OPINION

Thick smoke, closed schools. When will we acknowledge climate change?

Thick smoke, closed schools. When will we acknowledge climate change?

My community, like many others, has been deeply affected by the bushfires sweeping through NSW.

Five major fires surrounded us, all within a 150km radius. Smoke blanketed our town and air pollution was 21 times the safe amount. The sky turned a dark, apocalyptic orange. Along with hundreds of others, my school was shut down as fires hit nearby communities. Everyday we hear more stories about the ones we lost, and the ones who lost everything.

We've only just entered the fire season, but already NSW has had 6000 blazes scorch an area nearly three times the size of all land burnt during the last season. That is extraordinary.

Even Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted: "We are seeing a situation in NSW with these fires we have not seen before," while at the same time saying it was inappropriate to call it climate change.

But when will we call it climate change? Every year, we are seeing records broken. We see the worst drought in 400 years.

We see temperatures soar further than they've ever been before.

We see record amounts of ice-loss in Greenland and record numbers of storms in the tropics. This time, it's Australia's bushfires. And the worst is still to come.

When will we start talking about why we're seeing these unprecedented disasters? How long can we keep shrugging our shoulders?

I'm 15 years old. At the last climate strike, 350,000 students, workers and community members nationwide came together to protest. Young people are prepared to hit the streets in record numbers to demand action on climate change, because we know we are going to live our whole lives in this climate emergency. For us, there's too much at stake. The deadline for halving emissions and avoiding tipping points (like the melting permafrost) - which could mean losing our grip on the climate crisis - is 2030. I'll be 26.

The solutions are sitting right in front of us. We know we have to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy - it's just a matter of "when". And every day the government chooses to procrastinate, we'll see an increasingly dangerous climate devastate communities worldwide.

It's time for our politicians to put politics aside, and take proper action to move Australia beyond the mining and burning of fossil fuels. I sincerely hope this is not a glimpse at what's to come. My thoughts are with everyone affected by the fires.

Patrick Rudd is a Hastings Secondary College student and lead School Strike 4 Climate organiser in Port Macquarie