Australian news, and some related international items

Former fire chief lashes out at government inaction over climate change

‘Astounded’: former fire chief unloads on politicians over climate change inaction, The Age, By Nicole Hasham, 4 February 2019,  Decorated Australian firefighter Greg Mullins says climate change is contributing to bushfires so horrendous that homes and lives cannot be protected, and the federal government will not acknowledge the link because it has failed on emissions reduction policy.

The extraordinary comments by Mr Mullins, a former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner, coincides with the Tuesday launch of the group Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, which will lobby the major parties to drastically reduce fossil fuel use and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both visited Tasmania on Monday, where catastrophic bushfires had reportedly destroyed eight homes and burnt 190,000 hectares of land as of Monday afternoon. Their visit came on the 10th anniversary of the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires.

The major parties’ pledges on climate change are expected to be a frontline issue at the upcoming federal election, as the public reels from record-high summer temperatures, extreme weather and a long, unforgiving bushfire season.

Fires are a natural phenomenon in the Australian bush, but experts say climate change effects such as heatwaves and changed rainfall patterns mean bushfires are becoming more frequent and extreme.

Mr Mullins said fire seasons “are longer, more severe, and we are getting fires that are much harder to put out”.

“What that means … is there is simply not enough firefighters and fire trucks to do the job, to protect every structure and protect people’s lives,” he said.

“It’s extremely inconvenient for any government that does not have a cogent answer for what they’ll do about climate change, to see the effects of climate change putting more and more people and homes at risk.”

Mr Mullins has 50 years of fire fighting experience, including 39 years with Fire and Rescue NSW and as a volunteer in his youth and in retirement. He has been awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal and is an officer of the Order of Australia. He is a member of the Climate Council and welcomed the formation of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.

Mr Mullins sought to raise the climate change alarm in public comments in 2006 following fires in the Blue Mountains, but says the then-NSW Labor government told him to “pull your head in”.

“They didn’t want public servants coming out saying [the climate change driver] was pretty obvious to us,” he said.

“I feel quite passionately that the word needs to get out about how much the bushfire threat has worsened. I’ve watched it change, and I’ve watched our politicians sit on their hands, from both major parties. I don’t think either of them really have answers or are doing enough.”

NSW Labor has been contacted for comment.

Mr Mullins said he was “astounded” that Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday addressed the media at Huonville in Tasmania, the epicentre of the state’s bushfire crisis, but did not mention addressing climate change.

……….A Labor government would reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. The government has pledged to reduce emissions by 26 per cent over the same period, however, the OECD says Australia will miss that target under current policy settings.

GetUp! and the Climate Media Centre are supporting the Bushfire Survivors for Climate Actiongroup.

Black Saturday survivor Ali Griffin lost her home near Yarra Glen during the tragedy, and said: “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else”.

“We know the threat of devastating bushfires is getting worse every year we keep burning coal and heating our planet,” she said.

“Enough is enough, we are sick of the lack of progress on this issue – any politician without a serious plan to tackle climate damage is not fit to hold office.”

February 4, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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