Climate change rallies have been held in Australia by thousands of protesters critical of the government’s handling of the bushfire crisis. A demonstration in Sydney has reportedly attracted 30,000 people, while events have also been held in other major cities.
“Sack the prime minister,” protesters chanted as they turned on Australia’s conservative leader, Scott Morrison. He is accused of not taking global warming seriously and of underplaying its role in the bushfire emergency. Protesters believe that “fossil fuel loving politicians” have overseen “decades of climate destruction.”
They want the Morrison government to phase out the use of fossil fuels. That is unlikely given their immense value to the Australian economy. Coal generates much of the nation’s electricity and earns billions of dollars through exports to China, India and other countries.
The prime minister has previously defended his energy and climate policies as adequate and responsible, but at least one protester in Sydney is demanding he give a more sensitive response to the bushfire emergency.
“Humanely, with empathy. I think that is a huge thing,” the protester said. “I think the way Scott Morrison has handled this and his lack of empathy to the whole situation is embarrassing. I would like the firefighters to be funded more, I would like more schemes to be set up, and just money and to actually admit that climate change is real, like it is clearly happening and this is what we are doing about it. We are marching.”
Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews had urged the organizers of a rally in Melbourne to postpone the protest because it would put pressure on police resources during the bushfire crisis. But despite that plea, and heavy rain, hundreds of people turned out to join a nationwide chorus of anger and frustration.
Dozens of fires continue to burn, mostly in southeastern Australia. Cooler conditions are forecast for the next week, which will help the firefighting effort. In New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, 147 bush and grass fires are burning. Sixty-five have yet to be contained.
Since September, at least 27 people have died in Australia’s bushfires. More than 10 million hectares (24 million acres) of land — an area bigger than Portugal — have been scorched.