January 6, 2015

When Tony "Coal Is Good For Humanity" Abbott, Rupert Murdoch's pal, was elected prime minister in 2013, one of the first things he did was repeal the emissions trading regulations put in place by the previous administration. Coal is the largest industry in Australia, and the heavy use of the fuel is why Australia is the canary in the coal mine of global warming. Abbott's administration has continued the time-honored conservative tradition of doubling down on the very worst policies. Via VICE News:

Wildfires in South Australia ripped across 20,000 hectares of land, destroying several homes on Sunday. After yet another summer of catastrophic burning, Australians are debating whether the fires are the result of climate change, and whether enough is being done to stop them.

The blazes had destroyed at least 26 homes as of Monday afternoon, but the full extent of damage may not be known for several more days. Large areas remain inaccessible, and authorities are focused on fighting the fires that still threaten to spread across the Adelaide Hills.

"We're really at the pointy edge of a very strong learning curve that the world is facing," environmental scientist Tim Flannery told VICE News. "Bush fires are now behaving in ways bush fires haven't behaved before. They're hotter than ever, bigger than ever, and across a larger portion of the country than ever. They threaten more property, and we're seeing simultaneous fire seasons across the whole southeast of Australia."

California, of course, is starting to see similar changes.

Flannery is an ambassador for the Climate Council, a revival of Australia's Climate Commission, a government organization that was abolished by the current Australian government. Resurrected as a think tank, the Climate Council was funded by Australia's largest ever crowd-funding campaign.

"We're at the tip of a change that the Mediterranean region and the United States are going to be dealing with soon," Flannery said. "Australian bush fires are on the leading edge of a global problem, we're seeing really extreme conditions that haven't been seen for 200 years."

Climate change quickly became a political talking point in Australia, even as the fires still burned out of control Sunday afternoon.

"Every year we are going to face these extreme weather events, which are going to cost lives and infrastructure, and enough is enough," Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, said at a press conference. "The Abbott Government has to stop climate denial and help to get the country prepared to adapt to the more extreme conditions."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott openly disagreed with Christiana Figueres, a top United Nations climate change official, last year when she linked the country's wildfires to climate change.

Abbott said Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was "talking out of her hat" when she said there was "absolutely" a link between wildfires and climate change. Abbott instead insisted that bush fires "are certainly not a function of climate change, they're a function of life in Australia."

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