Soon after the fire that destroyed whole towns in Victoria I made a comment that one Tasmanian politician saw as inappropriate in the circumstances.
With thousands of people homeless and so much property destroyed, plus the horror of many lives lost, apparently it was only a time to be tactful and thoughtful for the victims. So when is it an appropriate time to highlight issues? When politicians are replete with their own self-satisfaction from having got through another year without damaging their re-election prospects, or when there is a major issue at the forefront of public attention that may allow them to put their intelligence and our money to good use by making the world a better and safer place to live in?
Now Tasmania has more property destroyed, more shattering loss, and what will we get? Another comparison with the 1967 fires (an annual media issue) and maybe a consultancy report so politicians can say they have spent some money on preventing a recurrence. Hooray. Another sop to the gullible public.
With ‘world leaders’ recently concurring on inaction on the issue of climate change, we can only expect more disasters. Clearly not everyone believes we are heading for the inferno of a 4 - 6 degrees rise in world temperatures. But after hearing of the effects of climate change from several people in Indonesia, including a taxi driver whose passion on the subject got past the barrier of no shared language, I suggest this stubborn disbelief is a product of ‘civilization’; even if no insurance, Australian disaster victims are guaranteed government relief quickly. Also the assistance of the many public spirited people who really go out of their way to help.
No waiting for Red Cross, or any of the many other disaster relief NGOs that provide the only help in less civilized countries, to arrive. No lack of medical facilities, clean water, food or shelter for the victims here. If that help wasn’t so readily available, would there be a louder voice from “civilized” countries to turn this disaster around while we still have the chance?
Jo McRae is a qualified Library Technician, currently volunteer Librarian and editor for environmental groups. After her daughter’s death age 26 in 2012 she went to Indonesia to assist LePMIL, Linda’s NGO, to finish her environmental movie project in Sulawesi. This has led Jo to studying Indonesian at University. With fluent Bahasa Indonesia (!!!) Jo will return to Sulawesi to continue Linda’s work. For more information see Kendari Dreaming blog. To donate to the Linda McRae Dreaming Fund see Heaven Address http://www.heavenaddress.com.
• George Monbiot, The Guardian, Heatwave: Australia’s new weather demands a new politics
450 times after starting his observations on early TT Mark is having a lengthy break. Here’s his final offering ... also toons, here
Photograph: Kim Foale/EPA
I wonder what Tony Abbott will say about the record heatwave now ravaging his country.
The Australian opposition leader has repeatedly questioned the science and impacts of climate change. He has insisted that “the science is highly contentious, to say the least” and asked – demonstrating what looks like a wilful ignorance – “If man-made CO2 was quite the villain that many of these people say it is, why hasn’t there just been a steady increase starting in 1750, and moving in a linear way up the graph?”
He has argued against Australian participation in serious attempts to cut emissions.
Climate change denial is almost a national pastime in Australia. People such as Andrew Bolt and Ian Plimer have made a career out of it. The Australian – owned by Rupert Murdoch – takes such extreme anti-science positions that it sometimes makes the Sunday Telegraph look like the voice of reason.
Perhaps this is unsurprising. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal – the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. It’s also a profligate consumer. Australians now burn, on average, slightly more carbon per capita than the citizens of the United States, and more than twice as much as the people of the United Kingdom. Taking meaningful action on climate change would require a serious reassessment of the way life is lived there.
Events have not been kind to the likes of Abbott, Bolt and Plimer. The current heatwave – so severe that the Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to add a new colour to its temperature maps – is just the latest event in a decade of extraordinary weather: weather of the kind that scientists have long warned is a likely consequence of man-made global warming.
As James Hansen and colleagues showed in a paper published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the occurrence of extremely hot events has risen by a factor of around 50 by comparison to the decades before 1980. Extreme summer heat, which afflicted between 0.1% and 0.2% of the world 40 years ago, now affects 10%. They warned that “an important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period”. An extremely hot outlier is a good description of what is roasting Australia at the moment.
So far Abbott has commented, as far as I can tell, only on the fires: “Our thoughts are with the people and the communities across the country who are impacted by the bushfires,” he says. Quite right too, but it’s time his thoughts also extended to the question of why this is happening and how Australian politicians should respond. He says he’s currently on standby with his local fire brigade, but as his opposition to effective action on climate change is likely to contribute to even more extreme events in the future, this looks like the most cynical kind of stunt politics.
• Christine Milne press conference audio
Australian Greens leader Senator Christine Milne held a press conference to discuss climate change, welcoming the scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who are meeting in Hobart this week; and also commented on Newstart, the mining tax and gun control.
Please follow the link to the website for the audio file:
• ABC Online: Sign of the Times, here