Scott Morrison is a climate denier

The great denial in Australia

On December 15, Australia lost its prime minister. Extreme summer temperatures were predicted. Authorities expected the 100 fires that burned in the state of New South Wales alone to spread dramatically that day. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison flew to Hawaii.

To a "deserved family vacation", as it was later called. The country was led by Vice Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who dismissed concerns about the links between the fires and global warming as "the ramblings of some pure, enlightened and awakening capital greens".

Since September, Australia has been experiencing the largest and longest fire disaster since the British invasion in 1788. At least 26 people have been burned, suffocated and slain since then.

2,000 buildings were destroyed. Whole swathes of land are reminiscent of the Hiroshima disaster in the last days of World War II. More than a billion mammals, birds and reptiles were killed. Several animal species are threatened with extinction. Property and infrastructure damage is likely to run into tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars.

Fear of voting

It is true that the Conservative government began reluctantly to use more resources to fight the fires and bring people to safety. But this is less out of conviction than under pressure from within: MPs fear for votes because large parts of the population are frustrated by Morrison's disinterest. He then rolled up his sleeves for the cameras. It quickly became apparent that the former marketing manager and devout supporter of a Pentecostal church had a deficit in emotional competence. He shook hands with bushfire victims, in tears after the loss of their existence and indignant at the lack of support, against their opposition.

It is hardly surprising that after this public relations catastrophe at the latest, many media and critics pounced on the person Morrison - and thereby negate the deeper causes of such behavior: The prime minister and large parts of his government do not want to believe what they see with their own eyes see. "Conservative ideology manifests itself in a politics of rejection and denial of the issues and science of global warming," says one commentator.

Climate change is by no means solely responsible for the fires. For scientists, however, it is undisputed that global warming contributes significantly to the intensification, expansion and danger of fires. According to the Meteorological Bureau, 2019 was the warmest year in Australia on record, with a national average temperature 1.52 degrees above the long-term mean. In addition, there was less rainfall than ever before. The consequences are longer, more intense periods of drought and historical drying up of the vegetation. Rainforests that had been spared fires for millions of years burned down completely.

No concession to the left

For many conservative members of the government and supporters of the leading parties, any recognition of a connection between the fires and climate change would be an unacceptable concession to the progressives, the hated left, who have been promoting the need for climate protection for years. "Scott Morrison claims there is no evidence to link carbon emissions to the severity of the fires," writes renowned investigative journalist Michael West. This "naked denial of physics" is "not only dangerous, deceptive, insulting and negligent". It is also a sign that the state is trapped in economic interests.

"State capture" is the expression for "the domination of politics by private, often corporate, power". The term defines how public bureaucracies are dominated by strong and powerful interest groups. In Australia, it is mainly the coal industry, which is most responsible for emissions. Australia is the world's largest exporter after Indonesia. The country produces around 60 percent of its electricity by burning coal.

"State Capture" was seldom as public in Australia as it was in 2017. Morrison, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, walked into Parliament with a piece of coal and assured the people that they should "not be afraid" of the fuel. The coal lump had been handed to the politician by the umbrella organization of the fossil industries, the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). A journalist claims that it is painted so that the politician does not get his hands dirty.

Closely with the raw materials industry

According to Michael West, the close ties between industry and government are undisputed. "Morrison's consultant staff is a who’s who of luminaries in the coal industry." Even members of the government are closely intertwined with the extractive industry, Matthew Canavan, the Minister for Resources and an advocate for the expansion of coal exports, for example through his family. Industry well rewards politicians who act on their behalf: Ian Macfarlane, the former minister of resources who abolished a mining tax, later became head of an industry association. Energy Secretary Angus Taylor was an advisor to the MCA before entering politics. He is a sharp critic of renewable energies.

Taylor also holds the post of Minister for Emission Reduction. It's a cynical title for a man who goes out of his way to undermine global climate protection efforts. His argument: Australia is responsible for only 1.3 percent of global emissions and is doing enough to combat climate change.

The opposite is true: Taylor acted as a brake on the climate conference in Madrid. According to the Paris Agreement, Australia must cut its emissions by 695 million tons over the next ten years in order to achieve a reduction of 26 percent by 2030 - a modest number by international standards.

The government still wants to achieve more than half of this goal with credits from the fulfillment of earlier Kyoto goals - an "accounting trick", outraged delegates in Madrid. In 2014, the conservative government abolished a successful carbon trading system introduced by the previous social democratic government. Since then, greenhouse gas emissions have been rising again. Melbourne University climate expert Simon Holmes à Court says Australia must play a major role in the fight against global warming. With only 25 million inhabitants, the country is the 14th largest CO2 emitter out of 208 nations.

Media propaganda

It is doubtful whether the fires raised public awareness of the urgency of combating climate change and the role of Australia. Because the government has perhaps the most powerful ally of all. The media from Rupert Murdoch's group, which controls around 70 percent of the newspaper market, have been denying the existence of climate change for years, rejecting any connection with fossil fuels and vehemently taking action against critics of the extractive industry.

The propaganda machine is still running now. The Murdoch papers did not print reports of the fires until the fourth page. Columnists like Miranda Devine claim, "Greens, not climate change, are responsible for the fires." "Do-gooders" had for years opposed the preventive burning of endangered areas. It was "an outright lie," said a leading fire brigade commander.

Australia earns around 45 billion euros a year from exporting its coal. While the flames are raging in the south, dozens of new coal mines are planned further north. This will guarantee Australia's place as the leading exporter. The smoke from the fires darkened the sky over Chile last week - 12,000 kilometers from Australia. (Urs Wählerlin from Canberra, January 12th, 2020)