Tony Abbott

Shutterstock / Phillip MinnisTony Abbott.

Australians endured devastating bushfires, floods, and record-breaking heat waves during this year’s Southern Hemisphere summer. Per capita, Australia is one of the world’s biggest contributors to global warming — and it has also been among those hardest hit by its effects. But in recent years, the country has been doing more than most to rein in emissions and brace for climate change disaster.

Australians head to the polls this year, and unfortunately for them (and everyone), the main opposition candidate vying to defeat Julia Gillard in the race for prime minister happens to be a mug who reckons all this climate change talk is just a bunch of bull dust and whingeing.

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Tony Abbott leads the Liberal Party, the opposition party which — because Australia is politically as well as geographically upside down — is actually the country’s conservative party. If elected, Abbott has pledged to kill a carbon tax that Gillard introduced despite angry handwringing by the resource-extraction-dominated business sector. Abbott now says that he would also sack the officials charged with preparing the nation for changes in the weather. And he recently went even further, saying he may kill a renewable energy target introduced back when über-conservative Liberal Party leader John Howard was prime minister.

(Abbott is less popular than Gillard but his party is leading in early polling.)

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From The Australian:

The Opposition Leader, who vows to remove the carbon tax if elected in September, said there would be no further need for the bureaucracy that supports it.

“When the carbon tax goes all of those bureaucracies will go and I think you’ll find that [Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery] will go with them,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott will consider dumping the Howard government’s renewable energy target, which he says is “significantly increasing the cost of power”.

Speaking to Sky News last night, he equivocated on his previous support for the scheme, which aims to ensure 20 per cent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

Not the sharpest tool in the shed, Abbott went on that recent tirade at the same time as the publication of a new report that predicts worse days ahead for extreme-weather-weary Australians. From the Daily Telegraph:

The report from the Climate Commission says climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather like heatwaves, fires, cyclones, heavy rainfall and drought.

The report entitled Critical Decade: Extreme Weather, released on Wednesday, says the global climate system is warmer and moister than 50 years ago, with the extra heat making extreme weather events more frequent and severe.

In response to the report, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council warned that while they had experience combating extreme weather events, people cannot expect emergency crews to protect their communities from increasingly intense fires and floods.

Lucky for him, Abbott is a notorious vacillator. If smarter minds within his party prevail, maybe they can convince him to flip-flop on his imbecilic (and increasingly unfashionable) climate skepticism. Do Oz and everybody else a favor.

This story was updated on April 7 with more detailed polling results.