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January 29, 2020

Burning planet

Opinion

January 29, 2020

It will be a long hot summer in Australia. Fires of almost biblical proportions have swept across the country, devastating land, property and wildlife. More than 30 people have been killed, a billion animals have died, and more than 3,000 homes have been burned down. The cost of the bushfires has been estimated at $2bn and could climb even further.

Although heavy rain and lower temperatures this month have helped put out some fires, the threat of the blaze coming back is still imminent.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response to this environmental catastrophe has been to refuse to expand measures to combat climate change. In December, as the death toll was climbing and Australian fire brigades struggled to control the fires, the prime minister left the country for a holiday in Hawaii.

His attitude and actions illustrate quite well just how the wealthy and their political allies plan to rule our burning planet.

The harrowing and apocalyptic scenes coming out of Australia are only the beginning of a new normal in which climate change will result in climate apartheid. Those with the means and the resources will leave climate catastrophe zones or otherwise protect themselves from the worst effects of climate change, while poor communities and nations of the Global South, indigenous people and people of colour will bear the brunt.

Meanwhile, global corporations will continue to lobby governments to take little action on climate change and continue to undermine the efforts of climate activists.

In a July 2019 report, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, warned that climate change will push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030, causing displacement, food insecurity and worsening health, and posing "dire threats" to democracy and human rights. "Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change and have the least capacity to protect themselves," Alston wrote.

In Australia, this is already apparent. The country has had devastating bush fires for years, which have disproportionately affected impoverished areas. Aboriginal communities continue to be subjected to discrimination, marginalisation and dispossession, their land seized to make way for more resource extraction.

Although the country – one of the world's top coal exporters – is clearly suffering from the devastating consequences of climate change, more coal mines are being built on aboriginal land and more coal is being exported.

Meanwhile, the ruling political elite of the country has consistently refused to take major action on climate change, dismantle the coal industry, and undertake a massive divestment from fossil fuels. Its attitude of climate change denial has been buttressed by a regressive media establishment dominated by Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Excerpted from: 'The Australia fires portend a future of climate apartheid'.

AlJazeera.com