Extreme weather is again dominating headlines, with incredible scenes of flood devastation in New South Wales and Queensland.
These floods — we are being told by some — are a “once-in-a-hundred year event”. But they are not: they are a reminder of the dangers of extreme weather events brought on by anthropogenic climate change.
The drenching across most of NSW and parts of Queensland comes on the heels of several years of drought and the catastrophic Black Summer fires last year.
The impact on communities along flooded rivers and near Sydney’s Warragamba Dam has been devastating. Houses, businesses, schools and hospitals have been cut off.
The huge volume of water searching for drainage is dumping huge amounts of silt, making the clean-up even more complicated.
Not only that. Health clinics across NSW have reported that the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, which was supposed to start on March 22, has come to a grinding halt because medical staff cannot get to work due to flooded roads and bridges.
The state government has belatedly declared an emergency — but its continued reference to “natural disaster” is simply avoidance and dishonesty.
But just because officials want to avoid the discussion about what to do in a climate-challenged world, does not mean others do.
Take The Australia Institute’s 2020 Climate of the Nation report, which found 79% of those surveyed believe climate change is occurring and that coal needs to be phased out.
The same poll found broad support for Australia becoming a world leader in fighting climate change. It also registered overwhelming support for imposing a levy on fossil fuel companies to help pay for the impacts of climate change.
Even in the middle of a pandemic, 74% said they are concerned about climate change.
As one undecided female voter told TAI: “I think that the time for action on climate change is yesterday”.
“Yesterday” was the drought years — when Western Sydney started recording summer temperatures that rival parts of Iraq, reaching as high as 47°C.
Then we had the Black Summer fires. Now we have the floods.
The ultra religious people in government may like to argue that we are all being smited. The reality, however, is that we are being made to bear the enormous personal and economic costs of the anti-social and anti-ecological decisions made by those in power.
Will the deluge currently being experienced make them change their minds about a warming Earth? Hardly.
Increasingly, people understand that climate change is not just about warming: it includes catastrophic weather events such as droughts, cyclones, fires and floods.
Gone is the time for excuse-making. Governments that allow their corporate developer mates to expand coal and gas projects — when a safe climate demands we do the opposite — have to be given the boot.
NSW has approximately 14 coal mine projects on the table — half of which are new mines proposed for prime agricultural land in the Hunter Valley, Sydney’s drinking water catchment and the Liverpool Plains.
This is madness. With forecasts of coal and gas becoming stranded assets, investment in coal and gas does not even make financial sense for the capitalists.
Importantly, for our side, it reveals the power corporations have over governments — and why we need to break from parties that govern for them. These parties need to be held to account for the danger they are placing us in.
Perhaps the elites fantasise that they might be able to build a modern ark to escape, but there is no joy in that for the rest of us.
Green Left was formed in 1991 to unite environmentalists, trade unionists and social movement activists around a struggle for the kind of system change we need if we are to have a future that is ecologically sustainable and socially just.