Climate in Crisis

23 February 2020

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We've been deeply distressed by the bushfires that have devastated communities across the country and destroyed lives, livelihoods and habitats. Image source: eternity news.

The bushfire crisis has been a catastrophic demonstration of the toll climate change can have on us all. We must heed this warning and take urgent action.  

This summer, we’ve been deeply distressed by the bushfires that have devastated communities across the country. Dozens of lives have already been lost and, since the start of the bushfire season in September 2019, more than 18 million hectares have been torched and an estimated 1 billion animals killed. 

Our staff, colleagues and international partners are praying for all the families who have lost – or stand to lose – homes, livelihoods and loved ones. Our heartfelt thanks go to our first responders and everyone who has helped those affected by the fires. 

Every Australian probably knows someone directly impacted by this ongoing disaster. In recent weeks, two Act for Peace staff members were forced to evacuate their homes, one of whom is a volunteer with the RFS.

What we are seeing are the very real and devastating impacts of the global climate crisis. The catastrophic bushfires are made worse by higher temperatures and exceptionally low rainfall.  

They are a warning sign.  

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The climate crisis is making natural disasters more severe. A father comforts his baby after Cyclone Pam, the worst disaster in Vanuatu's history, devastated the island. Photo credit: Julia Loersch/Act for Peace

As global temperatures continue to rise, extreme weather events will become more frequent, more damaging and more terrifying. The International Organisation for Migration predicts the climate crisis will force between 25 million to 1.5 billion people from their homes over the next 30 years.  

Sadly, Australians who have lost homes during this national crisis join other communities displaced by extreme weather made worse by climate change. We care deeply about everyone in harm’s way. As an international aid agency working for safety, justice and dignity for people affected by conflict and disaster around the world, we are especially concerned about the impacts of the climate emergency on the world’s poorest communities who are most vulnerable to climate shocks.  

Thankfully, our overseas partners are working in their local communities with people badly affected by climate change right now. 

With your help, when an emergency happens our partners are there to reach people with life-saving assistance including water, shelter and food. In disaster-prone places like Tonga, you’re also preparing people on what to do when disaster strikes, meaning fewer lives lost. In Zimbabwe, you’re helping farming families pushed to the brink of starvation because of the drought to grow enough food to eat.  

It is because of people in Australia, like you, that this life-saving work can happen. 

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A family in Tonga learns what to do before, during and after a disaster; here, they are preparing an "emergency bag" that will help them survive during the next cyclone. Image credit: Richard Wainwright/Act for Peace

The climate emergency is a major concern for most Australians and together we are taking action. Last September, our staff joined hundreds of thousands of Australians during the Global Climate Strike to call on our leaders to respond to this emergency. We joined with hundreds of caring Australians, Pacific leaders and other NGOs in Canberra at the Voices for Justice conference in December to urge our Government to recognise the risk that climate change poses for Pacific peoples.   

The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time and how we respond is critical. As a nation, Australia must lead by example, encourage stronger action internationally and ensure a better future for Australians and communities everywhere.  And as individuals, we each have a responsibly to do something. We must speak up and call on our leaders to take this crisis seriously. We must also support people affected by climate change right now, both here and overseas. 

Solidarity with everyone on the frontline of this emergency is more important than ever.  Continuing to care for communities affected by conflict, disaster and the climate crisis around the world, is the just and the right thing to do. 

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Last September. Act for Peace staff joined the schools climate strike to call on our leaders to treat the climate emergency seriously. Image credit: Ben Littlejohn