Fires, floods and “inner-city raving lunatics”

It’s a Monday night and I am frantically checking with friends from back home on the Eyre Peninsula if they and their homes are safe from the fire.

I am scrolling social media and seeing burning everywhere. I have friends in the eastern states, showing me the glow and billowing smoke coming from the some of the SIXTY fires burning across the country. Family from suburban Sydney share images of the smoke, the country-wide fire tracker shows active fires burning in every state.

Firefighters backburned to try and get a handle on the massive Gospers Mountain blaze in the Hawkesbury region, near Sydney’s northwestern outskirts. Photograph: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
Firefighters backburned to try and get a handle on the massive Gospers Mountain blaze in the Hawkesbury region, near Sydney’s northwestern outskirts. Photograph: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

I turn on the news for updates and see the leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack, dismissing climate change and going as far as calling those begging for action as “inner-city raving lunatics”. 

Here is what I say to the Liberal-National Party, the leader of our country and all those refusing to accept that climate change is real and happening, and regurgitating the “left wing loonie” comments about climate-change activists.  

I am from the country. I am not raving. I am not stupid.

I have seen fires destroy regions of my home for too long. I have seen droughts destroy families, I have watched water tables dry up and become too saline for use, I have seen aridity destroy lands, and I am only 22 years old.

I am where I am today because I refuse to allow this to happen and will do everything I can to help the fight for change, and I am not alone. This year alone there was 2500 climate-strike events over 163 countries, with participants ranging from school children to the elderly and everyone in between. But there is still work to be done, so lets get some facts straight.  

The following is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. 

The Earth has warmed 0.85 (range 0.65 to 1.06) °C from 1808 to 2018. They express that it is ‘extremely likely’ that over half of the global warming from 1951 to 2010 was due to anthropogenic (human-induced) increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and other human activities.

Further, the report sources anthropogenic activities for the interference of precipitation events across the globe, with some areas experiencing higher and more frequent rainfall, while other areas are receiving less. The IPCC projects an average temperature increase of 1.5 °C and up to above 2 °C for some areas relative to temperatures in the 1850s and 1900s.  

 NASA (2019) states the following in the Climate change: How do we know webpage:

The current change in climate is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) cause from anthropogenic pressures. There has been 0.9 °C rise in average temperature from the 19th Century. With most of the increase occurring in the past 35 years, and 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded, with 8 of the 12 months being the warmest on record. There have been more extreme weather events worldwide (these include fires, typhoons, tornadoes, storms and flooding events). The ocean surface has increased in acidity by 30%, leading to dying reefs, coral bleaching and decrease in ocean productivity.  

A report by Steffen, Dean, and Rice (2019) for the Climate Council of Australia states that the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events is due to climate change.

Australia is one of the developed countries most at risk of damages due to climate change, with increasing aridity, drought, salinity and coral bleaching across the country. The ratio of hot to cold record weather events in Australia was 12:1, with an increasing number of hot (above 35 °C) and very hot (above 40°C) days across most areas since the 1950s.

Keeping in mind regional variability, there has also been an increase in monsoon and heavy precipitation events, leading to flooding and topsoil runoff, and due to often long periods between rainfall events, increased soil and water-table salinity.

For an increase of 1 °C, there is an expected moisture retention of 7%. This means that for as temperature increases, there are longer waits between rain, and precipitation is more extreme. Additionally, droughts and aridity increase the fuel for bushfires; when coupled with unpredictable and unprecedented high temperature and winds, we are seeing fires like those burning in the eastern states.  

This is climate change. There is no longer anywhere to hide from it. It is here.

We must act and accept the science of climate change. I refuse to allow leaders of countries to watch the world drown, dry out, wash away and burn. 

Kathryn ‘KV’ Venning