As bushfires unleash hell on Earth, we must talk about the climate crisis

NSW bushfires
NSW bushfires

With all hell breaking loose as catastrophic fires ravage parts of New South Wales and Queensland, all Prime Minister Scott Morrison can advise is to pray. It’s a poor excuse from a government that has criminally refused to take action on the climate crisis. 

And the more politicians try to deflect from talking about the climate crisis, the more surreal they appear. 

NSW is burning. Three people have died and at least 150 homes have been destroyed. So far this fire season, the equivalent of more than 1 million rugby league fields have been razed since September.  

The ABC is reporting that for the first time since the fire danger rating scale was introduced, the Sydney region, including the Blue Mountains and Central Coast, is facing a catastrophic rating. The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned conditions on November 12 will be “as bad as it gets”.

Despite this, it took until November 11 for NSW Coalition Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare a state of emergency. This will give Fire and Rescue NSW extra powers to do their job to the best of their ability — a job that has been made even more difficult and dangerous by recent state government budget cuts.

When Morrison was asked by reporters on November 10 to comment on the link between the climate crisis and bushfires, Berejiklian retorted “not today”. Yet she has no qualms about seeking to push through a bill this very week to remove climate change as a factor for consideration on applications for new coal mines.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack was more than happy to use recent events to attack the Greens on November 10, saying any talk of a link between bushfires and climate change were the “ravings” of “woke capital-city greenies”.

But the only people raving are those who think tiny amounts of fire relief and prayer are the solution.

Just five days prior to McCormack's comments, about 11,000 scientists issued a statement repeating their warning about the dire need to act now on the climate crisis.

They said that despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, governments have, by and large, conducted business as usual. This has meant levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases have continued to rise (especially carbon dioxide) along with global surface temperatures.

The scientists said: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. 

“It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.

“Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic ‘hothouse Earth’, well beyond the control of humans.

“These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”

Even before the latest fires, retired Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins was noting that the deadly fire season was the result of climate change. “I know what’s going on … I’ve been watching it for 50 years,” he said in September. “It is being driven by climate change. There is no other explanation.” He said on November 11: "If anyone tells you, 'This is part of a normal cycle' or 'We’ve had fires like this before', smile politely and walk away, because they don’t know what they’re talking about."

Most people do not have to individually experience terrifying disruption to know that the scientists are correct. 

Governments have to stop facilitating the extraction of coal and gas and urgently introduce policies to transition energy systems and transportation away from their current dependency on fossil fuels. 

Acting rationally on mitigating climate change also means ending corporate water trading rights for unsustainable industries, penalising industrial waste and deforestation, and promoting energy efficiency and biodiversity.  

These practical, urgently-needed measures are popular with all but the greedy few who stand to lose profits from their implementation.

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