The pro-coal message from the White House Friday couldn’t have offered a clearer contrast to young people across the world taking part in global strikes to demand bold and swift climate action.
President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave remarks to the press during a rare state visit. Trump heaped praise on Australia for its continued embrace of coal.
“They’re really at the leading edge of coal technology,” Trump said of Australia.
The U.S. president went on to suggest that in terms of dangers to coal workers, Australia had “rectified that 100 percent,” though miners in the country continue to suffer from debilitating mine dust-related diseaes.
Speaking from the Oval Office next to the Australian leader, Trump praised Australia for extracting its minerals and apparent digging capabilities.
“Coal as an example—you’re a leader in safety in coal digging and we’ve actually studied it because we’re doing a lot of coal and you almost have no—you know, you used to have a thing called black lung disease and in Australia you almost don’t have it anymore,” said Trump. “You got all of the dust down and they become wet mines basically.”
“What you’ve been able to do with the environment having to do with taking minerals out of the ground, including—and especially because you know you’re leading in coal—your record is so good in terms of illnesses from digging better than anybody in the world,” Trump said.
An analysis released last month by the Australian Institute noted that Australia is the fifth biggest miner of fossil fuels and the biggest coal exporter in the world. “On any reasonable assessment of the data,” the report found, “Australia is a large emitter with a profound global obligation to reduce emissions, not to mention economic and security self-interest.”
“Australia has just 0.3 percent of the world population but produces 1.2 percent of world emissions, making it the 14th largest emitter globally,” the analysis added. “Australia emits more greenhouse gases than 40 countries that have bigger populations than Australia.”
Despite the country’s rising emissions and evidence of the climate crisis, Morrison—who once brought in a piece of coal to parliament and shouted “Don’t be afraid!”—has pursued a coal agenda.
In a statement last month, Greenpeace head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio, said, “The biggest driver of climate change is coal, and the Morrison government remains obsessed with it.”
Hundreds of thousands of students in Australia that took part in the Global Climate Strike on Friday made clear they want change.
— 350Australia (@350Australia) September 20, 2019