Federal government MPs have been slammed for laughing about climate change in parliament as Australia faces catastrophic weather which is putting lives at risk.
Twenty-three former fire and emergency chiefs from across Australia, with more than 600 years of combined experience, have sounded an alarm on climate change-fuelled disasters.
The group warns people will die, volunteers will mentally and physically burnout and the fire season will become year-round if urgent action is not taken.
They laid a set of demands at the feet of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as state and territory governments, in a joint letter issued in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“In NSW we’ve only had two months in the last 12 months where we haven’t had fires, our fire season was quite extraordinary in that it started in the middle of winter last year,” former NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service fire manager Bob Conroy told reporters.
“Climate change is upon us, it’s perilous and we need to do more about it.”
Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins hit out at federal politicians laughing about climate change in parliament and refusing to take action.
“Our government has done virtually nothing. I find that embarrassing. Our emissions have gone up over the last four years but we’re assured that we’ll reach our Paris targets in a canter. I don’t believe that for a moment,” he told reporters.
“This is a climate emergency, and we need the government – whoever they are – to sit up and take notice to stop joking about climate change, which I find offensive, and to actually read the science.”
Mr Mullins was referring to an incident in 2017 when then-treasurer Mr Morrison produced a lump of coal during lower house question time, prompting laughter from his colleagues.
“This is coal – don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” Mr Morrison said at the time.
Former Victorian Country Fire Authority chief executive Neil Bibby said the growing disasters were taking a toll on volunteers’ physical and mental health and would see an increase in insurance premiums, hitting household budgets.
The signatories want the prime minister to meet with a delegation of ex-emergency services leaders to discuss the escalating climate change risks.
They also want a federal parliamentary inquiry into whether emergency services are adequately resourced to cope, as well as funding for strategic national emergency management assets, like aircraft.
The group called on the state and territory governments to increase resources to enable better fuel reduction, focus on climate change adaption and mitigation programs, reduce emissions and stop cutting emergency service budgets through “efficiency dividends”.
Mr Morrison said his government has a plan to address climate change, and cited funding increases for emergency service and fire authorities across the country.
“Our plan on reducing emissions has already ensured that not only will we meet our Kyoto 2020 targets, we will beat them by 369 million tons,” Mr Morrison said.
“When we came to government, we were more than 700 million tons behind meeting our Kyoto 2020 targets from what Labor had done.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten plans to meet with members of the delegation in the “near future”.