By Ayesha Umar
Apocalyptic wildfires- countryside turned into charcoal – over 1 billion animals killed on ground; marine heatwave killing life in ocean-holiday beaches turned into evacuation zones-thousands lined up for food and water while air is unbreathable under a discolored sky.
Welcome to the Australian Inferno or the New Normal?
Yes, our house is on fire. Worse, there are all indications that makes it our new normal.
Though this forecast is grim, but have we sleepwalked into this?
The answer is NO!
Scientists have been warning what would happen. In 2006, Sir Nicolas Stern predicted occurrence of frequent climatic catastrophes if we fail to limit global temperature to 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its various reports including the recent report Climate Change and Land has pronounced Australia to be the most fire prone continent. In addition, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO ( Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have concluded that, since 1910, Australia has warmed by 1⁰C and; this change has contributed to the frequency and intensity of the fire weather. The IPCC report further explains that warmer temperature means accelerated evaporation-less rainfall-more dry fuel load-humidity-increased wind speed-longer summer and elevated risk of bushfires. In other words, a complete recipe for climatic catastrophe.
Though divestment from fossil fuels is on the rise, Australia remains one of the largest exporters of coal and natural gas. In addition, Australia produces 1.3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas even though they it inhabits just 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Last year, when Mark Carney, Governor Bank of England, and Goldman Sachs were promoting transition towards sustainable finance, the Australian government stopped funding Green Climate Fund. In addition to this, Australian government continued to subsidize coal and other fossil fuels-again paying no attention to the predictions of Climate Council that by 2030, climate change can wipe out $570bn from Australia’s property market. As climate scientist, Joelle Gergis has elucidated, what is happening in Australia is irreversible; it has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it. Simply put: Australia’s coal loving Prime Minister has decided to join Trump and Bolsonaro in climate change denialism and has put the future of the entire world in jeopardy.
This climate change denialism reinforces an important lesson: burning your own country is possible through greed, siloed thinking and political unwillingness. Naturalists like David Attenborough have warned that our children are going to see many places and species ONLY in pictures. Providing impetus to the debate, Greta Thunberg’s “school strike for climate” has brought out millions out on the streets worldwide in just a year since its inception. Bill McKibben’s new math on climate change is scarier than the previous one. However, when it comes to practical solutions to limit global warming below 2⁰C, Madrid COP25– witnessed entrenched nationalism winning over multilateral commitment.
This also means, first and foremost, as famous economist, Mariana Mazzucato has put it, “In the case of climate change,…we need to start thinking of ourselves as fundamental problem solvers once again…In a society wracked by populist discontent, it is critical that all citizens participate in transforming our society for the better” as our house is on fire.
Ayesha Umar is a graduate student of Development Studies at York University with research focus on Innovation and Regional Economic Development. She can be reached at [email protected]