Climate change.
Climate change. DAN HIMBRECHTS

'The future demands we take strong action on Climate Change'

THOSE in the climate change denial industry seem to be getting more than a little bit religious when it comes to responding to and understanding the bushfire crisis gripping our nation right now.

And they've chosen a favourite play from the books and traditions of ancient religions.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans and Hebrews all had this idea that you could place the ills or sins of a society on a single animal or even a person in some instances.

The Hebrews celebrated this with the ritual of Yom Kippur where a goat was symbolically burdened with the sins of the Jewish people. This is where the term scapegoat comes from.

I presume it springs from a desire to explain a catastrophe and then place the blame on an external being.

It is a unifying thing to do - "It is all the fault of "them", you cannot hold "us" responsible.

First goat to be paraded before us by the denialists is "the Greenies". Despite never having held power in any jurisdiction currently affected by the fires, it is somehow their fault due to "green tape" preventing crucial hazard reduction and back burning. My pick for Australian of the Year, NSW Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons disputes this view.

"I've got to say, the environmental clearances are not our problem … There's no doubt that we see longer, hotter fire seasons, which correlate with shorter periods where you would typically get your safest period for burning."

The next scapegoat to be trotted out by the naysayers is the arsonists. "We wouldn't have these fires if it wasn't for the deranged arsonists. We need to hunt them down and then publicly punish them to make an example for others who would commit such horrific crimes."

Not to diminish the importance of personal responsibility, but this argument is built on rhetoric rather than evidence as well.

The BBC crunched the numbers and found instead of the 200 instances of arson claimed there were only 24 charged with arson in New South Wales and even less found to have lit large fires.

The Victorian Police stated, "There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland or the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour."

The BBC suggested it might just be the fact Australia is becoming hotter and drier as recorded over the past century.

The network we rely on in emergencies, our ABC calculated the level of deliberately lit fires to be about one per cent of the fire area in NSW and 0.03 per cent in Victoria.

It is a curious line of thinking.

Those who question climate science accept that there is human element in the creation of these bushfires but prefer to rely on fiction over fact.

In 2007 the Australian Government commissioned Professor Ross Garnaut to examine the effects of climate change in Australia.

When it came to bushfires he sifted the best scientific evidence and modelling available and presciently stated, "Fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and, generally be more intense … the effect increases over time but should be directly observable by 2020."

We don't have the time, nor the energy to waste on finding scapegoats to blame for the climate crisis which we now find ourselves in.

Unbelievably some of the best minds in our country (such as Ross Garnaut) still see this as an opportunity.

The Australian Academy of Science has released an excellent statement regarding the Australian bushfires. It says, "The good news is that there is already abundant evidence available to help us understand the environment we live in and to design and build the future we want for Australia."

This future demands that we take stronger action to limit global warming.

And to conclude with a note of sadness and gratitude. We lost one of our best last week. A generous man who left an indelible print on Toowoomba's social landscape. A man who shared his gifts across many areas: education, the arts, banking, mental health and so many more.

Vale Professor Peter Swannell AM.

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