The widely respected British naturalist Sir David Attenborough said yesterday it was “palpable nonsense” to suggest that Australia’s bushfire crisis had nothing to do with climate change as he warned “the moment of crisis” has arrived. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the 93-year-old Sir David made the direct link between the ongoing bushfires and climate change. “As I speak, south-east Australia is on fire. Why? Because the temperatures of the Earth are increasing,” he said. “We have been putting things off year after year. We’ve been raising targets, saying ‘oh well, if we do it in the next 20 years …’ the moment of crisis has come.”
More than 10.7m hectares of land has burnt so far in the Australian bushfires, including 80% of the Blue Mountains, and 50% of the Gondwana world heritage rainforests.
While Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has talked down suggestions, there are climate change deniers in his party, several Australian government MPs have continued to downplay the role of global heating on the bushfire crisis and Mr Morrison has attempted to pivot the debate from acting on climate change to resilience and adaptation, the Guardian quoted the BBC as saying.
Sir David said the world could no longer prevaricate and delay decisions, and the change needed to be made not by appealing to optimism but by highlighting it is a life or death decision.“This is not just having nice little debates and arguments and then coming away with a compromise. This is an urgent problem that has to be solved,” he said.
“And what is more is that we know how to do it, that’s the paradoxical thing, that we are refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken. “And every year that passes makes those steps more and more difficult to achieve.”
He said China needed to step forward and announce it would curb carbon output because of climate change, and everyone else would “fall into line”.“That would be the big change that one could hope would happen.”He said the public mood had already shifted.“People can see the problem, particularly young people can see the problem, and that must force
governments to take action.”
In Sri Lanka also we are experiencing the drastic effects of climate change, with prolonged droughts, and unusually heavy rains with floods, at times we do not expect. Most climate change analysts believe we are still depending far too much on fossil fuels or coal power and the new government needs to give top priority to clean energy initiatives including solar power and wind power. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day on February 4 we need to remember that freedom is linked to responsibility. To the extent we carry out our responsibilities as good citizens, to that extent only, do we have a moral right to claim rights and freedom. To the extent, we fail in our responsibilities and live in a selfish or self-centred way to that extent we forfeit our rights and freedom. While the government and big organisations handle mega projects we also make our little contributions by saving water and electricity, using public transport whenever possible and even going back to the bicycles because it will not cause any pollution but in a positive way will provide good exercise. With non-communicable diseases like diabetes reaching alarming rates in Sri Lanka nutritionists say a balanced diet and lifestyle including exercise are effective ways to curb this trend.
Almost a half-century ago the then Finance Minister Dr. N. M. Perera, saying he saw the “dim light of the distant dawn” advised people to cultivate home gardens so that the food we eat could be to a larger extent non-polluted. But his plea fell into the category of wisdom that is gone with the wind. Today we are eating either imported food part of which is processed rubbish while even local food is polluted by unscrupulous traders who use dangerous substances as preservatives.
We hope that as we celebrate Independence Day most of us will take the responsibility of playing a role in the battle against climate change and the related issue such as poverty alleviation, and a peaceful resolution of conflicts, in addition, we need to encourage talented young people to use their creative and imaginative skills to tackle issues like climate change because it is the young people who will suffer most if global warming is not checked.