Powerful climate summit messages

The National Bushfire and Climate Summit held online last night (9 June) was a wakeup call, exposing the depth and persistence of Government resistance to action on global warming despite warnings about the huge risks of extreme bushfires, economic risks, and global instability.

Greater investment in aerial equipment and fire-fighting capacity and support is urgent

Public servants, including fire chiefs, had been gagged and their advice to government over three decades ignored, just so Australia could keep promoting and selling fossil fuels.

Here’s some of what was said:

  • Ken Pimlott, California’s chief firefighter said fires are now burning year-round thanks to changes in weather patterns and drought that put enormous stress on vegetation. It means too that fire fighting resources can’t be shared as they have been to date – the northern hemisphere can no longer send firefighters to Australia in our summer and vice versa.
  • Greg Mullins said last summer’s unprecedented and devastating bushfires meant it was impossible to plan for the future because fires were burning in ways never seen before, outpacing efforts to contain them. Aerial forces had been upgraded but they had little impact. There was no question that these conditions were driven by climate change and worse is yet to come.
  • Cheryl Durrant, climate emergency strategist and former Director of Preparedness and Defence at the Dept of Defence, said Defence had been studying climate change for 10+ years and described it as a ‘threat-multiplier’ because it impacts on food and water security leading to a high risk of conflict on a big-scale, affecting the way the planet operates and the existence of what is a global society. 
  • She said we cannot predict what might tip the world into crisis but warned of flashpoints such as the competition between America and Russia for resources. We are not prepared for the very real risk of breakdown of societies, especially in the middle world regions where water insecurity and nuclear arms are significant risks. Already EU countries are experiencing mass immigration pressures.
  • Defence has acted internally on climate change but Government has repeatedly ignored their risk assessment advice. She described the last 10 years as ‘barren ground’ for action.
  • Lesley Hughes, Professor of Biology and a climate scientist said the world is on a pathway for a 3 deg. increase in warming by the end of this century and that will be catastrophic.  Even if all the pledges made at the Paris Agreement were kept  – and progress suggests otherwise – we will reach 2.7 to 3 deg. The Federal Government was advised to set a target of 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 and went instead for 26%-28%.
  • Naomie Brown, CEO of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council said the scale and area burnt made this a truly national bushfire and yes, the military have\\s a role to play but they are not trained in fire-fighting, planning was complicated and they were called in too late. We will need far more resources for future fires and greater support for fire-fighters. It is also is hard to attract volunteers when the rural areas are now not as populated as they used to be.
  • Oliver Costello talked about mosaic burning and called for it to be part of mainstream fire management saying Indigenous people and their fire management knowledge were disregarded.
  • Amanda McKenzie CEO of the Climate Council said the Government felt the public pressure and there was less denial following the bushfires but that has not translated into action. She described the current plan and the push for gas and geosequestration as bullshit.  She cited the many studies that showed 75% to 100% of energy needs can be supplied by renewables, renewables are now cheaper than new fossil fuel plant and that if Australia was to invest in new gas we would be stuck with burning this fossil fuel for 100 years with all the CO2 and methane leaks that come with gas use. 

The YouTube of the Summit is here and here is the Climate Council’s Primed for action: a resilient recovery for Australia report.

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