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We need to talk about climate now

By Lyn Bender - posted Monday, 21 October 2013

Even in our current environment of avoidance and reluctance to discuss the reality of climate change, it's hard to ignore the climate when NSW is on fire. The Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, proposes that it is unseemly and insensitive to speak about climate change at a time like this. With no hint of sardonic wit, Hunt condemns the 'politicisation' of tragedy, when after all climate change is the most politicisedcissue in the country alongside the tragedy of refugees, arriving by boat.

It seems that no time is the right time to discuss global warming, even as people are suffering from our failure to address climate change, or to prepare for its current manifestation.

There is no doubt that many people in NSW are suffering trauma and are in shock from the mega fires that are still raging . This tragedy brings home the kind of suffering and horror that may become commonplace in a warming world. It is a horror movie right there on our big plasma screens.


Pyromaniacs, accidents and carelessness can start fires. But they only take hold in optimum conditions. That is why there is a declared fire season and warnings are issued. How many right now, like Wendy Harmer in Sydney, are listening to their children coughing from the smoke at night and calculating how old they will be when the proverbial really hits the fan around 2050?

I have been kept awake at night for several years now with exactly those thoughts and calculations. Recently my GP sought to identify a cluster of symptoms I reported to him, as being due to depression. But there is no DSMV category for despair about climate change inaction.

In Victoria in 2009 we have had the harsh lesson of the Black Saturday fires.

A close member of my family, who is a fireman in Victoria, tells me that the Victorian Fire Service understands well, the link between catastrophe and climate change. After Black Saturday, a new category; catastrophic fire conditions, came into the lexicon. Stay and defend, or go, included urgent advice to evacuate.

But understanding what lies ahead exacts a heavy emotional toll.

It's a big call, mourning for loss in a magnitude of billions. Not in mere dollars, although they will be collateral damage, in this war that we have declared on our earth. The billions will be counted in lives, tragedies, suffering and impoverishment. In the loss of futures, hopes, safety, plants, animal species,ecosystems and of our only home . Many may try to flee, to remaining regions that may sustain life. But sanctuary will be temporary as the earth warms relentlessly .How many of us can Tasmania sustain anyway?


This is what will happen if we continue to ignore the warnings issued by science and the evidence of our senses. The latest IPCC report leaves no doubt. Thescience is now absolutely settled, with 95 percent agreement amongst scientists: This is as close as science , committed to probabilities and caution, ever gets.

The world is warming and it is human induced. That's it. What's more its very very bad news. By 2047 our coolest years will be warmer than our previous hottest years. And this will have set in as normal, our time of departure from the old normal if we continue on our current trajectory.

We face annihilation and because our way of life is geared to the maintenance of our reliance on unsustainable growth and the burning of fossil fuels, we are continuing on our path as surely as theTitanic to its nemesis, the iceberg. The sinking of the Titanic has provided us with a lasting metaphor regarding the folly and hubris of believing in humanity's indestructability. Like our fragile civilization, the Titanic sailed forth with its cargo of glitterati and luxury, bathed in willful ignorance of the dangers ahead, and graced with insufficient life boats. There was no plan B.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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