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Many Australians are very angry about the government’s failure to prepare for the fires or respond adequately. Astonishingly, Mr Morrison took holidays in Hawaii in January, without publicly announcing it. Did he not know, or was he not advised, that the whole country was facing a critical fire threat?
Even more astonishing was the failure of Mr Morrison to listen to the advice of the leading former emergency services chiefs in the country. Led by Greg Mullins, former commissioner of NSW Fire & Rescue, they asked in April 2019 for a meeting to warn of ‘catastrophic extreme weather events’, and again in September, but received no response. How good is that, Mr Morrison?
Scientists have clearly and respectfully warned about the risks to Australia of a rapidly heating climate – extreme heat, changes to rainfall patterns, rising seas, increased coastal flooding and increasingly dangerous bushfire conditions. We have also warned about the consequences of these changes for our health and wellbeing, our society and economy, our natural ecosystems, and our unique wildlife.
Will Steffen joins Dr Tom Beer and Professor David Bowman to warn that Australia’s bushfire conditions will become increasingly severe. We call on Australians, particularly our leaders, to heed the science.
Four years ago, in December 2015, every member of the United Nations met in Paris and agreed to hold global temperature increases to 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.
The bad news is that, four years on, the best we can hope for is holding global increases to around 1.75°C. We can only do that if the world moves decisively towards zero net emissions by the middle of the century.
A failure to act here, accompanied by similar paralysis in other countries, would see our grandchildren living with temperature increases of around 4°C this century, and more beyond.
Francis has repeatedly warned of ‘catastrophic’ consequences of climate change, and he is acutely aware how this will exacerbate efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty, and undermine the Sustainable Development Goals. He called a special Synod for the Amazon in October 2019, highlighting the ecological issues, with the extensive fires and deforestation greatly damaging the global climate.
Yet, in Australia, where are the strong voices reinforcing the message of Pope Francis and his scientific collaborators? We must refuse to be ‘quiet Australians’ on one of the greatest moral issues of our time.
Australia is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, responsible for 1.3% of annual global pollution, 16th on the ladder of polluting nations, and emitting more than Britain, France, or Italy. On a per-capita basis, we emit more emissions than any other developed country, and we are third largest for exported emissions. We are the world’s biggest seller of coal, and are first or second for natural gas. Many Australians would be stunned to learn that our government subsidises fossil fuels to the extent of $29 billion a year.
[To] keep the lights on … at the lowest possible cost, AEMO [Australia Energy Market Operator] has delivered a highly credible transition path to a low carbon grid in its Integrated System Plan, which provides a 20-year blueprint for what needs to be done to manage ‘business as usual’, or even a ‘step change’ scenario, whereby policy makers finally become serious about climate change. In each of the five scenarios AEMO contemplates in its ISP, gas plays some role, although no greater and in most cases considerably less than now. It’s just the latest blow to the gas-marketing industry’s talking points of a ‘golden era’ as a transition fuel. It’s just not going to happen.
“The way much of the arms trade currently works continues to be a blot on the global moral landscape.”
That was Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking last September in London ahead of the world’s largest weapons expo, Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI).
A few months earlier, in a win for the campaign against ongoing arms sales to the countries bombing Yemen, a British court ruled that the UK’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. The government has appealed.
Despite official claims by the Defence Department as to the rigorous approval process for Australian military exports, we have learned in recent weeks from a Guardian Australia FOI request that 86 weapons export permits were granted in the 2018-19 year alone to four known human rights abusing nations: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sri Lanka, and the Congo. Permit details were uniformly redacted, so we don’t know in those countries what was sold or to whom. The Australian public is expected to accept the government’s assertion that the approvals process honestly addresses international obligations.
Lecturer Dr Bruce Duncan CSsR
In 12 weekly classes from Monday 24 February, this unit traces the social engagement of modern Popes, from Pope Leo XIII’s defence of the working classes in 1891, Pius XI’s response to the Depression and the totalitarian movements, and then the new perspectives of John XXII and Paul VI, followed by globalising horizons with John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis.
The course examines how these were interpreted and debated in Australian history and culture.
Classes Mondays 6 to 9pm. Fee help available.
Info www.ytu.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org | 03 9890 3771.
Listen to Dr Bruce Duncan CSsR talk about Australia’s bushfires.
Greta Thunberg demands Davos elite immediately halt all fossil fuel investments.