Face up to bushfire-climate change connection

Issue 
Firefighters battle a blaze near Lithgow.

On Thursday October 17, New South Wales suffered the worst outbreak of bushfires in decades. Although it is not yet summer, the day was another one of high temperatures and hot, dry gusty winds. Fires raged out of control destroying hundreds of homes and killing one 63-year-old man trying to defend his home.

Sydney city and surrounding suburbs, as well as Newcastle and Wollongong, were covered by towering smoke plumes and ash, even though the nearest bushfires were tens of kilometres away to the north, west and south. It was apocalyptic.

We are going to be experiencing much more of this over coming years because of climate change. A leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be officially released in March next year, predicts that Australia will experience a 6°C average temperature rise on its hottest days and an average overall rise of 2°C by 2065. Average temperatures are expected to rise a further 3-4°C by 2100.

Droughts, bushfires and floods will all intensify. But the change could come quickly and dramatically because the full effect of rising temperatures is being dampened by the La Nina effect, say scientists from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, which is jointly run by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

Many people experiencing the hellish conditions in NSW this week could have been thinking that the climate change emergency is real, and is happening now.

But apparently we are not allowed to talk about it. It is “indecent”, said Melbourne Radio 3AW shock jock Neil Mitchell, to discuss climate change when NSW is confronted with catastrophic bushfires. He attacked Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt for daring to say the obvious.

Bandt had said on Twitter: “Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia & more pics like this of Sydney”.

He later said in a Radio 3AW interview: “These terrifying bushfires that we are seeing in NSW is what is in store for Australia unless we get climate change under control.”

Queensland Liberal MP Wyatt Roy said it was “not the time” to be discussing climate change because people are suffering. Now, a shrill host of other conservative voices are demanding that Bandt apologise and retract his statements.

It is a deeply sick system that tries to silence the discussion that needs to be had right now. It is clear there will be a terrible cost for delaying a serious response to the climate change crisis.

The truth will not be silenced by threats and bullying.

Green Left Weekly will not be silenced either. It will continue to be a voice and platform for all who fight the climate change crisis.

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