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Red sun over Taupo

The red sun rises

I’m back in New Zealand at the moment visiting family and a couple of days ago something strange happened. When the sun rose it was blood red. The photo I took is below, but I’ve also included a professional photo as well.

 

Red sun over Taupo 

Red sun - photo by Dudley Jackson

Photo: Dudley Jackson

 

The cause of the red skies and the haze that affected much of the country is smoke that has blown across the Tasman Sea from the devastating bushfires burning across parts of Australia. While Australia has endured bushfires throughout it’s history, the fires this year are notable for the fact that they have occurred so early in ‘fire season’ - January and February are traditionally the hottest months of the year but the twin factors of the driest spring on record and record breaking temperatures in December have left vast swathes of countryside tinder dry.

The Federal Government’s response to the disaster has been mixed at best. Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared to be caught out by the scale of the fires when it emerged he was on holiday in Hawaii as the country burned, leading to the below mural to pop up in Sydney.

 

Merry Crisis mural of Scott Morrison

 

While support has been given to the firefighters bravely tackling the fires, the government has claimed that climate change is not a factor in the severity of this summer’s fires. Scott Morrison said there was no ‘credible scientific evidence’ linking the fires and Australia’s carbon emissions. This is the same politician who in 2017 brought a lump of coal into the Australian parliament and said ‘this is coal, don’t be afraid’.

These statements come despite the fact that a major study into Australia’s fire weather found a long term upward trend, with the authors noting that “[t]his long-term trend is likely mostly due to anthropogenic climate change.” It comes as little surprise that the Prime Minister’s visit to an affected area wasn’t greeted with the greatest enthusiasm.

Former New South Wales fire chief Greg Mullins took a very different view, stating:

“But I’m angry about the prime minister’s response. It reminds me of President Trump when there’s multiple shootings saying it’s nothing to do with guns.
We have to talk about climate change because our bushfire situation in Australia has changed forever. It’s been a 20 year process. People in the business like me have watched with horror, spoken to the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and scientists and said, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And they said, here it is, but we’re not being listened to.
Everything I heard from the government is, ‘We’re doing this, we’re doing this, aren’t we good? Yeah, too late, guys.”

 

While Mr Morrison might technically be right when he argues that with only 1.3% of global carbon emissions Australia can’t stop climate change on it’s own, it is also clear that the country needs to do much more to contribute to a global solution. At a time when coal has been identified as needing to be phased out to prevent runaway climate change, the Australian government has doubled down on it’s use for energy production - it currently provides 60% of the country’s electricity and is Australia’s biggest export. Australia was also ranked last of 57 countries for it’s climate policy in the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index.

 

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