Australian-based filmmaker: Climate change isn't next generation's problem

Eric Byler, an American filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Australia, said Monday that the deadly bush fires that have ravaged the country should be a lesson to world leaders not to ignore the impact of climate change.

“This kind of pretending like this is the next generation’s problem or that it’s going to happen to somebody on another continent that I don’t even know, we need to stop that,” Byler, who had to evacuate along with his family as a result of the fires, told Hill.TV.

“That’s the huge lesson for me,” he added. “Climate change is going to be a lot more of my focus and getting this government to properly finance these volunteer fire brigades that we have.”

Byler’s comments come as severe weather in Australia exacerbates the growing number of wildfires across the country. Temperatures there have been abnormally high, topping 100 degrees in some parts, while intense winds have helped spread the fires.

At least 12 people have died due to the fires, bringing the death toll to 23. In addition to the number of people dying, millions of animals have also been killed by the fires.

In response to the devastation, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday that roughly 3,000 army reservists were being called into action to fight the fires and help with evacuations. He also said another $20 million would be dedicated to leasing four new firefighting plans on top of the $26 million that has already been pledged.

However, Morrison and his conservative government have faced criticism for their handling of the wildfires and not doing enough to address climate issues from the beginning. Experts have said that climate change is a key factor in the Australian wildfires and a 2019 United Nations government report showed that Australia was one of the developed countries most susceptible to climate change.

Byler echoed this frustration, saying the government has done anything to prepare for the growing wildfires.

“I can’t tell you how many people have bent my ear about how angry they are at Scott Morrison,” he said. “He just seems so tone deaf and incapable of expressing his concern and his sorrow for what’s happening around here.”

—Tess Bonn