environment in which we live," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra yesterday.

Australia's Science Minister Karen Andrews told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview that climate denial was a waste of time, as she echoed Mr Morrison's "adaptation" mantra.

As bush fires tore through New South Wales state last month, Mr Morrison had avoided drawing a link between the unusually early and ferocious fire season and climate change, saying the time was not right for such discussions.

Just last week, he told Sydney radio 2GB it was disappointing that people were conflating the bush fire crisis with Australia's emission reduction targets.

While the softening of his stance is significant, scepticism remains over whether it will translate to a stronger climate policy as large swathes of the country continue to burn.

A poll from think-tank The Australia Institute on Wednesday showed the country's bush fire crisis has intensified concerns about climate change, with almost seven in 10 Australians wanting the government to lead on climate action.

Mr Morrison, whose popularity has sunk to its lowest levels since he took over leadership in 2018 over the government's bush fire response, continues to espouse the merits of coal.

US climatologist and geophysicist Michael Mann told Reuters that Mr Morrison's position was "ridiculous". - REUTERS

Environment