Australia has been hit harder by climate change than just about any other country on the planet. After years and years of devastating floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves, temperatures (and tempers) finally boiled over in the voting booth as well. Voters sick and tired of politicians’ inaction on the climate crisis kicked Australia’s conservative government out of office for the first time in nine years.
Dubbed Australia’s “climate election,” it was a stunning result, and it tells us a lot about the growing political importance of climate change.
According to the latest report from the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the window of opportunity for avoiding the worst effects of the climate crisis is rapidly closing. Voters are taking note, in Australia and around the world. Politicians should too.
Canary in a Coal Mine?
While unprecedented wildfires devastated Australia in 2019, a vacationing Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked how he could justify continuing his Hawaiian holiday. He said, “I don’t hold a hose, mate.” Well, in May’s election, do-nothing climate-deniers like Morrison got burnt.
Despite the toll climate change has taken on Australia, the conservative government never wavered in its enthusiastic support for the fossil fuel industry. Even as many countries began investing more in renewables and working toward creating an inclusive and sustainable clean-energy economy, Australia’s federal government doubled down on dirty fuels, offering huge subsidies to gas and oil companies and maintaining its commitment to mining, burning, and exporting coal.
The results of Australia’s election show that there’s a political price to be paid for mindlessly denying the reality of climate change while profiting from the very industries that are causing it. Conservative leaders in the US would be wise to take note.
Treating a Crisis Like a Crisis
It took a lot of work to bring this sudden change about! Dedicated activists and leaders across Australia put in countless hours over many years rallying, educating, talking, and organizing. It made a difference—as did the succession of catastrophic floods, landslides, and fires that Australians have lived through in recent times.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, after all that, that a strong majority of the Australian public now supports climate action. Not only that, most Australians also believe that taking action on the climate will benefit the economy (refuting the tired and false conservative argument that Australians had to make a choice between the climate and the economy).
People went to the polls in May and voted their values. They voted overwhelmingly for candidates who pledged to treat the climate crisis like the actual emergency it is. Australia now has a new government full of leaders who will take action on the most urgent issue of our time, and they were voted in because of their strong stance on the climate.
A Lesson for the US
As extreme heat and other climate-fueled disasters like massive wildfires become more common and fuel prices keep skyrocketing (while renewables get cheaper and cheaper), voters everywhere are primed to make climate action a priority at the polls.
Right here in the US, huge majorities of the public know that climate change is harmful and support dramatic changes to fight it.
We Must Act Now
Australia has shown that climate champions win elections. With midterm elections coming up shortly in America, let’s make sure our leaders know what’s at stake.
Climate change deniers should know their seats are at stake this election. Candidates who promise to take action on the climate and the environment, who will work to ensure a fair transition to a clean-energy economy, who will fight for climate justice, and stand up against the fossil fuel industry can expect to harness the support of millions upon millions of Americans who know that we have to act now to avoid the worst effects of climate change.Join the climate movement today—and vote for leaders who support climate action!