Australia is “ground zero” for what is a “climate crisis”, according to Professor Mark Howden from the Australian National University (ANU).
The Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute said “there’s been much commentary that we’re facing a climate emergency, but I call it a climate crisis”, at the annual Climate Update in mid-February.
“An emergency is an unexpected situation requiring immediate action. However, the situation we find ourselves in has been entirely predictable and the ongoing impacts of climate change and need for informed and just responses will last for centuries.
“Many of the solutions we need are available, affordable and scalable, but they usually need a supportive policy environment to help them get adopted. The urgency of effective action is growing by the day.”
Professor Howden said the impacts of climate change, particularly after the horrors of this summer, are “now impossible to ignore”.
This is evident in the results from the January 2020 ANUpoll, which showed three-quarters of Australian adults reporting they were affected by the recent bushfires, and around half of Australian voters now listing the environment as number one or two on their list of concerns.
“We found that about three million people – more than 14% of adult Australians – reported that they were directly exposed to this year’s bushfires,” said lead researcher Nicholas Biddle.
“This widespread, direct exposure includes property damage, property being threatened and being advised to evacuate.”
Professor Biddle said more than 15 million Australians reported some kind of indirect exposure, including “having a friend or family member that had property damage; having a friend or family that had property threatened; having their travel or holiday plans affected; being exposed to the physical effects of smoke; or feeling anxious or worried”.
“Nearly every Australian has been touched by these fires and many of us will be living with the effects for years and years to come. We already see a shift in views regarding coal mines and the environment, but the big question will be whether these shifts are temporary or permanent.”