So far AUSTRALIA’s 2019/20 FIRES have burnt 12 MILLION ACRES!
-the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres
-the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million
-the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million
POLITICALLY … all the accounting tricks with emissions and targets, and boasts about meeting international targets in 2030, don’t mean anything to anyone here anymore
-Australians will be dealing with the consequences beyond the next Election
WHAT will the Scomo Government do to confront not only the immediate effects of the disasters but …
-burnt out towns that the govt will not have the $ funds to rebuild
-communities that have run out of water
‘These are decisions which various levels of government will have to make together and support each other on.
And have the fortitude to stand and explain to people, not simply walk away.’
Are the bushfires Scott Morrison’s Hurricane Katrina moment that he can’t live down?
7.30 By Laura Tingle
Updated 4 JANUARY 2020
PHOTO: Nobody cares about the Prime Minister’s problems when their house is under threat or they feel their lives are in danger. (AAP: James Ross)
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Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The damage was estimated at $US100 billion, and more than 1,000 people are thought to have died.
When it struck, US President George W Bush was on vacation on his ranch in Texas. The two days it took for him to decide to cut short the vacation and return to Washington was a disaster of a different kind.
It was not just a political disaster for Bush, but a disaster for public confidence in the agencies responding to the storm.
Blame games erupted between Washington and state and local authorities about why the response was so slow.
PHOTO: A decision to publish this picture of George W Bush surveying some of the Hurricane Katrina damage from Air Force One backfired badly. (Reuters: Mannie Garcia)
A decision to publish a picture of him surveying some of the damage from Air Force One backfired badly.
“That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.
“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”
Some analysts say Bush’s reputation never recovered.
PHOTO: Protesters give the thumbs down to US president George W Bush’s motorcade in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Reuters: Lee Celano)
As people yell at the Prime Minister when he visits their devastated communities, or howl for his blood on social media, the story of Bush’s failure to immediately recognise a catastrophe and the urgent need for leadership it represented tells us what problems are created by Scott Morrison’s perplexing failures of political and policy judgement in recent weeks.
People are frightened and angry. Some have lived through a fire or just faced the anxiety of trying to evacuate family through massive traffic jams.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO: Scott Morrison forces Zoey Salucci McDermott to shake his hand in Cobargo (ABC News)
They may have faced shortages of food and fuel and/or several days without power and communications.
Such people tend to lose their faith in the capacity of governments to comprehend, let alone respond, to a crisis like this that is likely to continue for at least some months.
Nobody cares about Morrison’s problems
A Prime Minister who clearly felt on the backfoot after his trip to Hawaii spent several days defending that decision and then too much oxygen defending how much preparedness was already in place, and protesting too much that he was but a servant of the states.
Nobody cares about the Prime Minister’s problems when their house is under threat, or they feel their lives are in danger. They want to know what is being done to help them.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO: A group of Cobargo residents vent their anger at the Prime Minister. (ABC News)
Morrison’s language has gradually started to reflect this: a press conference in Bairnsdale on Friday saw him talk more, for example, of the Federal Government’s role in rebuilding East Gippsland.
But the scale of this ongoing catastrophe — which on Thursday saw the biggest peacetime evacuation in our history — and its likely length, means the Prime Minister and his Government will be daily confronting the realities of climate change in their response, however much they continue to choke on the words.How climate change has impacted the world since your childhood
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These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians, not something that we can put off to the future.
To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.
So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.
For starters, that poses big problems for all those glib “meet it and beat it” responses to climate change questions by Morrison and his ministers.
It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget.
PHOTO: It is estimated that the fires to date represent between half to two-thirds of Australia’s annual emissions budget. (Supplied: DELWP Gippsland)
And politically, all the accounting tricks with emissions and targets, and boasts about meeting international targets in 2030, don’t mean anything to anyone here anymore.
Parroting references only blocks the focus
Realistically, if our climate change “debate” was able to be weaned off whatever hallucinogenic drugs it has been on for the past decade, it would wake up in 2020 facing a very different balance of demands.
Yes, the ongoing war about reducing emissions will continue. But perhaps now equally important and urgent are the difficult policy and leadership questions about adapting to climate change.How spending $200 a year could help prevent climate change
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The parrot-like references to “meeting and beating” targets has been very effective at blocking any real focus on what policies the Government claims are actually driving this emissions reduction miracle without any pain to anybody.
When you look, it turns out that the policy cupboard is pretty bare. The Government’s quarterly figures on what has driven emissions lists figures without any real obvious help from government policy.
For example, in the most recent report released late last year, one major factor helping drive an emissions estimate that had been revised down was “the agriculture sector — due to floods in early 2019 and the ongoing effects of the drought”.
Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday that what the Government is focused on is “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations, recognising that we are, as a planet, seeing climate change and we need to be part of the global solution, which we are”.
“We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure there is a smooth transition across the economy. But in the most cost-effective way,” he said.
PHOTO: Josh Frydenberg said the Government was focused on “the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations”. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
Really, Josh? It’s just on 18 months ago that you appeared at the National Press Club in your then capacity as environment and energy minister.
Even then, doing something about emissions had to be snuck in to the entrails of a policy pitched as driving energy prices down while increasing energy reliability: the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).
Politicians need the fortitude to stand up
The NEG, despite its limited ambitions, received widespread support.
“Governments at all levels and parties of all persuasions must put ideology aside and work together to put the national interest first,” you said that day at the Press Club.
“The National Energy Guarantee is our chance to secure a lasting consensus. We must not miss this opportunity to deliver a more-affordable, more-reliable and lower-emission energy system for Australia.”
Except your party did.
In its place, you put a range of Mickey Mouse policies like the Climate Solutions Fund which purchase miniscule amounts of reductions through things like forestry sequestration that will take decades to have any effect.
PHOTO: These fires have made climate change a reality of the present tense for many Australians. (Unsplash: Markus Spiske)
And you are relying on things happening like the take-up of electric vehicles which your party so cheerfully slagged off at the last election.
The real test, however, may not be on what the Government does on cutting emissions, but on how it leads us to confront the sorts of brutal adaptations current events show us we now face: not just the immediate effects of disasters, but the questions they raise like building standards, towns that governments will not able to afford to rebuild, and communities that have run out of water.
These are decisions which various levels of government will have to make together and support each other on.
And have the fortitude to stand and explain to people, not simply walk away.
Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.
More bushfire coverage:
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- Two people killed in Kangaroo Island bushfires
- ‘Everyone was crying’: Emotions run high as hundreds rally to help firies, victims
- People in this fire-threatened NSW town are putting their recycling bins out — here’s why
- Analysis: Are the bushfires Scott Morrison’s Hurricane Katrina moment?
- ‘It’s smashed everyone’: Gippsland locals survey the damage as others flee amid evacuation alerts
- NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott labels his absence during bushfires ‘inexcusable’
- About 1,000 people — and their pets — evacuated from Mallacoota on Navy ships
- Bushfire crisis ‘not about one individual’, says PM after angry criticism from bushfire survivors
- We spoke to Black Saturday firefighters after 10 years and they had a simple message