|Wildfires have painted the sky red and yellow, here evident from Sydney Harbour.|
By Anders Lorenzen
Just under two months since the newly elected Australian government, led by climate sceptic Tony Abbott, abolished the country’s climate commission and science department, wildfires are raging in the country. This has prompted the state of New South Wales to declare a state of emergency.
Out of season wildfires
The state is suffering from the worst wildfires in years. It is usual for Australia to be hit by wildfires, but normally between December and February when the country is at it’s warmest and driest, but it’s highly unusual for it to happen in October. As a result of the fires, air quality levels are thought to be 50 times higher than normal in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales.
This will undoubtedly again throw up questions on whether forest fires are linked to climate change or if it’s just natural variation. United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said that wildfires were absolutely linked to global warming and hit out at Tony Abbott to draft legislation to abandon Australia’s carbon tax: “We are really already paying the price of carbon, we are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts.” she stated.
Extreme weather increases
In recent years Australia has suffered from an increase in extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, causing increased wildfires and floods which in turn have hit farmers and hurt the economy.
But it’s also a country where the climate sceptic debate is thriving – partly because of a climate sceptic Murdoch press dominant in the country and climate sceptics like Lord Monkton travelling the country to misinform about climate change. As a result the message coming out is that enforcing climate change legislation would hurt the economy and the Australian people. While at the same time, legislation in different states is making deployment of renewable energy extremely difficult.
Sydney threatened by the wildfires
Meanwhile in New South Wales over 2,000 firefighters are dealing with the fires of which 13 remain uncontained, 117,400 hectares have so far been destroyed, 89 aircrafts and 259 firetrucks have so far been deployed to fight the blazes. There is increased concern in the country that it could turn out to be a megafire which could threaten the suburbs of Sydney, Australia’s largest city. The largest of the fires has an 190 mile front and is just two hours drive from Sydney.
Australia’s road to more and more fossil fuels
Australia’s fossil fuel investments are larger than ever before, with it’s coal exports set to triple which conservationists are warning could destroy Australia’s biggest tourist attraction, The Great Barrier Reef. The shale gas revolution has also taken off, Australia are only trailing the US in terms of shale gas production.Oil and gas experts as well as oil and gas companies are warning that the industry are spiralling out of control, led by ‘cowboy’ methods and companies. Several high profile oil and gas companies have refused to become involved in the Australian shale gas industry labelling it as unsafe. Land owner after land owner are fighting legal battles with both shale gas companies and local governments to ban or at least enforce legislation for shale gas development in Australia.
Sub edited by Charlotte Paton