Citizens of the USA have not much right to tell Australians what or how to think about climate change, and certainly not at this precise moment. On the contrary, scenes coming from Australia might well get Americans immediately wondering:
2019 has been called the year we woke up to climate change. Australia’s wildfires are yet more evidence that it’s time we started acting like it.
Last week, thousands of people in the Australian state of Victoria were urged to evacuate their homes. “Don’t wait,” the alert warned. Bushfires were burning across the state; so large were some of the blazes that, according to Victoria’s commissioner of emergency management, they were “punching into the atmosphere” with columns of smoke nine miles high. The smoke columns were producing their own weather, generating lightning that, in turn, was setting more fires. Some time after residents received the evacuation warning, many of those in the most seriously affected region, East Gippsland, which is a popular tourist destination, received another alert. It was now too late to leave: “You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive.”
Just to the north of Victoria, in New South Wales, blazes have so far destroyed more than nine million acres. Meanwhile, in the state of South Australia, dozens of fires were burning last week, some of them uncontrollably. At least nineteen people have died in the fires, as have hundreds of millions of animals, including a significant proportion of the country’s koalas. More than two hundred and fifty thousand people signed a petition arguing that, in light of the devastation, Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks displays should be scrapped, but the celebration proceeded anyway, in part at the insistence of the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
“I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country,” said Morrison, a Donald Trump-like figure who was on holiday with his family in Hawaii last month when, owing to all the fires, New South Wales declared a state of emergency. (It declared a second state of emergency last Thursday, ahead of what was expected to be another catastrophic weekend.)…
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