Floods, fire and drought: Australia, a country in the grip of extreme weather bingo

Source(s): Guardian, the (UK)


Australia is, of course, no stranger to extreme weather - bushfire, flooding, rains and skin-peeling heat are central to its history and mythology - but the contrasts this southern summer have been particularly stark. Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University and councillor with publicly funded communication body the Climate Council, says few parts of the continent have not experienced an extreme weather event in recent months.


It is the heat that seems to be shifting public concern about climate change. Political polling suggests it is registering in the top two or three issues of concern for voters in a way it has not since the 2007 election, when the country was enduring a decade long drought, if not ever. The trend is headed in this direction even in some outer suburban electorates, which have traditionally been more driven by jobs and cost-of-living issues.

But the shift is not universal. The government is hearing similar messages, but there has been no change in messaging from prime minister Scott Morrison. He visited the Tasmanian fires and Queensland floods within a 24-hour period, speaking with people who had been forced to flee their homes, thanking emergency service workers and, in Townsville, was photographed climbing into a tank. He drew no link between the extreme weather and emissions in his public comments and he dismissed as a stunt a suggestion by the Greens that he should apologise for backing coal given there was evidence it was making natural disasters worse.

The Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, went a step further while visiting the site of the Menindee Lake mass fish kill, choosing language that suggested outright scepticism about climate science.


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