- by Anna Pha
- The Guardian
- Issue #2034
Photo: John Englart – flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Lives have been lost and thousands of homes have been flooded and destroyed as the floods continue to hit eastern Australia. People have lost their homes, valued possessions, and livelihoods while farmers have witnessed the destruction of their crops and loss of livestock. Climate change is here, and worse is to come.
At the time of writing, flood warnings continued to be issued, now extending from Victoria to Queensland. The destruction of infrastructure is extensive.
Ironically the COP27 climate conference has just taken place amidst all the flooding.
Vast areas of NSW are under water. Flooding is occurring where it has never been experienced before. Records are constantly being broken. The crisis is such that international experts have been called in to assist.
People have been traumatised after spending hours on their roofs waiting to be rescued. Helicopters have been used to drop off essential supplies to isolated communities.
With rivers overflowing, catchments bursting their banks, streets flowing like rivers, and the ground water-logged, it does not take much extra rain to flood towns and farmlands.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet visited the town of Eugowra which was hit by what locals described as an inland tsunami – a wall of water that inundated the town. He promised to rebuild the town. Rebuild, but where? The same question can be asked of many of the flooded areas.
Corrupt developers in cahoots with corrupt politicians have over decades been allowed to build on flood plains and other areas prone to flooding. Rebuilding on many of these areas is not the answer. Planning is required based on a scientific approach to the suitability of locations and the ability of new locations to absorb water.
The floods are the latest in a series of ongoing climate-change induced crises. Severe drought was followed by the 2019-20 bushfires, then by mice plagues, and today the floods. Many bushfire survivors are still living in tents, forgotten by governments.
There has been an explosion in the number of mosquitos breeding on the large areas of stagnant water. They bring serious health risks, carrying such diseases as Japanese encephalitis, Ross River virus, Kunjin virus, Dengue fever, and Murray Valley encephalitis.
QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
It is outrageous that the government subsidises fossil fuels to the tune of $44.6 billion per annum and continues to consider the opening of new fossil fuel projects. If the government put a bill to Parliament banning new fossil fuel projects and the expansion of existing ones, it would have the support of the Greens and the teal independents – a majority in both houses.
The cost of rebuilding the lives of victims of extreme weather events will be large, as will adaptation and mitigation, but it has to be done and the sooner the better.
It comes down to priorities: hundreds of billions of dollars in the next decade in war preparations, or hundreds of billions of dollars directed to saving humanity and life on our planet as we know it.
Funding for Lismore flood victims was promised by the former Morrison government, but little seems to have been released, and victims attempting to access it come up against lack of information and bureaucratic hurdles.
So many flood victims feel on their own, let down by governments. They have lost their homes. Insurance companies resist making payments. Many were uninsured, either refused insurance because of their risk-prone location ,or unable to afford it. Who can afford to pay $40,000 or more per annum, as some flood victims had been asked?
Private insurance is not the answer. Australia once had state insurance companies. It is time to bring them back or create a national insurance scheme.
Governments offer assistance to all flood victims, providing housing and services as quickly as possible. Adaptation and mitigation along with measures to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot wait.
The government adheres to its dangerously inadequate target of forty-three per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at same time speaking forcefully at COPS27 of the need to curb warming to 1.5°C. The globe has already warmed 1.25°C and Australia by 1.4°C. The forty-three per cent target would see warming of 2°C or more.
A report released by the Climate Council (CC) on 4th November 2022 shows that the world is in the grip of a deepening climate crisis, and that without more ambitious emission cuts this decade we are headed for a full-blown catastrophe.
“Even if all countries meet their targets for emission reductions by 2030, the world is headed for 2.4-2.6°C of warming this century … Global emissions must fall by 45 per cent by 2030 to have any chance of achieving the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C,” the CC said.
Existing energy infrastructure must be replaced as quickly as possible with solar, wind, thermal and other renewable energy sources and storage in a just transition that ensures no workers are worse off.
The human and the economic costs of inaction are existential.