On Thursday, 400 Australians buried their heads in the sand to mock Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to include climate change on the upcoming G20 summit agenda.

As the current president of the G20 (term ends November 30, 2014), Australia dictates the agenda for the group’s annual summit. On Friday and Saturday, leaders from the most economically powerful countries in the world will gather in Brisbane, Australia to discuss the most pressing issues on the international stage.

In a year that has seen major popular and political movements for climate action – over 400,000 gathered in New York this September for the People’s Climate March, and the U.S. and China just announced a major partnership to reduce their carbon emissions – Australia’s deliberate omission of climate change has stirred major protest both domestically and abroad.

The omission, however, is not surprising, given the Prime Minister’s environmental track record. In 2009, Abbot referred to climate change science as “crap,” and at the opening of a Queensland mine in October, the PM said “coal is good for humanity.” It should be noted that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, whose use is responsible for the major uptick of smog-induced lung cancer in Beijing and the destruction of $1.3 billion worth of crops in India.

Earlier this year, Australia was considered to be at the forefront of progressive climate action. Despite its heavy-reliance on coal-fired electricity, the country managed to pass a landmark carbon tax in 2011, which was levied against its 350 biggest polluters. In July of this year, the Abbott administration repealed it, making Australia “the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change,” according to opposition party leader Bill Shorten.

Since that time, carbon emissions in Australia have skyrocketed. A higher carbon concentration in the atmosphere traps heat, leading to the extremes in weather known as climate change. Last month, the country experienced its highest October temperature since records began in 1910, welcoming summer a month earlier than its official start date. The ocean absorbs about 25 to 30 percent of the carbon in the atmosphere, which in turn leads to ocean acidification if carbon levels are high enough. A recent study revealed that the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing acidification at a much higher rate than previously thought. In fact, acidification, combined with farm runoff and poor ocean management, could lead to the destruction of the GBR by 2050, experts warn.

But this is par for the course, says Sydney-resident and Planet Expert journalist Jassmyn Goh, who says the Abbott government has put climate change on the back burner, to the detriment of its citizens and the country’s renewable industry.

Thus, 400 protesters organized by 350.org Australia gathered at Bondi Beach yesterday to bury their heads in the sand, just like Abbott is doing.

“Obama’s on board, Xi Jinping’s on board, everyone’s on board except one man,” activist Pat Norman yelled into a megaphone.

“Tony Abbott!” the others shouted.

“With world leaders arriving for the G20 Summit in Brisbane, a heads in the sand event seemed a great way to let the world know that most Australian’s don’t agree with our Government’s inaction and think we should join the global effort reduce emissions, stop new fossil fuel projects and ramp up renewable energy,” said Eden Tehan of 350.org Australia in a statement.

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