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Australia's New Conservative Government Axes Climate Watchdog

Thursday marks "a black day in the struggle against global warming," says Greens leader

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A infographic from the Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade

The conservative government of Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who notably said, "the climate change argument is absolute crap," announced on Thursday it abolished the national climate watchdog.

Abbott was sworn in just Wednesday, and took no time in axing the Climate Commission, a body established in 2011 by then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard "to inform Australia’s approach to addressing climate change and help build the consensus required to move to a competitive, low pollution Australian economy."

Agence France-Presse reports that

Abbott’s conservative coalition, which plans to repeal Labor’s tax on corporate pollution and is the first post-war Australian government not to have a science minister, said an independent body was not needed and the role would be assumed by the Department of the Environment.

Outgoing Chief Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery warned that other bodies would not be able to fill the gap, saying, "The Bureau of Meteorology," for example, "puts out advice and information on weather events, but doesn't cover the economics or international action happening around climate change."

"There's various other groups that may or may not be able to do some of it, but having an independent strong authority that's committed to just telling the facts as they are …we're the group that was doing that," he said.

"Future generations will look back on this day and remember it as the day Tony Abbott condemned them and their peers to climate chaos."“It’s increasingly difficult for those groups to fill the role, partly because of the depth of capacity,” he said. “Many of these organizations are also constrained politically to some extent or another.”


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Echoing Flannery, in a post called "Axing the Climate Commission splits Australians from science," Jenni Metcalfe writes that abolishing the body leaves "a gaping hole in communicating climate change." 

Senator Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, slammed Abbott's move, calling Thursday "a black day in the struggle against global warming," and stated that "Future generations will look back on this day and remember it as the day Tony Abbott condemned them and their peers to climate chaos."

Critics of Abbott had warned that he was on a mission to axe global warming protections, with one op-ed noting that his coalition government would "put the profits of high emitting industries before the environment and global community, entrenching the status quo and legitimizing the continued exploitation of national and global commons."

Australia just experienced its hottest 12-month period on record, yet the Guardian reports that Abbott's government isn't stopping at dismantling the Climate Commission. "The Coalition is in the midst of dismantling a number of bodies that provided advice on climate change and funded renewable energy," the British paper reports. 

Flannery vowed to continue providing the public necessary information despite the shutdown of the Commission.

"I intend to continue working to make sure that the Australian public has all the information it requires in order to engage with this issue and understand what needs to be done," he said.


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