Another year, another heat record broken. Australia entered the new year breaking its heat record in 2019. Last year was 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the historical average since 1910, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The hotter Australia becomes, the more likely it is to catch on fire as heat dries out vegetation and increases the odds of explosive fires. And the 2019 heat record underscores this new reality, with Australia having gone up in smoke.
The ongoing bushfires have created a crisis over the past few months. The southeastern part of the country looks like a literal hellscape as bush fires continue to terrorize residents from Sydney to Adelaide. Wildlife has been terrorized, people have lost their homes, and the situation could turn even worse this weekend.
Despite the record heat and intense fires, Prime Minister Scott Morrison went MIA when the blazes began breaking out. Morrison—a conservative who has pushed pro-coal policies that will cause the world to keep warming dangerously—is now touring affected parts of the country, but no one seems to want him around. Instead, survivors have been telling the prime minister exactly how they feel—and they’re pissed. At one stop, Morrison was heckled until he left town. At others, he’s forced people to shake his hand, including a very disturbed-looking firefighter.
I don’t blame the people for not wanting to shake the prime minister’s hand or telling him how angry they are! At least 18 people have died, and 916 homes are in ruins as the flames engulf entire communities, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. The climate crisis will only make these types of catastrophes more likely. Leaders better think fast of an appropriate response to the crisis. Forcing people to shake their hand is definitely not it.