Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes questions from media in Suva, Fiji. (Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has capped off the week by touring the Pacific, promising to help nations of the region with adaptation to the realities of climate change. Yes, that’s the same Scott Morrison who in September officially had no climate policy of his own, and who firmly urged school children not to protest for climate action.

The cognitive dissonance of Morrison’s tour — acknowledging the concrete effects of climate change and doing precisely zero to prevent them — was not lost on Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who told Morrison to do better on Australia’s transition to clean energy.

In the same week, Australians everywhere sweated through a heatwave, and the Murray-Darling Basin killed its inhabitants by the millions. Here it is, another confusing week in climate change news, both here and internationally.

Tuesday

The ABC reported that Australia’s major banks investment in fossil fuels — which until recent years had been dropping — had been increasing since 2015. Westpac’s coal mining exposure jumped by 140%, ANZ’s by 27%, while NAB’s was steady and CBA’s fell 7%. 

The BBC reported that last November’s heatwave wiped out one-third of Australia’s population of spectacled flying foxes.

Wednesday

A report, prepared for next week’s World Economic Forum was released, says growing tension between the world’s major powers is debilitating attempts at collective action to tackle climate change.

In the US, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency by President Donald Trump, told his confirmation hearing he favoured rolling back pollution standards. He also described climate change as “not the biggest crisis”. 

Meanwhile, The Australian continued its years of climate change denial, publishing an op-ed by Professor Ian Plimer, questioning the oft quoted stat that there is a 97%  scientific consensus that climate change is real and impacted by human activity:

In the scientific circles I mix in, there is an overwhelming scepticism about human-induced climate change. Many of my colleagues claim that the mantra of human-induced global warming is the biggest scientific fraud of all time and future generations will pay dearly.

Thursday

In the US an “all-star lineup of economists“, including all living former Federal Reserve chairs, several Nobel Prize winners and previous leaders of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers from Alan Greenspan to Paul Volcker, endorsed a statement asserting that a carbon tax is “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.”

A paper published in Science Advances alleged that thanks to climate change, at least 60% of the 124 wild coffee species are at risk of dying out. The researchers described existing conservation plans as “inadequate”.

“Ultimately, we need to reverse deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the lead author of the paper, Aaron Davis.

On the same day, Morrison arrived in Vanuatu carrying Australia’s promise to help Pacific nations deal with the effects of climate change.

“We’re very committed to funds in the Pacific to deal with programs to deal with the impacts of climate change here,” he said at a meeting with Ni-Vanuatu officials.

“To address the impact it’s happening on particular communities, and to ensure we can put in place programs which protect those communities, and to ensure the continuance of lifestyle and the way of life.”

It’s noted that the trip is as much for military purposes as environmental ones.

Meanwhile, Australia entered the fourth day of a heatwave, during which towns across the country report record-breaking temperatures.

Friday

Along with telling Morrison to do more on climate change, Bainimarama told him that Fiji is already dealing with forced relocations and spoiled crops as ongoing consequences of increased sea levels. He told Morrison to put the lives of Pacific islanders above the interests of “any single industry”. Morrison praised Bainimarama’s international leadership on climate change. 

Australia’s heatwave continued, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning that Friday will mark the peak of the week-long heatwave, tweeting “‘severe to extreme heatwave conditions across the southeast interior’. Temperatures exceeding 45 degrees for many locations through western New South Wales and central Australia this afternoon.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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