It's been a year of extremes for Australia. The hottest summer ever. Torrential rains in the north. A crippling drought in its southeastern farm belt.

Now, with national elections scheduled for May 18, a vital question looms: To what degree will climate change sway the way Australians vote? The answer could provide important lessons for other democracies in the age of climate change. Somini Sengupta of The New York Times reports.

Australia is acutely vulnerable to climate change, just as it is also a culprit. The continent has warmed faster than the global average; its cherished Great Barrier Reef has been devastated by marine heat waves; and heat and drought this year took a bite out of the country's economy, according to a top official of the country's central bank. At the same time, central to its prosperity is the extraction of the dirtiest fossil fuel: Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coal for power generation.

Against that backdrop, the governing conservative coalition, led by the Liberal Party, is under

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