Today’s news that the coal industry is lobbying Parliament again raises the grave but tedious question — when will Australia’s coal mafia give in to climate science and/or Australian public opinion? Until Guy Pearce’s Quarry Vision (Quarterly Essay 33) is released on March 16, we can only read the tea leaves, but the story is worth watching.

The Age has a big story today on this week’s Copenhagen climate science congress. This meeting of climate scientists will report that impacts already unfolding are far worse than IPCC predictions. The science says we have to switch out of coal, and fast.

On the democracy front, a Climate Institute poll released today shows 83% of swinging voters are concerned about climate change. Despite the spin of both major parties, the public knows that nothing is really being done to fix the problem.

Then tonight’s Four Corners will show that Big Coal is continuing to defy both climate science and public opinion, lobbying for Kevin Rudd to do nothing on climate change.

This is bad news because it shows that the coal industry is moving beyond the reality of sensible public debate and becoming hardened into an increasingly irrational, devious position, like its US counterparts. In the US there is a tradition of playing culture war games like climate denialism to a greater degree than even under former Liberal PM John Howard.

Take for example The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Last week their spokesman claimed he doesn’t know if coal causes global warming. The ACCCE is of course an industry frontgroup created to green-wash the coal industry, spending over $US10.5 million, according to ThisIsReality.org.

Today’s poll proves that the Australian public understands both major parties have failed on climate change. Both PM Kevin Rudd and Opposition leader have the electoral opportunity to win seats by proving their climate credibility.

They must make a climate crisis plan that will actually cut emissions, is based on the latest science and respects the will of the people. That will put the Australian Coal Association and its lobbyists where they belong, managing the decline of yesterday’s energy industry.

Peter Fray

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