KEVIN RUDD has launched a blistering attack on climate change sceptics and deniers in Australia and abroad, accusing them of a systematic campaign to sabotage global talks in Copenhagen and of being contemptuous towards the interests of the world's children.
An angry Prime Minister lashed out at politicians and commentators around the world, including US congressmen, and labelled his domestic political opponents cowards for repeatedly seeking reasons to delay the emissions trading scheme.
With chances almost nil of a treaty being signed in Copenhagen to commit the world to a new greenhouse gas reduction regime, Mr Rudd said it was time to fight back against a powerful and dangerous minority.
''By slowing the actions of each individual country, they aim to slowly drag global negotiations to a standstill,'' he said. ''By hampering decisive actions at a national level, they aim to make it impossible at an international level.''
The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, said he would not be drawn into a fight while negotiations continued over the emissions legislation to be debated later this month. He accused Mr Rudd of looking for a distraction from asylum seekers.
Chances of an emissions agreement looked shaky yesterday when the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said the Government would not accept ''carte blanche'' Coalition demands for billions of dollars in extra compensation to polluters.
The budget update released on Monday forecast a $1.2 billion blow-out in the supposedly revenue-neutral scheme before any amendments were accepted.
The Opposition spokesman on emissions trading, Ian Macfarlane, told the Herald the budget revision made things ''a lot harder''.
Speaking at the Lowy Institute yesterday, Mr Rudd divided the opponents of climate change action into three groups - science sceptics, those who paid lip service to the science but opposed taking action, and the ''wait for others'' group of blockers. He said all were ''quite literally holding the world to ransom'' by provoking fear campaigns in every country they could and blocking or delaying legislation where they could, ''with the objective of slowing and, if possible, destroying the momentum towards a global deal''.
Among those caught in his tirade were John Boehner, the US Republican house minority leader, and the congressman John Shimkus.
Mr Rudd, who is one of three world leaders charged with trying to generate momentum before the Copenhagen conference, which opens on December 7, said the ''legion of climate change sceptics are active across the world and they happily play with our children's future''.
Among the many domestic sceptics he singled out was the National Party senator Barnaby Joyce, whom he labelled ''the fearmonger in chief''.
The Nationals, he said, were betraying the farmers who faced increased drought because of climate change.
Senator Wong and Mr Rudd no longer expect a treaty at Copenhagen. Instead Mr Rudd called for an ''ambitious agreement'' and Senator Wong referred to an ''effective international political agreement in Copenhagen''.
''When we leave Copenhagen this December, every detail of a final agreement may not be settled. But the nature and form of the agreement needs to be clear.''