Climate stories

It was 44° on Christmas Day. It really was scary. And the heat is only going to get worse.

Fiona’s story

Fremantle, WA

  • Heatwave

I’m Fiona Stanley, I’m 75, I’ve worked for most of my life on the health and wellbeing of young people. I’ve become really passionate about climate change because it’s happening now and it’s impacting people around Australia.

Last summer was the hottest summer on record for us in Perth. The whole summer was hot and we had a heatwave over the Christmas period that lasted nearly 10 days. It was the worst heat I’ve experienced.

The heat was really hard on old people. Unlike a lot of people, I had some fans in my house, but even my fans were totally inadequate for that kind of heat. Everyone’s houses got so hot, some days I could hardly move. If you didn’t have air conditioning, old people were advised to spend the entire day in shopping malls to escape the heat. Are we seriously going to tell old people to just sit in shopping centres all day? That’s totally inadequate.

Old people weren’t able to leave the house during the day because it was too hot – we had to go early in the morning or after sunset. It was unbearable to be stuck in the house every day. And if you live alone, you’re suddenly sitting alone all day for multiple days. What does that do to your mental health?

I live in Fremantle and there’s a story called the Fremantle Doctor which is the afternoon sea breeze that comes every day to cool off the town. But during the heatwave it didn’t come at all.

I’ve never experienced heat like that. Some of the nights didn’t get below 33°, people weren’t sleeping. It was 44° on Christmas Day. It really was scary. And the heat is only going to get worse. The number of deaths from heatwaves is already going up.

The young people are going to bear the brunt of all this. I’ll be dead before the really ghastly stuff happens. But they’ll have to live through that. They’re looking at a lifetime of summers like that.

During the pandemic, most Australian politicians initially loved the science – they looked at the science and used it to back up their Covid policies like lockdowns and Jobkeeper. I hoped that the politicians would continue to value science after the pandemic, particularly climate science, and convert it into action. That has not happened.

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Kaama's story

Kandos, NSW

  • Drought
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Heatwave
  • Nature
  • Storms

I had never seen an Australian forest die due to drought. In the summer of 2019, I thought the fires had already been through our land, but it was the brown of acres of dead eucalypts. Then the creeks and the dams dried up and the platypus and the birds disappeared. We have had some good rain since then, but it’s sporadic, from drought to flood to drought, and the platypus didn’t return, and neither did so many of the birds that used to breed here. In the first flush of rain in 2020, there was too much rain, then too much regrowth in the bush. The creeks and dams were filled with toxic algal blooms and the last signs of life on the waterways were gone. Now, we are waiting for the inevitable fires to follow. Every month, we are fire-free, and it feels like we won the lottery. Our fire season has been extended, too, so it is very hard to feel relaxed. We are on constant alert. The increase in temperature has obviously stressed the insects, too. When I was a child and even as a young adult, our cars would be covered in bugs if we drove at night. Now, having a bug on the car is rare, and we haven’t seen a bogong moth for years. We have also noticed so many more snakes in this extended hot weather, and they are not entering their brumation (hibernation period) at normal times. This year, we have had them out and visible for at least six weeks longer than usual. This will be upsetting so many systems in nature here. Apparently, snake catchers around Australia are working very hard right now. Snakes have never bothered us, but now many of them are coming around our house. I wonder if they are running out of their normal food in the bush. How can the birds and the rest of the food chain survive? It is obvious to anyone watching that there are multiple systems collapsing so fast.

Read my story

Bushfires. Floods. Heatwaves. Disease.

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