Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Political tears will not quell fires in a warming globe

With their toll set to exceed 200 lives, Victoria's tragic bushfires challenge politicians not only to mitigate the dangerous global warming that is already locked in, but also to prevent it worsening and making fires and other extreme events ever more likely.

Yet the Royal Commission recently announced by Victorian State Premier, John Brumby, to investigate the fires appears set to focus solely on mitigation, with an admittedly necessary review of fire response strategies and planning laws. This narrow approach fails to acknowledge what could be done to prevent further global temperature increases that will otherwise stoke even more devastating infernos.

Commenting before the fires, Australia's federal climate change minister Penny Wong acknowledged that recent record temperatures reflected climate change. Now Premier Brumby has invoked it as a factor in the disaster. On Monday night, the head of Victoria's climate change reference group, Professor David Karoly, told ABC Lateline that climate change is 'loading the dice' in favour of more frequent extreme conditions. Yet the inadequate climate policies of our leaders are loading the dice in favour of climate change itself.

When Australian governments value cars over public transport, approve new coal mines and coal-fired power stations, when they refuse to harness renewables, and especially when our nation takes to the international bargaining table emissions targets that undermine international action, this undeniably creates the policy conditions for the extreme weather that leads to such monstrous fires.

Without effective climate policy, our leaders may as well cry their political tears on the flames for all the good they will do. We need climate action.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you Darren, although I think the immediate focus on fire mitigation and planning is understandable.
    I also think we need an urgent, vigorous discussion around implementing planning laws that recognise the fragility of our natural environment; let's zone high risk fire areas accordingly and enforce design restrictions. Lets force people to adapt their home design to suit the environment, rather than the other way around.


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