SYDNEY, Australia — This country is at a crossroads with its energy future: one that aggressively moves toward cleaner resources in response to climate change, versus one that holds onto fossil fuels far longer.
Why it matters: Australia is the poster child, but the entire world faces similar choices, albeit not quite as stark as Oz. Fossil-fuel exports are booming here while large swaths of its population are enduring the wrath of extreme weather — which scientists say is getting worse as global temperatures rise.
Driving the news: Australia is facing a federal election this spring that offers voters a stark contrast on climate change and energy, and the world a window into two very different futures.
- “A lot of people think this will be the climate action election, that unless politicians are supportive of action on climate change, that they are less likely to be elected,” said Kerryn Phelps, an independent Parliament member, in an interview in the nation’s capital of Canberra.
- In a nod to that sentiment, the current leadership, whose views generally align with that of President Trump and U.S. Republicans, just the past week proposed a series of policies that Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will help address climate change.
- The initiatives are far less ambitious than the ones being pushed by the opposing parties, which resemble more closely with those of U.S. Democrats.
Here’s a snapshot of how central energy and climate change are in Australia:
- Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal by value (Indonesia is largest by tons).
- It's the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
- It's home to the world’s biggest battery installation, at a wind farm in South Australia.
- The country is grappling with a two-pronged electricity crisis with spiking prices and sporadic blackouts. While wind and solar face criticism for causing these problems, there are other, bigger factors.
- The country's hottest summer ever was just recorded.
- A record “catastrophic” wildfire season plagued parts of the nation.
A recent Brookings Institution report found that Australia is poised to be worse off if the world acts on the ambitions of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Australia’s current dependence on fossil-fuel exports would decline if other nations acted as aggressively as the Paris deal proposes.
- That’s a big if, though, considering most countries are on a far slower path to cleaner fuels.
- The disagreement here in Oz is over how fast this transition could occur.
Go deeper: Read the whole column.