Last week’s fire in Tathra was not your ‘normal’ Australian bushfire. When the fire bore down on our community chaos and confusion ensued, gas tanks exploded and plumes of black smoke rose.
Residents described it ‘like seeing the footprints of a massive beast ... a relentless massive monster stalking the ridge tops’. Four wheel drives sped past, packed with 10 people per car, followed by towed speed boats full of even more people, all just neighbours, trying to get out alive. Many friends have lost everything. Four hundred homes were saved, but sadly, 69 were destroyed.
This type of fire is the new normal. Climate change has been supercharging bushfires for the past 40 years, producing longer, more ferocious fire seasons. This is bad news for all of Australia. As our greenhouse gas pollution levels soar, climate change is driving more severe extreme weather events. Heatwaves are earlier and more frequent, and cool season rainfall is dropping off, stretching firefighting resources, risking lives and presenting challenges for agriculture.
The threat is a ticking time bomb we can’t ignore. More dangerous bushfires means higher risk for regional communities like Tathra, communities which are now on the front line of climate change. It means our firefighters are under more pressure and our health professionals, including myself, are pushed to the brink to accommodate the inevitable illness surrounding fires, from smoke inhalation to injuries and casualties.
There’s no denying climate change has changed Australia’s bushfires – the science supports this and I’ve witnessed it first hand. We have the solutions to tackle climate change such as clean, affordable and reliable renewables and battery storage. These options are not only available now, but available to slash our skyrocketing pollution levels. So why are we still risking it?