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AUSTRALIA’S Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised today for going on a family holiday while deadly bushfires sweep the country.
But he provoked anger among environmental campaigners by downplaying the role of climate change in explaining the worst fires in Australian history, saying it was “not credible” to link global warming to specific incidents.
Last week, Australia had its hottest day on record, just a day after setting the previous record for hottest day.
Nine lives and dozens of homes have been lost as fires spread across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The Gospers Mountain blaze alone covered more than 1.1 million acres.
Firefighters from Canada and the United States were arriving over the weekend to help their Australian comrades battle the spread of the flames.
Mr Morrison cut short a holiday in Hawaii and said he “accept[ed] the criticism” for having taken his wife and children there during the wildfires.
He appeared unsure what benefit Australians would derive from his presence, however, adding that he was not a trained firefighter but “Australians would like me to be here just simply so I can be here alongside them as they are going through this terrible time.”
The prime minister acknowledged “the links between broader issues of climate change and weather events” but said the current conflagration was down to “many other factors,” including building regulation, arson and lightning strikes.
He said he did not accept “any suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight” on fighting climate change, despite a study earlier this month that ranked it the worst of 57 countries considered when it came to action on global warming.
The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index noted that the Morrison government was “an increasingly regressive force” on climate change internationally and continued to promote fossil fuel expansion, “including by opening the highly controversial Adani coalmine.”
Australia needs to cut emissions by 695 million tons cumulatively across the next decade to meet its commitments under the Paris accord, but the Morrison government has stated that it will achieve “more than half” of that by the accounting trick of carrying over credits it received for meeting earlier commitments, rather than actually reducing emissions.
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