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Pouring Coal on the Fires, Aussie PM Rejects Climate Solutions as Country Burns

"These are the realities that make me wonder at how corrupt must be the souls of people who have the power to stop this and fail to act."

A firefighter and a koala watch a bushfire in Eden Hills, Adelaide, South Australia.

A firefighter and a koala watch a bushfire in Eden Hills, Adelaide, South Australia. (Photo: Eden Hills Country Fire Service/Facebook)

As Australia endures ongoing wildfires that have choked out cities with smoke and are incinerating wildlife habitats, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made clear that he would not entertain any curtailment of coal production—a signal to observers that the country's leader isn't willing to take seriously the threat of the climate crisis. 

Morrison on Monday rejected calls to slow Australian coal production, saying such a move would be to "engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought."

Greenpeace Australia Pacific head David Ritter found the statement flabbergasting.

"Staggering egotism atop monumental negligence," tweeted Ritter.

As Common Dreams reported Saturday, Australia's fires have ringed the continental country and claimed the lives of at least two firefighters. The infernos have destroyed much of the koala habitat on the country's east coast. 

The prime minister's love of his country's coal industry, paired with his denial of the climate crisis, drew the ire of  journalist Christian Schwägerl.

"Statements from Scott Morrison and his support for new coal mines give the impression that it's way too cold in Australia and not enough forest has burnt down," said Schwägerl.

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New South Wales Rural Fire Service spokesperson Angela Burford told reporters Monday that the fires continue to rage.

"We continue to see these fires spread, and in some places, they're so large, we've seen two fires merge," said Burford.

The crisis could affect Morrison's political future. As the fires grew in size and number, and killed firefighters, the prime minister was in Hawaii on vacation. Morrison cut the holiday short but not before sustained criticism. 

"I think the man just needs to step back and take a bit of a check on himself," said Australian Ben Parsons, who shared a picture taken by his uncle of the prime minister relaxing while Australia burned.

Progressive writer Jodi Jacobson bemoaned Morrison's call to continue coal production and said it was part of a broader problem in how the world is approaching the climate crisis. 

"These are the realities that make me wonder at how corrupt must be the souls of people who have the power to stop this and fail to act," Jacobson said.

"We talk about 'what our grandchildren will say,'" added Jacobson. "Will your grandchildren even exist in 50 years when we've destroyed the Earth?"

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