What matters with regard to climate change and Australian government?

Australia's Prime Minister Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor have said many times that under the Morrison government Australia is meeting its climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement and lowering its emissions.

Both points are arguable, the Australian media have been making much of whether or not the Morrison government is meeting its international commitments and whether our emissions are decreasing at all. But, especially considering what we are seeing of the seriousness of climate change in the summer of 2019/20, are these the questions we should be demanding answers to?

On this page I argue that there are far more important points regarding climate change and Australia's responsibilities than whether our country is meeting its commitments.

Australia's emissions commitments under the Paris Agreement are not high enough to be ethically justifiable and they are not up to the task ahead of all of us.

This page was written 2019/12/15, last edited 2020/07/10
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

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Clare polling booth, 2019/05/18
Our future
School kids Niamh and Emma asking for the world that they will inherit to be protected
The important questions that Australians should be asking ourselves and our government are these:
  • Is Australia doing all it can to save the planet from climate disaster?
  • Is it doing its share as a nation?
  • Is it doing as much as it can without adversely impacting its economy?
  • Is it doing as much as it is ethically obliged to do?
The answers to all four questions is NO. Australia is failing on many counts:
  • Australia ranks 53rd in the world in population, but sixth in the world in the CO2 produced by its electricity industry;
  • Australia has 0.3% of the world's population, but produces 1.2% of the world's greenhouse gasses;
  • If Australia's fossil fuel exports are taken into consideration the nation is responsible for about 3.6% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Australia's per-capita greenhouse gas emission rate is about 17 tonnes per annum, more than three times the world average, which is about 5 tonnes per annum. Australia's per-capita emissions are far higher than those of China and enormously higher than India's. According to Wikipedia Australia's per-capita emissions are higher than the USA, Canada and any nation in the European Union.
Australia has an ethical obligation to bring its greenhouse gas emission rate down at least to the world average. Not only is the Australian government failing to fulfil it ethical responsibilities, it is doing practically nothing to combat climate change.

The world is being devastated by climate change, ocean acidification and millions of people are being killed each year by the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. We must take serious action.

Australia's emissions intensity (as distinct from total emissions) over the last decade or so has decreased because of the rise of renewable energy generation. No thanks to Prime Ministers Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison or Energy Minister Angus Taylor. The Coalition has fought against the adoption of renewables all along. The federal Labor party under Anthony Albanese is little better. Both major parties are blinded by the short-term profits and political donations coming from the coal industry.

A part of one of Australia's wind farms
Wind farm
Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Australia's energy future is with renewable energy, such as the wind farm in the photo above. South Australia's great success in developing its renewable energy resources has shown what can be done; Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are also exemplary, the other states have been slower but are all more progressive than the federal government.

The Liberal governments under Prime Ministers Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison have all corruptly and criminally favoured fossil fuels and opposed renewable energy.

Australia ranked last of 58 nations in climate policy

The Climate Change Performance Index for 2020 ranked Australia last of all 58 countries rated for climate policy. It was the only nation to receive a score of zero out of 100, the second lowest scoring nation, the USA, received a score of 2.8.

Also in the Climate Change Performance Index Australia ranked:

  • sixth last of 58 nations in the overall results;
  • eighth last in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • seventh last in renewable energy;
  • sixth last in energy use;
With Australia's undoubtedly huge renewable energy resources the nation could be a leader, if not the leader, in renewable energy. Instead it was ranked closer to the bottom than the top of the list.

This should be a matter for national shame for all Australians.

Australia should act in its own best interest


In the summer of 2019/20 there were unprecedented fires in several Australian states, 2019 was the hottest year on record and the nation experienced its hottest day on record; there was an unprecedented drought and unprecedented low flows in the Murray-Darling.

The world's climate scientists had warned us for years that this sort of thing was to be expected with climate change. It had also been reported that agricultural incomes in Australia had fallen 22% due to climate change.


Climate change will force thousands of animal species into extinction. Already Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world.

Australia has animals that do not exist anywhere else in the world. Egg laying mammals, monotremes, exist only in and near Australia. The most famous of these, the platypus, exists only in Australia and the platypus is in particular danger of extinction if climate change remains unchecked.

South Australia's Kangaroo Island has been a refuge for platypuses, but in the fires of 2019/20 more than a half of the island has been burned out, including the western part where the platypuses live.

Graham Readfearn wrote a piece for The Guardian on 2020/01/04 titled 'Silent death': Australia's bushfires push countless species to extinction. Readfearn wrote "Millions of animals have been killed in the fires but the impact on flora and fauna is more grim even than individual deaths."

Kennedy Warne wrote an article for the National Geographic on 2020/01/17 titled 60 hours on burning Kangaroo Island; Dispatch from Australia: Our reporter describes the ongoing catastrophe of record bushfires on the continent's wildlife.


Related pages

External sites...

Canberra Times: Australia is a bludger on carbon emissions, not an overachiever

New York Times; opinion: "Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide. As record fires rage, the country’s leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom." Richard Flanaga, 2020/01/03.

On this site...

Climate change in the international and Australian contexts

Ethical government

Coal has little future; investing in it is foolish

Australia's energy future is with renewables

The Pros and Cons of Various Methods of Generating Electricity

Australia's Liberal party opposes climate change action (but Labor is hardly any better)

Australian Coalition governments; under Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Incompetent government

Greatest crime in the history of humanity

The burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world-wide each year through air pollution.