Before we could leave Vietnam we had to decide were we should go. Kim Ngan was keen on Australia and for sure I’d spent a thoroughly enjoyable 7 years living there. But one thing was screaming at me not to go. Climate change.
Australia is is the “rich” country most at risk from climate change. Already dry and hot I knew that it wouldn’t be long before things got much worse. It’s no accident that large numbers of Australian climate scientists are buying property in Tasmania. For that may be the only place left habitable in the future. And that future might be coming to pass far sooner than many expected.
A historic drought has decimated agriculture across huge areas of the country, dried up the Murray Darling River system and threatened the water supply for numerous rural towns. But that’s probably not the biggest threat facing the country. Food can be imported and water made from the sea, of course that’s expensive so agricultural failure and water shortages will probably collapse the economy. No doubt the “Aussie spirit” will be cited and the country will battle on . But the threat that won’t be battled is the one looming over the country this week. Catastrophic fires. Australia’s native vegetation has evolved to burn. However not in temperatures and winds and drought like these. A little bit warmer a little bit windier a little bit dryer and and nothing will be capable of being defended including the cities. The forests and the fields will burn year after year till they won’t regrow and then the country will turn to desert. Save perhaps the far north. But hotter and more humid that won’t be much more pleasant.
This week already huge swathes of the country including Sydney itself have been placed under catastrophic fire warning and summer has yet to begin. Such fire events normally only occur in El Nino years. This year is not an El Nino.
But next year is……..
Yet in spite of all this Australia remains a hotbed of climate change denial. The Deputy Prime Minister even going so far as suggesting they “don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time” when people pointed out the connection between climate change and the fires.
And so rather than taking the lead on emission reductions because their very future depended upon it Australia has some of the highest per capita emissions in the world bar a few of the oil rich gulf states. True to their racist heritage they prefer to blame it all on “the Chinese” and rake in the cash from the coal until that burns along with the rest of the country.
And so I don’t know when I will return – if ever to see so many of my dear friends. My heart goes out to you all. And all those fearfully watching those dark smoke filled skies.