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Temperature's rising, but have we got the strength to flatten one more curve?

Opinion

Global issues have left everyone a little hot under the collar this year but with Fraser Island on fire and another mass coral bleaching forecast for the Greater Barrier Reef, we can’t afford to forget about the impacts of climate change, writes Rebecca Levingston

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I just found out about something I did when I was eight years old that I had no idea about. I found out because my son had his swimming carnival this week.

He was telling his grandparents how he came second (or maybe fourth) in freestyle when his Nanna piped up and told him a story I hadn’t heard before, even though I was the protagonist.

Apparently, when I was in grade three, I convinced my teacher to let me compete in the swimming carnival even though technically you were only allowed to race in grade four.

“You came last, but at least you made it to the end,” my mum declared triumphantly.

She has a photo of me getting out of the pool looking like a small potato in togs. Drenched, defeated, yet victorious. It’s good to learn how to lose. Perhaps the earlier in life the better. Dive in, don’t worry if you make a splash, just keep swimming. Sometimes losing is winning.

At least 2020 swimming carnivals are still on. I recall this time last year some schools cancelled their races because of extreme heat and poor air quality. Smoke from what would become a catastrophic bushfire season along the east coast of Australia was hanging over southeast Queensland.

Right now Fraser Island is on fire and the Great Barrier Reef is on track for a fourth mass coral bleaching event in six years.  It’s too bloody hot. The Bureau of Meteorology has checked the thermometer and confirmed we’ve just sweated through Australia’s hottest November on record. We love to break records in Australia. Sometimes winning is losing.

For years now I have been interviewing scientists who tell us to expect more frequent and more extreme weather events if we don’t take stronger action on climate change. Heatwaves kill more people than any other natural disasters. Summertime … and the living is easy. Not anymore.

Schools are scrambling to turn on air-conditioning. Humans aren’t the only ones who find this killer heat unbearable. Koalas are seeking out sprinklers. How perverse that the line between cute and catastrophic could be hazy.

Everyone is hot and tired and sick of talking about global issues that are hard to solve. As we reopen borders and reward ourselves for keeping COVID-19 under control, has Australia got the energy to flatten another curve? Greenhouse gases don’t care about border closures.

Britain will ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. President-elect Joe Biden is promising 100 per cent renewable energy to power America. China and Canada have both committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he won’t be dictated to by other governments on climate change goals. Some say that’s an own goal.

Meanwhile here in Queensland, we’re still opening new thermal coal mines. Pundits point out that’s a peculiar approval in a state with the most to lose from climate change. In another plot twist, the Queensland Government is saying hooray for hydrogen and the Premier tweeted this week that the sunshine state hit a milestone with renewable energy.

For the first time, 20 per cent of Queensland’s energy generation was sourced from renewables like solar and wind. Not winning, not losing, not sure we can call it a draw. A participation ribbon perhaps?

I never won any medals in the pool. I don’t care who wins at school swimming carnivals. I just want kids to be singing war cries, not contemplating climate wars.

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