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Tony Abbott's $100 Climate Change Bet 'Disgusting', Slam Environment Groups

“Appalling” and “disgusting” is how Tony Abbott’s reported wager with a voter on climate change has been described by green groups.

The Guardian published an article on Tuesday from contributor Cassie Flanagan Willanski, in which she claimed she met the former Prime Minister in a Manly cafe and struck up a conversation about the environment.

The debate got heated, Willanski recounted, as the two debated climate change and energy needs. Then, it got -- as she described it -- “bizarre”.

“He offered to bet me $100 the climate would not change in ten years and I accepted,” she wrote in The Guardian, supplying a photo of a note bearing Abbott’s signature as proof.

tony abbott climate change
A demonstrator with a giant head in the likeness of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Image AP Photo

10 daily has contacted the Coalition’s media unit for comment.

Climate groups voiced their outrage and shock on Tuesday, slamming Abbott for what they saw as a flippant attitude to global warming by reducing the issue to a simple wager.

"It's very concerning to have a sitting member of Parliament appear to be literally gambling on our future as young people, to be placing bets against leading scientists who are clear that we're already living with the impacts of dangerous climate change," said Kelly Albion, campaigns director for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Willanski said she had donated $100 to the group after her bet with Abbott.

“Future generations will have to face the consequences of political inaction on climate change,” Albion continued.

“It's disgusting that MPs like Tony Abbott are siding with big polluters in the coal and gas industry, instead of listening to those in his electorate and across the country who are demanding climate action.”

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki also expressed dismay at Abbott's bet.

"Does an ex-prime minister of Australia think the 'climate' of Australia will have 'changed' by the year 2029?" Kruszelnicki  tweeted.

"Well, he's betting money that it won't."

Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott reacts during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, September 11, 2018. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

It comes as a new UN report found human activities were causing an unprecedented decline in the natural environment, threatening to wipe out a million species and significantly impact food production unless key chances are made.

Abbott formerly described climate change as “crap” and has been a strident opponent of proposed reforms away from coal-power and toward cleaner energy. In his seat of Warringah however, climate action is raised as a key issue by many voters, and it may cost him his spot in parliament.

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A GetUp-commissioned poll, released this week, put Abbott behind independent challenger Zali Steggall -- who has talked up climate action as a major plank of her campaign -- by 44-56 on a two-party basis.

Stegall, who has taken up climate change as a major plank of her campaign, has said Labor's 45 percent emissions reduction target is the "very minimum" needed. (The government has shouted down Labor's target as a burden on the economy.)

GetUp has also made climate change a central part of its Warringah push.

Abbott was confronted by student climate protesters on Sunday, where he again reiterated his belief that the cost of climate action was prohibitively high.

Following news of his $100 wager, one of the young protesters -- Warringah student Elsie Loadman -- said it was “appalling to see Tony Abbott betting on our future like this".

“We don’t want political leaders who will gamble on ‘business as usual’ and risk the worst impacts of climate change,” Loadman said.

“Abbott has been the Member for Warringah longer than I’ve been alive, and in all that time he has refused to take climate change seriously.”

“The majority of people in the Warringah community want a plan to deal with climate change, including to stop Adani, end dirty coal and move towards 100 percent renewable energy. We deserve a government that takes climate change and our future seriously.”

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Albion agreed, saying climate change deserved mature consideration.

“The Coalition Government have shown us they're not smart enough to listen to experts or the community on this issue. We need leaders who will treat climate change with the urgency and maturity it deserves,” she said.

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