Politicians and climate change activists around the globe have expressed horror at the unfolding Australian bushfire crisis, saying the devastation is an urgent reminder of the climate emergency.
Former US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the fires – which began during Australia’s hottest ever year – left no room to question the effects of climate change.
“With Australia on fire and the Arctic in meltdown, it’s clear we’re in a climate emergency,” Clinton said, going on to detail her support for the Earthshot prize, described by Sir David Attenborough as “the most prestigious environment prize in history”.
Bernie Sanders, in the race to become the Democrats’ US presidential nominee, said the scenes in Australia would become “increasingly common around the world” and issued a call to action.
“What is happening in Australia today will become increasingly common around the world if we do not aggressively combat climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. The future of the planet is at stake. We must act.”
Author Naomi Wolf shared a message from an Australian father who had been trapped by the bushfires to the prime minister, Scott Morrison.
The message read: “Hey @ScottMorrisonMP, my family and I got out of Mallacoota just before the road closed and spent four days stranded in NSW by the #climatefires. I can assure you the cricket being on provided zero solace. I hope you’re good at other things because you’re a useless Prime Minister.”
Morrison has been heavily criticised for deflecting any talk of climate change policy during the bushfire crisis. On Thursday, he accepted a link between reducing emissions and protecting the environment but said the government’s climate policies were adequate.
The fires have been covered extensively by media around the world, from the Wall Street Journal (“‘We Were Freaking Out.’ Terrifying Fire Season Takes a Bad Turn in Australia”) to the Times (“Thousands trapped on Australian beaches by ‘apocalyptic’ fires”) and the New York Times (“Thousands Flee to Shore as Australia Fires Turn Skies Blood Red”). The Australian fires were the top story on the BBC website, as well as CNN.
CNN’s headline read “Australia’s deadly wildfires are showing no signs of stopping”, while the BBC focused on the mass evacuations: “Race to flee ‘leave zone’ as bushfire threat looms”.
In New Zealand, where glaciers turned brown and skies red due to smoke blown over from Australia, many criticised Morrison, with Greenpeace comparing his leadership to that of Jacinda Ardern, who has been widely praised for leading New Zealand through two mass-casualty events in 2019.
Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said the bushfires were affecting New Zealand’s pristine alpine region. “Impact of ash on glaciers is likely to accelerate melting” Clark tweeted. “How one country’s tragedy has spillover effects.”
Netflix documentary filmmaker David Farrier, also a Kiwi, tweeted Matthew Abbott’s picture of a kangaroo escaping the flames, along with the words: “2020. you fucking idiots in charge who don’t get this: global warming is real.”
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