Climate change: Morrison government must 'wake up'

A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It's been almost two years since Australians lived through the horror fires during what we now call our Black Summer.

We will never forget the death and destruction.

More than 450 people died when overcome by fires and thick blankets of smoke. People around the world watched these fires unfold with a sense of despair.

As summer then swept the northern hemisphere, we witnessed similar devastation from fires in California, Turkey and Greece.

According to the latest science, the unprecedented hot, dry, windy weather that drove Black Summer is likely to be the norm by 2040.

Climate change is fueling longer, hotter, wilder bushfire seasons and other extreme weather events - I've witnessed this first hand over my 50 year career fighting fires. Australians - and in particular firefighters like me - are extremely worried about what this means for us and the potential for massive loss of life and property.

That's why Australians generously pitched in to fund an ad from my organisation, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, that was published in British newspaper, The Times, during the COP26 climate summit.

We are a group of former emergency service chiefs covering every fire service in Australia and we wanted to remind COP26 delegates that climate impacts are with us now. The ad sent the message that we must make drastic emissions cuts this decade to temper the relentless warming of our planet.

Unfortunately, in Australia, our government seems unable to comprehend the enormity of the problem despite experiencing such devastating fires and it continues to cling to polluting fossil fuels. They don't represent the majority of Australians who want our government to do more.

Greg Mullins. Picture: Supplied

Greg Mullins. Picture: Supplied

What we witnessed during our Black Summer, the hottest and driest ever recorded, was hell on earth. Fires were so ferocious they created their own weather systems, dry lightning storms started new fires, and fire tornadoes.

The best firefighting technologies on the planet are no match for such extreme weather events.

No-one wants to go through that again but, unfortunately, because of climate change we will.

Firefighters all over the world know how dangerous climate change is. Time has run out and there can be no more excuses or meaningless slogans. Our message to the Morrison government is clear: forget 2050, we need to drastically reduce emissions right now.

Our leaders must wake up and smell the smoke before another black summer.

  • Greg Mullins is former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, and founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and Climate Councillor.
This story 'Govt must wake up and smell the smoke' first appeared on The Canberra Times.