Here in West Wollongong, intersection of the Princes Highway and Mount Keira Road, at 1.30 pm New Year’s Eve the digital thermometer outside St Therese’s Church stood at 41C. Looking from my window I could not see the escarpment for smoke haze. But that was nothing compared to what was happening 70 kilometres south and onwards hundreds of kilometres down through eastern Victoria. As stated by the NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner, and others, there has never been in the recorded history of Australia such a fire season, never! And it is far from over.
The fires led the BBC News from London on New Years Day.
As I write this it is a moderate 20C. But the heat returns in two days time… I can’t see Mount Keira from my window. Smoke.
Wollongong has so far escaped serious fire. There is no reason to suppose this will continue. Nervous? Wouldn’t you be? Thick bush is within fairly easy walking distance of where I am sitting.
That New Years Day front page says it all — and I am sure you can explore the many videos and images out there.
Inside that paper one story particularly attracted my attention: “Experts warn extreme weather risk growing”, which includes this reminder: “In 2009, a joint CSIRO and Bushfire CRC study, Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Extreme Fire Weather Events over South-Eastern Australia (PDF), warned these weather events were increasing in frequency and could occur up to four times more often by 2100 if carbon emissions and climate change were unchecked.” And here we are! So that prompts me to bitter laughter at the shallow optimism displayed by Scott Morrison who presides over a government that has been more spin that action when it comes to climate change. Let’s abandon the terms “climate skeptic” and “climate change skeptic” — skepticism is after all not a bad thing. So rather than the flattery those terms involve, as if the holders of such views might have a reasonable case, call them out as “climate change recalcitrants” or “climate change troglodytes”. Because that is what they are.
At the same time I don’t propose to go in for psychodrama, dressing up in strange clothes or glueing myself to roadways. I suspect that such drama too often includes other agendas, not that I am saying that all those taking that path have such agendas. To each his/her own, I guess.
What I will do is use any opportunity that presents itself to present the case for totally taking seriously the need to understand what is happening, to consider all possible options to ameliorate or mitigate the situation, including considering nuclear energy, and to explore all reasonable and doable ideas for adaptation — because change is happening now and the accumulated lack of action in the past renders reversal of climate change unlikely. I am also open to impurity. If I want steel, for example, I probably have to want coke as well, and as you know that comes from coal mines. I continue to eat meat. I have hardly ever flown anywhere in my life, but would not want to make everyone do a Greta and find a high-tech sailing boat to take me to America — if I had to go there.
Mind you, given that country is led by the Arch-Recalcitrant, I do wonder why I would want to…
Meanwhile one cannot but be moved by the many stories that are coming out day after day, minute after minute.
The main street of Cobargo, NSW, before and after bushfires destroyed a number of businesses on Tuesday. At least two people died in the town.
The media coverage has generally been excellent, particularly the ABC. News 24 has been wonderful, and even more so ABC Radio operating as an emergency broadcaster — on the bad days I have had it on most of the day. Looks like next Saturday will again be such a day.
Victoria: A Mallacoota mother, whose photo of her 11-year-old son fleeing bushfires has been splashed across news websites and front pages, says she had no idea how much impact it would have when she took the photo.