Nepal | February 19, 2020

Australia’s wildfires and climate emergency

• TOPICS

Ramhari Poudyal

The crave for material development has led industrialised nations to overturn natural laws, causing climate change to turn into a frightening tragedy. Whether it’s the dreaded wildfires in the Amazon jungle, the burning forests in California, the recent bushfires in Australia or the floods in Europe, they are all examples of inclement monsoon rains, massive heat waves, extreme snowstorms, droughts, tsunamis, thunderstorms and flooding glaciers.

Dr Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist, wrote in The Guardian, “We are seeing the very worst of our scientific predictions come to pass in these bushfires.”

The world’s first global conference on climate change adaptation was held in Australia on the Gold Coast in 2010. It was a visionary initiative to help the highly susceptible nations in the developed world prepare for climate change. Despite this immensely important task, the effort has now been vastly scaled down.

In Australia, fires have destroyed an area almost twice the size of Belgium. Killer fires are continuing to ravage Australia with people fleeing New South Wales where a week-long state of emergency was in force. In December,

Australia saw its two hottest days ever, hitting 41.90C on average, while 2019 was the country’s driest and hottest year on record.

Climate change caused by green house gas emissions is making extreme weather more frequent and intense. Australia is among the world’s most significant exporters of coal, and the UN says Australia is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal to cut emissions by 26% along with half the G20 countries.

The fires have destroyed 30 per cent of the koala habitat, and experts warn the marsupials could become extinct. This summer has been a harsh reminder that no matter how much we want to avoid addressing the dilemma of climate change, it simply can no longer be overlooked.

Now is the time for the political leaders to make a choice about which side of history they want to be on.

This natural calamity is also a political crisis. In the past, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had downplayed the significance of tackling climate change and had offered full support for coal mining.

The wildfires create the biggest test of that position and of Morrison’s leadership since his conservatives unexpectedly won a general election in May.


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