TV journalists for Australia’s ABC News went outside to deliver the 7pm broadcast in the capital city of Canberra today, but it wasn’t because the weather was pleasant. Bushfires near the city set off indoor smoke alarms at the TV studio and interrupted the evening broadcast.
“The smoke alarm went off about half an hour or so before our bulletin and kept ringing when we went to air at 7pm,” ABC journalist Tom Maddocks told Gizmodo via email. “It was far too loud in the studio so outside was the best option. Our bulletin runs for half an hour (7-730).”
But it’s not just in Canberra. Sydney experienced a similar thing last week when at least 80 indoor fire alarms caused offices in the central business district to evacuate—something that people are slowly learning to live with as climate change creates new headaches in the land down under.
The beginning of ABC's broadcast, which you can watch below, featured a report on the ways that smoke has forced people to cancel outdoor plans in Australia, just as summer has begun in the southern hemisphere. The report also looked at the surge in sales of inhalers and attempts to keep pets safe as the heat becomes so bad that you can literally make roasted pork in your car.
“Tonight we’re broadcasting from the front of the ABC building in Dickson, where smoke has prompted the fire alarms to go off like so many buildings across our capital. This appears to be becoming the new normal,” journalist Dan Bourchier said to open the night’s broadcast.
“We woke up this morning with this thick smoke haze blanketing the city. Again, familiar landmarks obscured by the smoke,” Bourchier continued. “Authorities say there are no fires burning here and the smoke is being blown in from those blazes around the territory.”
Australia is already experiencing a dramatic bushfire season, with very little rain and record-breaking heat. And some of the country’s largest cities, like Sydney and Canberra, have been choked with smoke for weeks, all from nearby fires that are blazing out of control.
What is the Australian government doing to combat the smoke in its largest cities? So far, the federal government hasn’t done much. In fact, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly vacationing in Hawaii as the country tries to grapple with smoke pollution that is harming the quality of life for millions. Strangely, the Prime Minister’s office denies that he’s in Hawaii, but won’t say where he is at the moment.
When the country you lead is on fire you have an obligation to stick around and sort it out. Or at least put the right policies in place before you clock off. But this guy’s just in denial ... on holiday ... in denial. https://t.co/GsYyk8PmyK
— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) December 16, 2019
Twitter hashtags like #FireMorrison and #WheresScoMo, a reference to Morrison’s nickname, have been trending this week in Australia as people vent their frustrations and no one is quite sure where the prime minister might be during this national climate emergency.
Morrison isn’t quite an extreme climate denier like U.S. President Donald Trump, but his party has embraced the use of coal-fired power plants and rejects the idea that Australia should do much of anything to address climate change.
If you want a vision of America’s climate future, all you need to do is take a peek at what’s happening in Australia right now. And it’s not encouraging, to say the least. Climate change isn’t some abstract futuristic dystopia. It’s the present reality for people who are just trying to live their lives in an increasingly dangerous world.