Thursday 28 November 2019


Lives lost, hundreds of homes destroyed, hundreds of thousands of hectares of native bushland reduced to ashes, and millions of native animals burned alive. That is the story as bush fires continue raging out of control along Australia's eastern seaboard.

These unstoppable fires, beginning two months ago in winter, are escalating towards an uncertain crescendo of catastrophic proportions. The tireless, heroic efforts of fire-fighters, mostly volunteers, have been magnificent, but they have been totally overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, with no end in sight.

As the planet warms, the situation will only worsen. Anyone claiming these fires are not related to climate change is delusional. Incredibly, many of our politicians are exactly that, content to ram their heads deeper into the sand with every successive climate-related disaster.

Over a decade ago, British economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, undertook an economic review of action on climate change, reporting that the high cost of acting would be dwarfed by the cost of inaction.

Professor Ross Garnaut similarly warned the Rudd Labor Government, subsequently reporting that Australia’s climate change positionis weak only because of an extraordinary failure of leadership”, pointing out that neither major political party has committed itself to policies that can get anywhere near their already weak emissions reduction targets.

Last week, retired fire chief Greg Mullins, warned the Federal Government that fire-fighters are entering uncharted territory and that the government needs to urgently address the situation. His plea for the Prime Minister to meet with 23 former senior emergency figures to discuss their concerns about climate change and “the missing capacity to fight fires in a new era” was fobbed off onto a junior minister.

"This is really dangerous," Mr Mullins said: "People are at risk, we need a game changer in how we deal with these catastrophes because they're going to get worse and worse.”

The escalating cost of the current catastrophe will certainly bear out Nicholas Stern's claim about the cost of government inaction! Unfortunately, that cost will be borne by all of us, some paying for it with their lives.

            - John Edwards

Burnt bushland near Coutts Crossing, south of Grafton.  Photo: John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 18,  2019