Jan 6, 2020
Australia is being wracked by unprecedented wildfires sweeping across the country. Since the beginning of November, fires have broken out in all six states of the country. More than 14.5 million acres have already burned—six times the size of the recent fires in the Amazon, and three times the size of last year’s fires in California. Twenty-three people are confirmed dead, with dozens more missing. Tens of thousands are being evacuated from their home areas by the Australian army and navy. Nearly half a billion animals have been killed, according to scientists’ estimates.
Australia has never seen such wide-ranging and destructive fires. And this is just the beginning of its summer fire season, with no end in sight.
Extreme climate events are becoming more and more common across the world. Last year saw record high temperatures in Europe and in India; record wildfires in California, Alaska and the Amazon; record flooding in the Midwest, and regular coastal flooding in Florida and along the east coast.
Scientists are clear: climate change has made these extreme events more and more possible and frequent. Australia has experienced a record three years of drought. Combined with record high temperatures of 100+ degrees and extreme high winds, it is a recipe for these out-of-control fires. And yet Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison continues to deny climate change’s role in these fires, or even to acknowledge that they’re unusually bad!
One of the most basic measures against climate change is to stop the use of greenhouse gas-emitting fuels like coal. But Morrison—and the opposition Labor Party—continue to support the industry. After all, coal mining corporations are extremely lucrative—and, they are major donors to all of Australia’s political parties!
We see the same pattern here in the U.S. and across the world. Some parties may completely deny climate change, while others dither and wring their hands. And even when they do something, like in the Paris climate accord, it’s in the most conservative, piece-meal way. After all, they say, we have to be “responsible.”
In other words, THEY are responsible—to corporate profit, first and foremost.
Virtually all climate scientists are adamant—something drastic needs to be done NOW, or it will be too late very soon. But that would threaten the profits of all of the industries that produce, use, and depend on fossil fuels. And those industries are not about to take that hit willingly. So decades have been spent where nothing has been done.
But if working people were in charge of the economy, we COULD make those necessary drastic changes now. The technology is there. The labor is available. And we could ensure that everyone is paid well, while we make those changes.
All that is possible—if we forget about keeping billionaires flush with profits.