What’s the buzz around climate change as Australia’s election draws closer?

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Highlights

  • Recent polls have suggested that climate change is one of the top three concerns among voters.
  • Australia’s temperature has substantially risen over time, reflecting the impact of climate change.
  • Political parties have sensed the rising awareness of climate change among voters, putting the issue on their agenda.

With climate change becoming a pressing issue among major regulatory bodies, Australian leaders have made the issue a priority in their election campaigns. The government authorities have often been criticised for their lacklustre efforts in addressing climate change in the domestic setup. However, with elections around the corner, political parties have constantly highlighted their attempts to curb climate change.

Australia is no stranger to climate change-related adversities, with the latest floods and forest fires being a testament to the seriousness of the issue. Such natural disasters have become increasingly common across most parts of the world, highlighting the need for a united effort.

Recent climate change reports by a team of scientists for the World Meteorological Organisation show that there is a 48% chance that the globe will reach a yearly average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels of the late 1800s at least once between now and 2026. The threat is big enough to raise eyebrows among people and has incited a wave of promising responses from campaigning leaders.

High time for climate change action

The probability of 48% predicted this year was lower than last year’s prediction of close to 40%. The stark jump in this probability shows the accelerating pace with which man-made climate change is taking place. Additionally, climate scientists believe that even if all nations deliver in full to keep the global temperature in check, the average temperature is bound to rise by more than 2 degrees.

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Australia has signed the Paris climate agreement, under which it must take consistent action to maintain the rise in global temperature near 1.5 degrees and not exceed it. However, the intensity with which climate change concerns are being addressed currently is new and had not been witnessed in the preceding months. Recent polls have suggested that climate change is one of the top three issues that voters want to be addressed through the upcoming government.

Both political parties are in a bid to outdo one another when it comes to tackling climate change. The Morrison government has pledged toward net-zero emissions by 2050, though the move has been met with much internal conflict. Meanwhile, Labor is pledging to raise the medium-term target to 43%, and it believes that the election is a chance to “end the climate wars”.

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Why is climate change on election agenda?

The world has seen a whirlwind of economic and financial turmoil in the post-COVID era, yet an average Australian voter knows the importance of enforcing action against climate change. A report by the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology shows that Australia has warmed on average by 1.44 degrees Celsius since 1910. This explains the extreme weather conditions becoming increasingly prevalent in the country.

Australia’s contribution to the global greenhouse gas emission is strikingly high, making it a point of focus among international activists. Research by experts suggests that Australia needs to decrease its emissions by a larger margin than other nations. More worrying is the country being ranked last based on The Climate Change Performance Index 2022 due to its “insufficient” policies.

Despite the widespread politicisation of the issue, none of the parties has addressed the far gruesome topic of coal mining and natural gas extraction. Both are key economic areas for Australia and receive constant funding from the government.

It is imperative to note that federal elections place a substantial amount of control in the voters’ hands, allowing them to make a choice between parties and issues prioritised by them. Political leaders are highly conscious of resonating with the public’s opinion. Thus, they have ensured that climate change talks are brought up time and again in their campaigning efforts. However, concerns surrounding climate change are often dwarfed in front of economic and strategic priorities. Therefore, voters need to cast their vote with full awareness and thorough examination.

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