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It’s been a hellishly hot summer in Australia, this week temperatures soaring over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), and bushfires raging out of control in three states. In Sydney, it’s even too hot for ice cream trucks.
In some places, the temperature has reached an all-time record high of 54 degrees Celsius (129.2 Fahrenheit). The heat has become so bad that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather map has had to add new colours – deep purple and pink – to indicate temperatures in excess of its previous cap of 50 degrees. And summer has just started... the heatwave hasn’t even peaked yet.
Worse, this so-called “once in 20 or 30 year heat wave” is likely to become a much more regular occurrence, the last record breaking heatwave in 2009. But of the more than 800 articles covering the heatwave over the past five days, less than ten of them even mentioned “climate change”, “global warming” or “greenhouse gas.” And those that have skimmed over it quickly.
Australia’s media is just as irresponsibly bad at covering climate change, even when their feet are literally being held to the fire. When Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons tweeted, “Will the politics of carbon tax/climate change alter with this extraordinary, sustained heatwave hitting the southern states?”, Tim Blair retorted in the Daily Telegraph, “It’s called summer, Peter.” Tim Blair seems less concerned about climate change than he is sulking over the possibility that air fare might become so expensive that only the rich “carbon kings” will be able to travel to London, Paris or New York, while the rest of us “bogans” will have to make do with Mildura. (Although, if I were from Mildura, that sort of snobbery would get right up my nose, it’s a lovely place.)
So, on a day when Simon Divencha of the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide is asking why, oh why, isn’t the media paying more attention to climate change, why are our media, our leaders, even our community at large still willfully in denial of the realities of global warming, I sat down for lunch in the sweltering Queensland heat and flicked on the television to watch... a rerun of “Miracle Planet: Snowball Earth.”