Tens of thousands of Australians have taken to the streets around the country, demanding political leaders take greater action on climate change.
Organisers say about 60,000 people participated in Sunday’s mass rallies, at which emergency workers played a significant role in warning about the dangers of unchecked global warming.
In Brisbane, where an estimated 4000 people came together, firefighter Dean McNulty spoke of the huge concern climate change posed to his colleagues, who battle natural disasters from the front line.
Mr McNulty said scientists were clear that global warming would make extreme weather events more frequent and severe.
“To firefighters, it is not just numbers and statistics, it is very real,” the United Firefighters Union (UFU) representative told AAP.
Before 30,000 people in Melbourne, Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt evoked the memory of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, while firefighters spoke of their fears of increasingly hotter days.
“There is no sceptic at the end of a fire hose,” UFU secretary Peter Marshall told the Melbourne rally.
This week global delegates in Warsaw for annual climate talks were warned by the World Meteorological Organization that 2013 was on track to be the hottest year since records began.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology made the same prediction, and rally organisers encouraged people to wear “hot summer colours” to highlight concerns about extreme weather events.
Politicians from federal Labor and the Greens also used the opportunity to put the boot into the Australian government over its tabling in parliament this week of laws to scrap the carbon tax.
The two parties clashed after the Greens sided with the coalition to fast-track an inquiry into the repeal bills, crushing Labor’s chances of stalling a Senate vote for as long as possible.
The minor party has vowed to block the legislation, and leader Christine Milne said there would be more rallies if greater action wasn’t taken.
“(Prime Minister) Tony Abbott wants to be defined by climate denialism, and the community wants to be defined by climate activism,” she told AAP in Brisbane on Sunday.
“This is really a showdown.”
In Sydney, deputy federal opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said the government couldn’t go backwards on climate change as global action galvanised.
“Australia is going backwards, the rest of the world is going forwards accepting that climate change is real and accepting that we must act,” she said.
A spokesman for rally organiser GetUp! said coalition MPs were invited to all the major rallies, but none responded.