opinion

'This week, as world leaders meet at the UN, I'm ashamed to be Australian.'

On Monday this week, the United Nations Climate Summit began in New York. World leaders gathered to talk about global warming and what their countries were doing to limit it by reducing emissions. Australia wasn’t invited to speak because our country isn’t doing enough. So our PM, Scott Morrison, didn’t bother to turn up, even though he was in the States.

We have brilliant scientific minds in Australia. We should be leading the world in finding ways to reduce carbon emissions and make more use of renewable energy. But we’re not.

It was just 12 years ago that Australia’s then-PM, Kevin Rudd, called climate change the “greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our generation”. Now, it’s obviously not a high priority. Yet every day seems to deliver more and more grim predictions of how the earth will suffer if we don’t act now. The latest: rising sea levels mean Australians need to be prepared for more extreme coastal flooding, and less fish in our fisheries.

Scott-Morrison
Scott Morrison. Image via Getty.

I feel ashamed to belong to a country that leaves it up to other countries to do the hard work on climate change action.

This week also saw the world’s most respected environmentalist, Sir David Attenborough, scold Morrison for his lack of action. That deep, rich voice we’ve been listening to all our lives is now telling us that he’s disappointed in our country’s leader. “You are the keepers of an extraordinary section of the surface of this planet, including the Barrier Reef, and what you say, what you do, really, really matters,” Attenborough told Triple J's Hack. “And then you suddenly say, ‘No, it doesn't matter... it doesn't matter how much coal we burn... we don't give a damn what it does to the rest of the world.’”

I feel ashamed that the man who showed us so many of the wonders of life on earth now feels that Australians are not taking care of our own wondrous land.

I used to wonder what Morrison told his kids about climate change. As of this week, I know.

He says he wants children to feel “positive” about the future, that they will have a “wonderful country and pristine environment to live in”. He says he wants them to make up their own minds.

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“But I also like to give them reassurance because the worst thing I would impose on my child is needless anxiety”, he adds.

Let me mention some worse things that I could impose on my child: more and more summer days where it’s too hot to go outside, devastating bushfires sweeping through the countryside year after year, country towns dying as more farmers abandon the land due to extreme drought.

I feel ashamed that we have a leader who thinks it’s better to tell fairytales to kids than to take action to look after the earth for them.

David-Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough. Image via Getty.

This week, as all these articles about climate change have appeared online, they’ve been flooded by comments from people insisting that climate change isn’t real, or if it is, it has nothing to do with humans. Sure, no one wants to accept that we’re ruining the earth for future generations. But you can’t suddenly decide you’re not going to believe in science anymore. You can’t ignore scientists because you don’t like what they’re telling you, and at least 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that it’s “extremely likely” that global warming is due to human activity.

I feel ashamed that so many Australians are aggressively anti-science, and that numbers seems to have exploded in recent years.

Of course, there are things to be proud of. Last week, hundreds of thousands of Australians, many of them school kids, turned up to climate change rallies held around the country. There is hope that the tide will turn in Australia. But the people who will be affected most by our lack of action are the ones who are still too young to vote.

Let’s make sure they don’t grow up to be ashamed of us.

How do you feel about Scott Morrison's lack of urgency towards climate change? Comment your thoughts below.

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