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David Fickling

Politicians Fiddle While Australia Burns

Bushfire disaster impacts nearly 10 million while sensitivity over coal forces silence on climate change.

Australia’s leaders are running out the fire exit when the talk turns to climate change. 

Australia’s leaders are running out the fire exit when the talk turns to climate change. 

Photographer: Cameron Spencer/Getty

For weeks now, I’ve not been sleeping properly. Lying down has provoked paroxysmal, bronchial coughing, as drifting clouds from bushfires around Australia’s east coast have settled on my home city of Sydney. A thrumming headache has been a constant. Taking my daughter for an asthma checkup last week, we walked through haze filled with swirling motes of ash. 

Tuesday was the worst yet. As I wrote this article, a building fire alarm went off in Bloomberg’s office, caused by the permeating fumes. Thick smoke has rendered the Sydney Harbour Bridge invisible. Ambulance calls for breathing problems have risen 30% on typical seasonal levels. Beaches are black from settling embers.