Is there a blanket of smoke covering our politicians’ eyes?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s blasé response to the climate crisis, which stretches back to when the then-treasurer passed a piece of coal around during a February 2017 question time, sends a clear message to Australia and the world that our government just isn’t serious (Image source: Gizmodo)

By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill

As most of us are aware, Australia is currently suffering from some of the most devastating bushfires threatening the livelihood of wildlife, farming properties, homes and people.

A blanket of smoke covers the city of Sydney with reports stating that the city is currently suffering some of the worst air pollution in the world.

The fires in New South Wales alone have razed more than 1.65 million hectares, killing six people and destroying over 600 homes.

Combined, bushfires in Queensland and South Australia have burned 185,000 hectares damaging 31 houses and injuring 33 people.

To put these figures in perspective, fires earlier this year in the Amazon Rainforest burned 1.86 million hectares.

This is the earliest in the year that Australia has ever seen such significant and damaging bushfires.

In a time of tragedy, we often seek leadership, support and policy changes from our politicians. But is that support actually there?

As we watch ordinary Australian citizens pulling together resources, support and donations to help their country, our politicians fundamentally continue to deny the severity of the climate crisis.

As we face what has been termed “the greatest bushfire the country has seen,” this response isn’t good enough.

Dr Don Clifton is a senior lecturer at the UniSA School of Management and wrote a PhD titled ‘Progressing a Sustainable World – A Case study of the South Australian Government’.

Dr Clifton argues that while it is true: the climate crisis is not the sole reason behind these bushfires, it does hold some responsibility.

“The problem with climate change – human actions resulting in global warming – is increasing the risk of more frequent and intense bushfires as a result of higher temperatures, lower humidity and lower levels of moisture in the fuel,” he said.

Australia currently holds the second-highest emissions per capita in the world and yet analysts and former diplomats state the Coalition government is seen as climate denialist.

“Climate denial is a problem now in that inaction here in Australia and globally is impacted on humanity today,” Dr Clifton said.

“It will only get worse, which has major intergenerational justice problems – we are leaving a legacy to future generations that will impact negatively on them in significantly worse ways than is occurring now.”

In September 2019, when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the United States but failed to attend a UN climate action summit, he sent an unequivocal message to the public.

In that same month, he responded to climate activist Greta Thunberg’s passionate speech regarding a lack of climate action by claiming it subjected children to “needless anxiety”; a statement that demonstrates the lack of urgency he holds towards climate action.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has since stepped forward telling the ABC that Morrison is sending a message that he is not serious about climate action.

“When you have a Prime Minister of the country not stepping up to the plate, addressing the world’s forum, and indicating what Australia’s future carbon reduction commitments will be, it sends a very clear message to the Australian domestic community and the international community that the Australian government is just not serious,” Mr Rudd told the ABC.

Dr Clifton states that despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the climate crisis: there are key players in the current Australian government who will still not accept it.

“Thoughts and prayers don’t deal with the underlying problems that the government is in denial over,” he said.

There is an urgent need for change in our attitudes and policies towards climate action in order to prevent an increase in natural disasters.

“Politicians need to focus on policies that both adapt to climate change and to limit its impacts; we need to do both.”

We do not have time to disagree; we are currently living in a world that needs our help, and most importantly, we are living in a world that needs our politicians’ help.

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