Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bushfire museum must record the truth

The proposed Victorian bushfire museum considered in a recent editorial of The Sunday Age is a laudable idea. It would offer a fitting way to remember our catastrophic fires and their victims, but can only be justified if it has permission to tell the truth.

The editorial describes Victoria's February fires as 'popularly blamed on climate change', whereas a more accurate statement would have said that scientists themselves are increasingly drawing this link.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, the head of Victoria's own climate change reference group, Professor David Karoly, and now US researchers using satellite imaging to study increased fire risk all believe that the February fires were consistent with human-caused climate change.

Yet the same edition of the paper carried a report that the royal commission promises to investigate all aspects of the fires - hard to believe when its terms of reference are silent on climate and there is no obligation on commissioners to investigate the issue or to make recommendations upon it.

How can this politically motivated climate blindness be justified as the Australian Government heads towards international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December?

Finally, as also reported in last Sunday's edition, Liberal MP Greg Hunt may be right when he suggests that youth may be brainwashed by a federal government school promotional campaign about climate change - but only if our kids falsely believe that the prime minister and his government are doing what is needed to avoid climate tipping points that will be irreversible once crossed.

Will the bushfire museum tell the misleading story of one more tragic episode in a long line of bushfires, or will history record that we faced the truth, that the February fires opened our eyes to the impacts of climate change, that, with belated urgency, we started the long but crucial battle to stop more frequent and severe fires through our international leadership on climate?

Read more about the 2009 Victorian bushfires and climate change.

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Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.