NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says Australia must stop making climate change a matter of religion and instead make it a matter of science as unprecedented bushfires burn across the state.
Mr Kean held firm on his stance NSW bushfires were linked to climate change, just moments after his frontbench colleague Sarah Mitchell said the debate about bushfire causes was “philosophical”.
“We’ve got to stop making climate change a matter of religion and we’ve got to start making it a matter of science – and the science says that we need to reduce the impact of global warming by two degrees and in order to do that we need to get to net-zero emissions by 2050,” Mr Kean told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
“This should be a debate of science, this should not be a philosophical debate … the majority of scientific opinion is very clear on this fact.”
On Tuesday, Mr Kean made the Berejiklian government’s strongest comments about climate change to date in a speech at a Sydney energy summit, saying “this is not normal and doing nothing is not a solution”.
His comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was criticised on social media for announcing updates to his government’s religious discrimination bill in Sydney, as the city choked through air quality 12 times “hazardous levels” in some areas.
Mr Kean said the NSW fire crisis should be a catalyst for change.
Eight days later and the smoke is worse? @ScottMorrisonMP announced a religious discrimination bill today but was completely silent on the #ClimateEmergency affecting the east coast. #sydneysmoke pic.twitter.com/RlzMKYqAkJ
— Charlie Ludowici (@CharlieLudowici) December 10, 2019
On Wednesday, he again left little doubt of his view.
“The advice from my department is last year was the hottest year on record in NSW and this year is on track to be the second warmest; the scientists have been predicting for decades that climate change will result in more extreme weather events,” Mr Kean said.
“Hotter days, less rain, more drought, worse air quality, that is what the scientists have told us climate change looks like.”
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley also broke ranks with Coalition colleagues on Wednesday, telling ABC Radio Sydney: “The dryness of the vegetation, particularly in the north of NSW, and the reduced streamflow is creating unprecedented [conditions].”
“That’s what climate science has told me and I completely agree with it.”
On Tuesday, former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said the federal government’s inaction on climate change was “galling”.
He said he believed the NSW government understood the links and was taking action to reduce emissions but was “being gagged” by Canberra.
On Wednesday, Mr Mullins warned Sydney residents should brace themselves for “unprecedented losses” as the fires on the city’s doorstep breached its suburbs later this summer.
“The worst is to come because it’s going to get hotter and drier and there’s no significant rain in the outlooks,” he said.
“We’ve got massive fires that are too big to put out without rain. They are going to get bigger and they are going to come into Sydney suburbs, the South Coast, the Central Coast.”
Six lives have been lost in NSW so far this bushfire season while 720 homes have been destroyed.
Mr Mullins said that was three times the previous record number of homes lost, with destruction this year so far confined to regional areas.