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  • Richard Plumpton | ii |

Is this Australia's 'Canary in the Coal Mine' Moment?


[Image: Australia's Increasing Bushfire Risk | © Bloomberg & BOM]

As we approach what all the experts are saying is going to be a particularly severe and unpredictable Australian bushfire season, I find myself wondering if we are edging closer to an era of 'canary on the coal mine' moments; a time when increasingly severe climate change influenced natural disasters finally wake humanity up to the reality of what is unfolding all around us.

It seems to me that bushfires have the greatest potential to play this kind of 'canary' role in Australia, with floods, cyclones and coral bleaching unfortunately adding to the general existential dread that is starting to build in this corner of the world.

Australia has always been a country of extremes, but if we truly are moving into a time when virtually every summer brings devastating and deadly bushfires, then even some of the most strident climate change deniers may have to accept what they are seeing with their own eyes, smelling with their own noses, and feeling with their own fire-blackened skin.

That we could have let it get to this point despite decades of being told it would happen by thousands of scientists is verging on the unbelievable; that we are still debating whether we even have a climate crisis or not is beyond belief; and knowing the kind of world my daughters and billions of others are now facing is, for me, almost beyond words.

As I look beyond the end of this decade, I sense that we may be moving beyond the rational and (so far) unsuccessful United Nations led approach to tackling climate change, and entering a time of rapidly increasing anger and activism from the millions of people who have been begging their leaders to take action for more than 20 years.

Like the brutal bushfire seasons we are going to be facing with increasing regularity in Australia, this kind of anger is likely to make the future frighteningly uncertain for all of us, as I certainly can't see the fossil fuel industry and its backers leaving the battlefields quietly.

And as I consider the possibility of such a future, even my innate optimism is struggling to work out how to face it.

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