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Chris Ford: Take note climate change deniers - Aussie and New Zealand fires sign of things to come!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Take note climate change deniers - recent fires in Australia and New Zealand are a sign of things to come!

Of course, Summer fires have been with us for billions of years. Inevitably, there have always been fires started by lightning, particularly during the warmer months. These have tragically spawned fires that have destroyed billions of hectares of forest since the Earth first gained substantial tree cover.

The presence of humans, when added to this mix, has been more devastating as some people, either accidentally or intentionally, have started fires. 

Add human produced climate change into the mix and our changing atmosphere has made parts of our planet truly combustible.

Just in the last year alone, I have seen reports of extremely damaging forest fires in France, Spain, Greece, and the United States. Now, in our Southern Summer, come reports of bushfires in Australia and scrub fires in New Zealand.

In this part of the world, it is true that Australia has experienced bush fires for many millions of years. These bush fires have, since human settlement on that continent, claimed thousands of human and animal lives and property. In modern times, this devastation has been counted in the billions of dollars as witnessed by the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria back in 2009.

In just the past few weeks alone, serious bush fires have broken out in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. No part of Australia has been spared in what has been a sweltering Summer so far in our nearest neighbour. Seeing weather maps where meteorologists have had to create newer, darker shades of purple to measure temperatures of over 50 degrees celsius has been really jaw dropping to watch.

While New Zealand has been spared the worst of the heatwave, we've still seen lower-level but still threatening scrub and bush fires in Canterbury. Mother Nature has dealt the people of Canterbury a severe blow over the last few years and they don't need bush fires to contend with. But thanks to climate change they have more than just the ground under their feet to now worry about. And the same with almost everywhere else in New Zealand. I note that the extreme weather this year has been dominated by not only too much heat but too much rain as the people of the Central North Island and South Island West Coast can attest. But in 90 percent of New Zealand, we still await the onset of the warmest month, February, with trepidation. While the sunny weather will provide many Kiwis with an excuse to engage in a bit of outdoor recreation, for others (particularly those living near significant forestry or bush plantations) it will be a worrying time.

The recent extreme weather we've been having should make the National Government pause for thought. I said this after the December 6 West Auckland tornado and I'll say it again now - the Nats should abandon their policy of voluntarily setting greenhouse gas emissions. We need to follow if not lead the world by example and lead the charge towards signing a new, comprehensive and more ambitious climate change agreement. One which protects both the environment and ordinary people. Global industry should carry the full costs of climate change and, not only that, but they should not pass the costs of meeting their commitments onto consumers too excessively. Governments can play their part in this process too through imposing carbon taxes and not relying too heavily (if at all) on pricing mechanisms which mean that even the poorest have to pay for climate change reduction. Inevitably, we will have to change our consumption patterns as well and play our part in slowing down climate change but global capitalism has encouraged us to sometimes consume too excessively at the cost of the planet. And that's only encouraged by big multinationals who want to maximise profit for themselves at the expense of the environment. Yes, I'm aware that more big and small businesses are going green but sometimes that seems to be window dressing to appease more green conscious consumers. A more greener, less market driven economic policy will be necessary to achieve this.

However, if the National Government doesn't take the lead and do anything, we're in for not only more of the same but the most horrific weather-induced events possible. And that will be negative for the environment that sustains and nurtures us all.



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