The worst bushfires in Australia's history have wreaked havoc and destroyed entire towns.
The worst bushfires in Australia's history have wreaked havoc and destroyed entire towns.

As the Australian bushfire crisis enters its fourth day, the fires continue to rage and the death toll continues to climb. Survivors are calling affected areas “hell on earth”. The destructive and tragedy is off the scale.


The fires have spread on the back of an unprecedented heat wave across southern Australia, with temperatures reaching up to 47 degrees Celsius and staying over 40 degrees for days on end. Conversely, in the north of the country, torrential rain continues to cause widespread flooding, isolating towns and hundreds of homes.

Here in New Zealand sweltering temperatures are putting a smile on the face of holiday-makers but causing concern for farmers. Meanwhile millions of people in the Northern Hemisphere are finding their everyday lives kneecapped by the most ferocious winter for nearly two decades.

It’s like nature has taken her gloves off. Scientists began warning some years ago that Australians should expect fires of a new ferocious order care of climate change. Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald editorial linked the two. Gary Morgan, head of the government-backed Bushfire Cooperative Research Center, told Australian media that climate change was altering the nature, ferocity and duration of bushfires.

University of Sydney bushfire expert Mark Adams: "I have never seen weather and other conditions as extreme as they were on Saturday, the fire weather was unprecedented. We don't have all the evidence yet to fully explain this day in terms of climate change, however all the science to date shows that we can expect more extreme weather in the years to come.”

The threat of climate change is real and serious. And the unfortunate truth is that unless the world takes strong action on climate change immediately, natural disasters like the Victorian bushfires, and the floods in Queensland, will become more frequent. The scale of this tragedy should be a clarion call to politicians for the need to begin treating climate change as an emergency. Urgent and dramatic action is required to cut greenhouse pollution if we are to have any hope of avoiding runaway global warming.

John Key has been quick to ditch all New Zealand’s climate policy; preferring instead to pave the way for fossil fueled power stations, rampant development at the expense of the environment and inefficient use of energy. Let’s hope he takes a moment to join the dots and realise that if we don’t start defending this planet, it will truly start to defend itself.

In the meantime, some of our Greenpeace colleagues across the Tasman have been affected by the fires, and our thoughts are with them, their families, and everyone else who has been touched by this tragedy.