Sharing your story about the bushfires

Right now climate change is largely absent from the mainstream news coverage of the bushfires.

We need to show that everyday Australians from all walks of life understand that climate change is behind the fires and are demanding climate action from our political and business leaders.

We need to do it on social media, where people are likely to be talking about the bushfires with their networks, and in the traditional media where we can reach people outside our networks.

Voices that are most likely to be of interest to mainstream media:

  • People who can tell authentic first-hand stories of being impacted by the fires
  • People recognised as leaders in their community (eg people holding public office; leaders of public organisations like fire brigades, chambers of commerce; arts & cultural figures; First Nations elders; etc)
  • People involved in the bushfire response (eg firefighters, SES / search & rescue, health workers, relief centre workers, wildlife carers, insurance workers)

Finally, it might sound obvious but 50 percent of the population are women and 20 percent speak a language other than English so if want to reach the biggest audience we need a diversity of voices.

Some advice on what to say

The most important thing is to speak from the heart about why you care, what the impact is on you, and the need to take urgent climate action now. Different stories will resonate with different people so whether your story is about koalas or a destroyed local business it is worth telling.

A few key pointers:

  1. These fires are unprecedented but not unexpected. Fire authorities and scientists have been warning governments for years that climate change will create catastrophic fire conditions and yet governments have failed to take meaningful action on climate.
  2. Because of climate change, extreme fire weather has increased over the last 30 years in southeast Australia and bushfires have become more frequent and dangerous. Hot, dry conditions have a major influence on bushfires. Climate change is making hot days hotter, and heatwaves longer and more frequent, with increasing drought conditions in Australia’s southeast. Extreme fire weather and longer fire seasons have been observed since the 1970s across much of Australia, particularly along the east coast.
  3. What we are experiencing now is the new normal. The severity of these fires is the result of the irreversible global warming we have already caused by burning fossil fuels. In the future, Australia is very likely to experience an increased number of days with extreme fire danger.
  4. To reduce the risk of even more extreme events, including bushfires, Australia must rapidly phase out and replace fossil fuels with clean energy sources and join global efforts to stabilise the world’s climate. Fossil fuel use in Australia accounts for over 80% of our greenhouse emissions. Burning coal for electricity is the largest single source. Coal is now regarded as ‘obsolete’ even by the owners of Australia’s coal fired power stations and can be completely replaced with renewables and storage over the next ten years.
  5. Scott Morrison’s failure to act is placing Australia lives, properties and livelihoods at risk so we look to our Premiers now for action on climate change. Through their handling of the bushfire crisis our Premiers have shown leadership. They also have the constitutional power to cut most of our emissions – they run our electricity system and our transport system for example – and if they act together, could do what the federal government has proved incapable of doing.

When posting on social media, posts that include a compelling video or photo get more engagement. If you have any content that can complement your story, make sure you share it as part of your post.

Additional resources

A little background on public understanding of climate change

Most Australians (~70%) support Australia taking stronger action on climate but most of these people understand very little about what is causing climate change (the problem) and what we need to do fix it (the solution). For example, people tend to nominate plastics pollution as a key problem and the need to recycle as a solution. Here are three implications of this, though there are many more:

  1. It has been relatively easy for governments to say that they are acting on climate change and not be held to account for the fact that they are not. “We take climate change seriously and will meet our emissions commitments in a canter.”
  2. There is a large group of people who are concerned about climate change but are not pressuring politicians or voting for climate action right now because they simply don’t understand the difference between good climate policy and bad climate policy.
  3. So we need to be very clear in naming the biggest problem (burning fossil fuels, in particular coal) and the solution (replacing coal, gas and oil with renewable energy sources), and calling out the fact that Australia is completely failing to do this (the federal government is relying on dodgy accounting tricks to claim we’re meeting our targets – the fact is that our emissions have risen steadily every year since Tony Abbott abolished the carbon price and the current government has no policy in place that will change that).