Since this Parliament last sat 5½ long months ago, every member in this place has been asleep at the wheel regarding the climate crisis.
Surely they must now be awake after farmers stood devastated in the sick Darling River, cradling endangered Murray cod that were probably 30 or 40 years old but are now dead as a result of the stupidity and greed of successive governments and the vested interests they protect. Surely members are awake after temperature records were broken around the country. They must be, because it is the stuff of nightmares.
Australia has just had its hottest summer ever, with heat records breaking all over the country. Too many towns to count experienced temperatures of near 50 degrees Celsius. People described it as living in hell: dogs' paws blistering on burning concrete, birds and flying foxes dropping dead out of the trees and sky, towns running out of water. Children, pregnant women and the elderly were warned to stay indoors. The Australian Medical Association urged the Government not to ignore the implications of climate change because the impact on human life is so significant. The Rural Fire Service declared the earliest fire danger period on record by several weeks. In Tasmania, tens of thousands of hectares of irreplaceable Gondwana ecosystems were lost to devastating wildfires, many in World Heritage areas that have never before seen fire.
Surely members must all now be awake, because it is not just Australia; the entire global climate system is breaking down. While our country was burning, North America had a record cold snap that killed dozens of people and overflowed emergency departments. Many places ground to a halt. The Arctic is warming at twice the global average and its melting snow and ice is impacting weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere. All around the globe more frequent and more extreme weather events are killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more. If members are awake, why are they not acting? Governments say it is too hard and too costly. All we hear from the greedy and self‑interested members on the other side of this Chamber is that the cost of acting on climate change is too great. They do not talk about the cost of inaction. Even the Treasury has stated there is no doubt that the costs to the economy and environment of unmitigated climate change far outweigh the modest cost of transforming our economy.
What is the price of losing one million species, about which the United Nations warned us this week? One million species. What about the price of one human life? What about the price of 20? What about 1,000? One million? Because that is what we are talking about. What if we ignore the faceless millions—largely poor and dispossessed—who will die as a result of an increasingly unstable climate in the coming decades? It is easier to do that. What if we talk about just a handful of people? What if we talk about people's children or grandchildren? A girl born today will be 31 in 2050. Children today—the leaders of tomorrow—know that the planetary systems that support life are breaking down. By 2050 the climate may not support life as we know it. That is why they are terrified, but they are also furious and courageous. They are fighting for their future; they are literally fighting for their lives.
That is why young people are striking. Inspired by 16‑year‑old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, they are walking out of class and taking to the streets in anger and frustration and in desperation to be heard. People all over the world are taking to the streets in record numbers and disrupting business as usual because they have tried everything. Because of their actions the United Kingdom Parliament has just declared a climate emergency, as have the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Back home, the work of tens of thousands of Australians concerned about climate change have made the upcoming Federal election a climate election. I thank everyone who has spoken out on climate change. I thank the school strikers. I thank the brave individuals of Extinction Rebellion. Their actions are powerful and they will be honoured by parliaments in the future.
In this Parliament, the decisions we make in the next four years are critical as we only have a decade to act. There are still people in this Chamber who scoff at the very mention of climate change or who suggest that climate change is not real. Let us not ignore the hundreds of thousands of children who are begging us to declare a climate emergency. Let us give them hope and a safe future.