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‘Shut Your Mouth!’: Tensions Flare as Australian Pols Clash Over Climate Change

By Belal Awad · August 6, 2023

In brief…

  • Australian Greens Sen. Nick McKim confronted rival Sen. Matt Canavan in a harsh attack over climate change.
  • McKim accused Canavan of contributing to the global climate crisis, referring to him as a "sociopath."
  • The clash is embematic over the roiling climate-change debate across Australia - and globally.
  • Advocates contend delicate ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef are at stake.
Greens Sen. Nick McKim slammed rival Sen. Matt Canavan for climat-change denial.  Senator Babet/Twitter

In a heated exchange in the Australian Senate last week, Greens Sen. Nick McKim launched a scathing attack on Liberal National Party (LNP) rival Sen. Matt Canavan over the issue of climate change. Canavan serves as Australia’s Minister for Resources.

The incident reflects an environmental debate that is fast reach a boiling point in Australian politics.

McKim, an long time environmental advocate and a vocal critic of the fossil fuel industry, accused climate-sceptic Canavan of contributing to the global climate crisis. “Mate, you can shut your mouth,” McKim fumed at Canavan, “People are dying because of sociopaths like you.”

McKim, who represents Tasmania, then listed what he sees as the consequences of climate-change denial. “What they’ve got to answer for is death, disease, starvation, people dying of thirst, arable farming lands turning into desert… most likely billions of people dead by the end of this century, and the collapse of the ecosystems that actually support all human life on this planet.”

The incident is the latest example of mounting tensions within Australian politics - and globally - over what government should do to address climate change.

Among the world’s largest exporters of coal and gas, Australia has been criticized by advocates for a lack of commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The country’s diverse ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef, they claim are under threat. Meanwhile, 83% of Australians say they are concerned about climate change, according to a recent poll.