(Image: Unsplash/Matt Howard)

Climate change was an inevitable source of tension when Scott Morrison met with Pacific leaders this week. While islands like Tuvalu are sinking, Australia continually fails to lower its emissions or craft an adequate climate policy.

Australia’s stance was on full display at the Pacific Islands Forum, where after a day of difficult negotiations, the government succeeded in getting a regional climate statement neutered. Australia refused to commit to a statement from small island states pledging not to construct new coal fired power stations, and managed to airbrush most references to “coal” out of the forum’s final communique.

Language has always been central to the politics of climate change. In the past few months, a number of local, state and national governments have declared a “climate emergency”. At the same time, governments with denialist leanings -- like Australia’s -- have frequently used language to downplay the state of the planet or water down reports.