Politicians' response to Australian bushfires

Em Richardson discusses the Australian reaction to the bush fires that have devastated the country.

Em Richardson
20th November 2019
Terry Walter monitors a control burn May 14 near the Enlisted Club at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Control burns are being conducted in several areas on base in effort to increase fire safety and improve wildlife environments. By burning periodically, the threat of unpredictable, disastrous wildfires is reduced and ecological rejuvenation occurs, providing a better environment for Tyndall's 46 federally protected and endangered plant and animal species. Mr. Walter is the wildland fire program manager for the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)
This month has seen catastrophic bushfires assaulting the East Coast of Australia, leaving multiple people dead, and coming within nine miles of Sydney’s centre.

A coalition of former fire-chiefs have since come forward to claim the government ignored their advice on climate change. They claim to have been trying to organise a meeting with Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison since April, in hope of warning him that ‘a bushfire crisis was coming’. The coalition says global warming is making bushfire season longer, and the fires larger.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack recently claimed that ‘inner-city lefties’ are frustrating the population of Australia by drawing attention to climate change as a cause of the fires, an unhelpful notion while people are trying to save themselves and their homes. McCormack also pointed out that ‘we’ve had fires in Australia since time began’, presumably implying he sees no correlation between global warming and the worrying increase in bushfires in recent years.

Many have criticised the government’s apparent determination to discount climate change as a cause of the fires. Whilst every politician has a right to state their opinion, and is arguably elected on their ability to do so, the Australian government appear to be ignoring an overwhelming amount of evidence regarding the correlation between global warming and worsening bushfires.

Even aside from the warnings from fire chiefs, scientists have calculated that Australia’s average temperature has risen by 1°C in recent years, and have suggested that this increase has been a major influence on the premature beginning of the bushfire season; this year's starting earlier than ever before. Australia’s hot, dry climate provides ideal conditions for bushfires, and it seems this situation is unlikely to improve if temperatures are allowed to continue to rise.

In light of this evidence, it seems only proper that politicians should at least acknowledge global warming as a possible cause of the fires, even if they favour other explanations. At the very least, the public deserve to be given all the facts, and to be able to make up their own minds on what Australia should do to address the climate crisis, based on this information.

Personally, I think that there are a couple of steps politicians can take to help reduce the chances of future wildfires also reaching such a devastating scale. Firstly, they can fulfil the promises they made in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, to ensure Australia’s temperature does not rise even further. The same should be done by politicians in other nations. Secondly, they ought to ensure locals in the affected area are aware of experts’ tips for reducing the spread of wildfires, including mowing lawns regularly, raking loose leaves, watering lawns, and storing flammable material away from homes. This, combined with effective climate action are vital in protecting not only the ecosystems of Australia, but the overall wellbeing of our planet.

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