Burning (2021) - full transcript

Looks at the deadly Australian bushfires of 2019-2020, known as 'Black Summer'. An exploration of what happened as told from the perspective of victims of the fires, activists and scientists.

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Thank you.

We are in the grips

of a massive global crisis,

and you are leaving it to children
to clean up your mess!

Schoolchildren have
today ditched the classroom

to take to the streets
over climate change.

They’re calling
for the prime minister to be sacked

and for an immediate departure
from fossil fuels.

Ho, ho!

ScoMo has got to go!

Hey, hey, ho, ho!

More than 11,000 scientists

from around the world

have issued a warning today
declaring a climate emergency.

Australia’s seen
both the warmest

and the driest year on record.

There are also
warnings out this morning

for the impending bushfire season,

which authorities fear
could be the worst on record.

Extreme conditions
are on the way,

and it’s all down to climate change.

Australia is a distillation

of the world’s dilemma
when it comes to climate change.

But the story doesn’t make any sense

unless you understand
what Australia is actually like.

From its very inception,

it’s a country that’s been reliant
on fossil fuels.

We are now the world’s
largest exporter of coal,

the world’s largest exporter of gas,

and you hear the same thing over and over:

If we haven’t got fossil fuels,
we’ve got nothing.

We are also a very flat, dry continent

that’s exquisitely vulnerable
to climate change.

We knew that we would start feeling
the impacts before anyone else.

And we’ve ignored that bigger picture
to our great cost.

Now to the catastrophic
wildfires in Australia.

More than 200 fires rage

in two of Australia’s
most populated states.

Climate scientists are saying

the Bushfires in Australia are a warning
of what may be to come around the world.

This could be the new normal.

The greatest tragedy of this terrible

Black Summer bushfire season

was that we saw it coming.

My first big fire was in 1971.

I was only 12 years old.

Some friends rang up
and said the fire’s coming

up the hill towards us,
and off we went with axes

and rakes and hessian sacks.

There was no ifs or buts.
That was just what you did.

In Australia, fires are a constant.

Small fires in the Blue Mountains Area,

fanned by hot north winds,

struck towns and villages
with bewildering speed.

Every year, there are Bushfires.

Some years are very, very bad.

Other years, not so much.

But every year, there’s fires.

It was very rudimentary in the early days.

Grab branches off trees,

beating out the flames.

Wet sacks, rakes.

That was my first big fire,

and that’s when I knew
that’s what I wanted to do as a career.

I was hooked.

And I didn’t purposely
set out to be the chief,

but in hindsight,
it was a thirst for knowledge.

The government decided I was
the best person for the job at the time,

and it was an incredible privilege
and honor.

I was accustomed to a long buildup
to a bad fire season.

My father would say,

"Look, that wattle tree
is flowering a month early.

"That means it’s really dry.

"Look at the color of the leaves
on that banksia tree.

"That means it’s having to go deeper
for water.

"It’s dropping its leaves.

"Watch the ants.
What sort of beetles came out

at what time of year?"

And in 1994, it just suddenly got hot
and windy and dry.

The rain forest in Queensland is drying up

and animals starving
after the driest three months

for more than 80 years.

I realized something’s haywire.

New South Wales was hit
by massive simultaneous fires.

Oh, my goodness.

Oh, boy.


It’s fire!

This is the one that bushfire fighters

have had nightmares about for years.

Every hectare of this bush has tons
of tinder dry fuel ready to explode.

There are grave fears about how far
its devastation will reach.

Residents battle to protect their homes,

but for some,
the struggle became too much.

It is the most terrifying experience

you can imagine.

In 1994, I lost my home
to a bushfire that took everything.

I walked away in the shorts I was wearing,

uh, just, you know,
trying to fight that fire.

Thankfully, my family all survived,
but we lost neighbors.

We lost four people in that fire.

I’ve watched the climate science develop

over the last 30 years.

He is known around the world

as one of the leading scientists
studying climate change.

His name: Tim Flannery.

We are approaching a threshold

to dangerous climate change,
and the time to act is very limited.

The scientists have been very, very clear
about what’s happening.

Look at the picture of the Earth at night,

and look at all the lights
that are on, right?

Imagine the fossil fuels
that are being burned to support that.

Those greenhouse gases trap heat energy
close to the surface of the planet.

They act a bit like a blanket on a bed.

And so the temperature
just keeps going up and up and up.

A new study of climatic changes

in eastern Australia has produced

the strongest evidence yet
that the greenhouse effect is underway.

The increase reflects the rise

in carbon dioxide levels
in the atmosphere over that time.

Something is really happening.

I started to read and study
and ask questions

and discovered some early papers
on climate change and thought,

"They might have something here."

And in the years to follow, I realized,
yes, they certainly did.

You’d assume that about once a decade

there would be a very damaging fire
in New South Wales.

But after 1994,

we were having more and more
of these bad fires.

We were losing homes in 1997,
three years later.

Christmas Day, 2001, massive fires.

2002, more fires.

2003, the city of Canberra,

firefighters narrowly escaped
with their lives.


2009, Victoria.

We were regularly getting
off-the-scale fire danger,

and it was all down to climate change.

The fires were getting worse and worse,

and I knew that this is exactly

what climate scientists
had predicted for Australia...

longer fire seasons,
more intense fire seasons...

and that, sadly, was what I was seeing.

The community is somewhat concerned

that, uh, global warming could lead
to droughts of greater duration.

Now, whether that...

whether that is a legitimate concern is...

is a matter that’s, frankly,
very much debated.

I’ve watched the climate wars in Australia

for the last 14 years.

The plans to expand the coal industry

are on a staggering scale.

There has been a concerted effort
to undermine

the science of climate change.

Carbon dioxide does not drive temperature.

A complete reversal
of what these people are spreading:

their lies and their deception.

Then you said climate change was crap.

Well, I think what I actually said

was the idea of the settled science

of climate change is, uh, a bit aromatic.

I was Australia’s first...

and to date, only... climate commissioner.

And served for three years
under the government,

getting the word out about climate change,

taking complex science
and making it comprehensible to people.

Extreme weather events are going
to get more common and more severe,

according to the latest report
from the Climate Commission.

But the media just went totally crazy.

Critics have labeled
the Climate Commission alarmist nonsense.

These people are desperate.

Climate change, the whole thing is a hoax.

Out, out, out! Lies, lies, lies!

Then the conservative government

was elected, and their very first act
was to sack us.

It wasn’t to do anything
important economically.

It was to get rid of
the Climate Commission, which they did.

He has to be exposed.

It was really comic book stuff.

People tried to act earlier,

but there’s a lot of vested interests

I mean, Scott Morrison...

of course, now he’s our prime minister...

stood up in the parliament
and held aloft a lump of coal.

Mr. Speaker, this is coal.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.

- The treasurer...
- It won’t hurt you.

The treasurer knows the rule on props.

It’s coal.

Of course, this lump of coal
wasn’t a dirty lump of coal

with dust all over it.

This lump of coal had come
from the Minerals Council,

so it was very nicely cleaned up
for what was

essentially a marketing presentation.

Mr. Speaker,
those opposite have an ideological,

pathological fear of coal.

There’s no word for coal-ophobia,
officially, Mr. Speaker,

but that’s the malady
that afflicts those opposite.

Switching off jobs
and switching off lights

and switching off air conditioners

and forcing Australian families
to boil in the dark

as a result of their Dark Ages policies,
Mr. Speaker.

Jobs will be lost.

Babies will die in hospitals
when the power goes out.

This is the constant refrain.

We cannot have kids
coming home from school

and not having so much
as a toaster in the house

because they don’t have power.

They don’t have a fridge, mate.

But I think one of the real low points

was the debate over electric cars.

The response to it
from Scott Morrison was this

barrage of talking points that said,
amongst other things...

It’s not gonna...
it’s not gonna tow your trailer.

It’s not gonna tow your boat.

It’s not gonna get you out to your
favorite camping spot with your family.

To have that kind of infantile debate

in a political campaign,
it just said to me,

in 2019, we had not moved on.

Thousands of school students
across the country

want our politicians to know
they’ve had enough.

They’re demanding something

be done about climate change,
and tomorrow,

they’ll be walking out of school.

So, I was 16 when I first started.

I think, like, ’cause people hear that,
and they go, "That’s, like, really young."

You know, and a lot of adults
still would, you know, be like,

"Oh, you’re so young. You’ve done so much.

I’m so proud of you."
You know, that’s, um...

"You give me hope," which...

Don’t get me started on that.

I found out that Sydney was gonna have
a climate strike protest,

and I thought,
"I have to be involved with this.

I have to get my friends involved."

Like, "We have to take as many people
as possible from school."

And I remember,
as we walked up towards the square

where it was gonna be held,
we turn the corner...

...and it was... I mean,
it was just a sea of, like, sweaty,

you know, teenage kids.

Sydney has been brought to a standstill

by people fired up over climate change,
joining millions of people

all around the world
in the biggest protest yet

over the state of our planet.

We are on the outskirts
of the biggest catastrophe

humanity has ever faced,
and our government is doing nothing!

It’s almost like
you’re conducting an orchestra.

We want a safe future! Who’s with me?

That crowd becomes the music
and becomes the energy

in that drive, that wave of hope.

That wave just kept
crashing over the crowd.

Like, people were really excited.

Like, the rally hadn’t even started.

Our job was done.

A lot of the publicity was driven
by our prime minister reacting to it.

We don’t support the idea
of kids not going to school

to participate in things
that can be dealt with outside of school.

And so, what we want
is more learning in schools

and less activism in schools.

Which, you know, we sort of thought,

you know, "Piss off."

And to these adults, we say, laugh at us,

attack us, do what you want to us,

because you are on
the wrong side of history!

We had over 300,000 people
take to the streets,

which, if you are an Australian,
you will understand...

Australians don’t do protests.

Best day of my life. Best day.

I’m not, like... Nothing can beat this.

I remember coming home
and just thinking, "Shit."

We want climate action,

and we want it now.

Hey, ho! It’s hot in here!

There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere!

Then there was just radio silence
from parliament.

But the Murdoch media
suddenly were not quiet.

The so-called activists...
more like anarchists...

protesting in our streets these days.

Lies, disinformation.

Children completely brainwashed,
just saying what is

the exact opposite of the truth.

It was the first time
that I really experienced

any, like, climate anxiety,

because the people who’ve been in power
for the last 30 years

have known about this crisis
and have deliberately decided

to not only not do anything about it

but to fight against people
who want to do something about it.

You know, I want children growing up

in Australia to feel positive
about their future.

But I don’t want our children, um,
having anxieties about these issues.

Whatever challenges come our way,
we’ll deal with them like we always have.

I feel as if we have been

just sleepwalking into a catastrophe.

All of the warning signs have been there.

Greg Mullins, our most experienced
fire commissioner,

came to us in April and said,
"We are facing an unprecedented disaster."

Two years in a row,

the driest year on record
for much of... of eastern Australia.

And this year’s looking like
the hottest year on record.

How are we going to manage
the fire situation?

So we were trying to help Greg

to get an audience
with our prime minister,

because this is a matter
of a national catastrophe.

We wrote to the prime minister

in April 2019 and said, "Prime Minister,

"we fear that a bushfire catastrophe
is coming our way.

"We’d love to meet with you.

"’Cause this is going to be a shocker.

This year, we’re gonna need everything
we can get."

"We need better use of the military
to support the fire services,

"more funding for firefighting aircraft.

But you need to know about this,
Prime Minister."

He just wasn’t interested.


it’s a snowball rolling down the hill.

It’s getting bigger and bigger.

There was just no moisture left.

And we just watched the forests dying.

It was like, yeah,
you just had a terrible feeling

it was all really catching up with us.

But I have to say,

I did not predict how brutal
the fires were going to be

as the summer went on.

It rocked Australia to the core
what happened in the Black Summer.

You know when you watch a movie

and there’s that sort of,
like, low drone noise?

It just increases in volume.

And you just know that something’s coming
and it’s going wrong.

It was like that...
it was a very slow burn.

And then all of a sudden,
it just was massive.

The lead-up to it was frightening.

The whole of Victoria and New South Wales
got very, very dry.

And it was just, like, a...
a brooding presence.

I went into the bush

because I wanted to record
what I could see.

I was really concerned
because the trees grow so close together.

300 to 500 trees per the acre.

It’s a very volatile forest.

And any fire there,
it just goes off like a bomb.

Just 13 days out of winter,

and there are at least 40 Bushfires

burning across the state.

Today the message
from authorities was clear:

Get ready.

I was working
at the newspapers up the coast.

We’d already started reporting on fires,

I think, uh, as early as September.

Everyone was off photographing fires.

They were just going off everywhere.

Like, the-the phone just keep going,

And then, uh, look, there’s another fire.

There’s another fire.

And so there was a sense in the air
that something could happen.

And around here,
it was really, really dry.

Some of the walks that I do every day,

I’d noticed that the plants
had started dying and wilting.

By the time it was November,

the ground was, um,
like concrete, seriously.

Everyone’s lawn was dead.

Mallacoota’s very remote.

And quite a number of longtime locals
were very, very concerned

that this was going to be the year.

But the biggest red flag went up

when the rain forest was burning.

Those forests have never burnt.

We’re bearing direct witness

to so many processes of change
playing out around us.

We’re essentially right in the middle
of this stretch

of some of the oldest forests
on the planet.

Unchanged through
tens of millions of years.

Through continents splitting apart,

asteroids hitting the world.

Those trees have been like an arc
through time and space.

But as a consequence
of these climatic shifts,

they’ve been drying out.

It’s a process of unwinding deep time,

of ripping the rug out
from under these species

that have always had the conditions
that they need,

going back to the time of the dinosaurs.

The fires of Black Summer
burnt into these ancient refuges.

There are currently 51 active fire zones

across the state, 23 of them uncontained.

The ongoing bushfire threat is coinciding

with a dangerous heat wave,

forcing the Rural Fire Service to declare
an unprecedented emergency situation.

I’ve been with the Rural Fire Service...

...for 60... 65 years.

-60-odd years.
-Mm-hmm. 65.

Fought fires all over New South Wales
and Victoria,

and I’d never seen anything like it.

That fire started, and it never let up.

They attacked it with bombers.

Large air tankers.

It didn’t matter what they did.

It worked its way down the coast.

Major blazes are going to combine

to form one massive fire,

and everyone is on very high alert.

We knew sooner or later

it was going to be our turn.

I can remember saying to people,
"This is serious.

This fire is going to impact on Cobargo."

I had no idea that it was going to be
within hours.

At about 4:00 in the morning...

-3:00. It was 3:00.
-Or, um...

-It was 3:00 in the morning...

woke up, went out, and-and I...

it just felt unreal.

All of the western skyline
just had this eerie red glow.


I came in, and I woke Mary, and I said,

"Listen, get up, love.

"Have breakfast.

This fire is going to hit."

- Oh, it’s way darker!
- Mum!

-Mum. Mum.
-It’s way darker.

30th of December,

the CFA called
an emergency community meeting.

We still had probably around
7,000 tourists in the town.

There was an announcement
for people to leave.

A lot of people didn’t leave.

I went around the caravan park
and asked people

how they were feeling
about this looming sky.

And I really think
that there was a sense of, like,

"Oh, well, I’ve come here on my holiday,
and I’ll be all right."

I think, at that stage,

everyone was still thinking
it’s not going to happen.

You know, you don’t think
it’s going to happen really.

At one point, I was wetting down my car,

and this stupid woman
came up to me and said,

"What are you doing wasting water?

"You don’t need to have your car...

What are you doing washing your car?"

I said, "I’m wetting it down
so the embers can’t catch."

I said, "Do you live here?"
She said, "No, I’m visiting."

I said, "Well, go home."

Holidaying while home burns.

Scott Morrison relaxing in Hawaii

as the nation confronts
an unprecedented bushfire catastrophe.

When I saw Scott Morrison

going off on a holiday to Hawaii
in the middle of this emerging disaster

that we could have done a huge amount

to actually make it
much less severe than it was,

um, I almost cried.

He’s cutting short his family vacation,

which his office has refused to confirm
or deny for days.

I think it was really clear
from the outset,

uh, when the fires started to get serious

that Scott Morrison did not understand

the gravity of the situation.

I get it that people would have been upset

to know that I was holidaying
with my family,

uh, while their families
were under great stress.

They know that I’m not gonna stand there
and hold a hose.

I’m not a trained firefighter.

He saw it through
a purely political lens, I think.

He did not want the fires to be an issue,

a big national issue,

because he was worried it would open up

the climate change issue.

Australia has been battling
ferocious fires

for as long as, uh,
Australia has been a nation

and-and well before.

He was overly influenced

by the power of the Murdoch media.

Fire is part and parcel of our landscape.

It always has been.

People in politics

took these guys, they took these women

really seriously.

Does climate change cause these fires? No.

The lies.

We know what causes bushfire.
Someone has to light it.

You know, arson.

They said, "These fires have
been started by arsonists."

You can’t blame
the fires on climate change, especially

when so many are...
deliberately lit.

The fact of the matter is

Australia has an arson problem
you can’t pin on global warming,

climate change
or whatever title you’re giving

your environmental bogeyman these days.

What a load of crap.

They couldn’t accept

that we’re having
the worst fires in history

because it was clearly driven
by climate change.

Right through, I think, to
the tragedy of New Year’s Eve,

the government didn’t really get it.

People, communities are getting cut off.

They’re getting trapped.

The fire’d approached
from every angle here.

You’d go to sleep seeing the fire,

and you’d wake up,
and it would still be there,

closer to you than it was,

and it just wore you down.

And so you’ve got to have good luck,

and Mallacoota had terrible luck.

Where’s my keys?

Has anyone seen my keys?

Don’t worry about the keys.
We’ll put you in this car here.

-That’s my car, mate.
-Don’t worry about the keys.

-I can’t open it without them.
-Doesn’t matter.

Go, now, now!

A siren went off.

And our phones went off.

And it was,

you know, "Evacuate now."

And I turned around,
and there it was coming at me.

Go! Go!

This red glow.


It was orange and smoky.

There was lightning up in the sky.

Cars were going on to Bastion Point beach.

Other people were getting ready
down at the wharf,

and then other people
were going to the hall.

There’s a photograph of a local woman,

and she’s holding her little dog.

She wanted to leave,
but she also wanted to stay.

"I want to stay because

this is where I live.
This is where I belong."

And here we were.

Now we had to decide whether
we go or whether we stay,

like there’s a monster coming down on us.

And the wind. I can’t stand wind anymore.

I can’t be out in it
because it just reminds me

of this howling going past my ears.

- You could hear it.
- It was a... like a...

It was like a dragon,
you know, like a...

And then everything went pitch-black.

This is Mallacoota at 9:13 in the morning.

Absolutely unbelievable. Pitch black.

There’s embers falling from the sky.

A girlfriend of mine texted me
and said, "Are you okay?"

And I started taking some shots
just to send to her.

She said to me,
"Was this taken last night?"

And I said, "No, it’s right now."

It’s now really scary.

You couldn’t see your hand
in front of your face.

The wind’s picked up,

which is pushing the fire
straight towards us.

The reason that the sky goes
absolutely pitch-black

is because all of the soot

that is created by the fire
actually goes ahead

of the fire front.

So that’s what hits you first.

And then, as the fire front gets closer,

the soot clears, and you just get
this intensely red sky.

I was sitting outside the hall.

I wanted to see as much as I could.

But then a CFA volunteer

came and tapped me on the shoulder
and said, "You have to move in."

In the hall, it was really claustrophobic,

and they blacked out the windows,

so you couldn’t look out,
and all you could see

was the fire through the skylights.

You know, so you could see the red...

the red glow and the flickering
through the skylights.

And, you know, like,
we were sort of just laying down.

I-I can remember just sort of laying down,

and I just thought,
"How are we gonna get out of this?

How are we going to actually
get out of this?"

And then I also felt, you know,
I put my child in this situation, so...

maybe my imagination is big,
but it was really...

...a real thing that you didn’t know

whether you were actually really gonna
come out of there alive or not,

because it-it could have gone up.


It was like being on a plane
when it’s going down.

And that’s how it felt.

The side of our house was very, very hot,

and the embers just hit me...
little red embers.

And the heat was enormous, so I...

hosed myself down.

I was shocked at the ferocity of it.

It was only a matter of half an hour,

and we lost water.

Need to evacuate!

Please evacuate!

So we’ve lost water, we’ve got no power,

-and we’ve got no fire trucks.

All communications are gone.

Our radios are knocked out.

The town was at-at the mercy.

Said to Mary, "There goes the house."

"There goes the shop."

It was almost surreal.


The roar and the noise of it
was horrendous.

I just called it a vicious monster.


For an individual person
facing a bushfire,

the fire almost behaves like a, an animal,

a predator that’ll play with you.

You can see it just gently
creeping along harmlessly.

Whoa! Kangaroo!

Okay, coming this way.

But within an hour, it’ll change,

and it might burn a neighbor’s house
and leave yours.


Or it’ll burn your house
and leave everything else around it.

So it’s psychologically very damaging
to have to deal with that stress.

And then when the fire comes,
of course, it’s a catastrophe.

Normally, the flashbacks happen

more on hazy sort of days
when it’s not quite as clear

and you’ll just glance up at a ridge.

I don’t know, it just triggers something,

and I just see flame.

The roar of the fire was...

Yeah, there’s no words, really,
to describe it.

It was just screaming.

Like, we couldn’t talk to each other.

It was more hand signals
and yelling in each other’s ears.

The trees are about
two to three stories tall,

and the flames are about
two to three stories above them,

just ripping the whole way around,
just tornadoing above us.

It was just picking everything up
and just taking it.

Branches landing next to us
as thick as your arm.

I was trying to breathe,

and so I tried to rip my mask off,
trying to breathe, and I couldn’t.

There was nothing I could do.

I was in full panic mode at that point.

I was seeing birds falling out of the sky.

Yeah, the cockatiels on fire,

burning and dropping out of the sky.

It was something you could not fight.

It was just... survive.

I knew there was gonna be mass loss.

To the south, there were Bushfires.

To the west,
there were Bushfires.

To the north, there were Bushfires.

And in every direction,
roads were cut off.

Families are trapped on the beach

as the fires surround them on all sides.

The entire coast
is choked with this thick smoke,

making it difficult to breathe.

The fires really came home to me

when the smoke came into Sydney.

You know, you’d be going
for your morning walk,

you’d be seeing your friends,

and just this heaviness in your breathing.

And it was really discombobulating for me.

I was writing about climate change,

and there I was
in my everyday life experiencing it.

The plume of smoke
generated by the inferno

covers five and a half million
square kilometers.

That’s the size of Europe.

The psychological impact was stifling.

They say seal up your windows,

seal up your doors.

That doesn’t stop the smoke.

It was just insidious.

You know,
and maybe in a bushfire season

in the past, you might have
a week of smoke

and that was a really bad fire.

And this was just three months

of, like, the thickest smoke

that you could imagine.

You know, it was just everywhere.

You couldn’t get out of it.

And I was so tired...

really unusually tired.

You know, like,
people just keep saying to me,

"Well, you’re pregnant, um,
and you have a toddler,

so you’re gonna be tired."

But you get tired from the heat

and you get tired from
having to breathe harder.

When a woman is pregnant,

the whole system is on overdrive.

So she breathes faster

and she takes deeper breaths.

She’s inhaling this toxic smoke.

The tiny little smoke particles
travel through her body

and get lodged in the placenta.

The filter system,
the thing that we all grew from.

My friend who worked in obstetrics,

she said, "It just doesn’t sound right."

So I went to the hospital.

"This baby needs
to come in the next 24 hours

because this is really
real risk of stillbirth."

That’s-that’s pretty real,
confronting news.

The same time that Saga was being born

is when the village of Cobargo was burning
just 200 kilometers away.

And the air was full of smoke,

and people are having
New Year’s celebrations

we could hear from outside the hospital.

It was a really bizarre time.

And coming in
at just under two kilograms,

Saga Snow made an early entrance
at 36 weeks,

not wanting to miss
any of the festivities.

The baby was small,
and the baby was early,

and the baby had respiratory issues.

Nice little temperature-controlled box.

The midwife,

her immediate question straightaway was,
"Are you a smoker?"

"Are you a smoker? Have you ever smoked?"

And she said, "No, I’ve never smoked.

You know, why do you keep asking me that?"

And the placenta attached to this baby,

it was a gray, crumbly,
disgusting-looking placenta.

We’ve all seen those pictures
of what smokers’ lungs look like.

They’re on Australian cigarette packets.

That’s what this placenta looked like.

She was in ICU for 17 days.

You’re not holding your baby.

You’re... you know,

you put your hand in through the incubator
and hold her little hand.

And I can still now, um, get her to sleep
by holding her hand

because that’s what she learned
in those first few weeks.

She was well under first percentile
in birth weight,

and she’s taking a long time to catch up.

By the time she’s 18 months,
if she’s still behind,

they’ll consider giving growth hormones.

The young women who are coming in

with their babies tell me
that it’s-it’s not just them

but in their mothers groups,

their babies have been affected
by the smoke

and their babies were born early.

Where the women have to go back
after the birth

and have these crumbly, horrible,
smoke-affected placentas scraped out.

You can see how little she is there.

The origin of life is actually now

this canary in the coal mine,

and these babies are being exposed

to the effect
of the heating of the planet,

the climate change.

Night night, Saga.

Look, in-in Australia,
bad fire weather days

have always been difficult,

but what was different this summer
was multiple fires

formed their own weather systems.

With massive fires, the heat going up

drives the smoke column ten, 12, 13
kilometers up into the stratosphere.

And the water vapor in the smoke
forms a cloud.

The fires create their own thunderstorms.

They’re a very dangerous,
scary thing to be under.

Incredible winds from every direction.

Ah, burn and piss off, will you?

The sparks carried
in the convection column

going eight to 12 kilometers.

And they spark fires up to 30 kilometers
away from the lightning,

but there’s no rain.

-See the wind swirling?
-Yeah, it is, isn’t it?

I remember my dad saying,

"I think I saw one in the 1939 heat wave."

And I thought I saw one in 1975.

But that was sort of a legend
with firefighters.

Not many people have seen ’em.

I saw about ten last summer.

It’s true that big fires
can generate their own weather,

because this looks like
a massive thunderhead.

It looks like a nuclear bomb’s gone off.

It’s, um... it’s huge.

Pyro-convective storms...

"Rare." Well, not anymore.

I was fighting fires as a volunteer,

and I was all over the state.

Um, I don’t like this.

No. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

You know, I’d never really felt
in the past almost powerless

as I did this last spring and summer.

Hurry up!

Everyone out!

I was in Batemans Bay.

We were waiting for instructions
and catching our breath.

You couldn’t see very far
because of the orange smoke.

Everything was dark.

It was probably 2:00 in the afternoon,
but it was like night.

Then I saw something moving
on the side of the road.

And I walked closer.

It was a mob of kangaroos.

The speed of that fire
with its Pyro-convective storm

driving it in every direction,
they had no way... way to go,

and they came out of the forest on fire

and dropped dead on the road,
and I’ve never seen that. I...

Kangaroos know what to do in a fire.

They’re fast animals.

I just, uh...

What do you... I don’t know.

Yeah, the world’s changed.

Every year
for the last 25 or 26 years now,

there has been
a conference of the parties.

It’s where decisions
like the Kyoto Protocol

and the Paris Climate Agreement
were reached.

And in 2019, it was the COP 25.

Well, the COP 25 climate conference

is underway in Madrid
with a new report showing

the past decade is almost certain
to be the hottest on record.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres
is calling for urgent action.

I was invited by Greenpeace

to join them at this conference.

And I realized I didn’t have any jeans,

and I was heading into European winter,

and I thought,
"Hmm, better get some jeans."

And, um, I remember being in the city
with my mum,

and there was ash falling
and the sky was, like, orange.

And we just thought,

"Well, something has to come out of this.

We have to create this change."

I hopped on the plane,
and when I got to Madrid,

I was staying in this hostel with a bunch

of other kids from around the world.

- What do we want?
- Climate justice!

-When do we want it?

We were there at the conference

from about 8:00 in the morning
to 8:00 at night.

Fossil fuel companies
were funding the conference,

and their names were plastered everywhere.

Each country had its own pavilion

sort of, like, trying to represent
what they were doing in terms of climate.

What did Australia have as its pavilion?

Australia didn’t have a pavilion,
I remember.

And our Minister for Energy Angus Taylor

got up in front of the entire world

while his own country was on fire

and said that Australia
was doing its part.

We are already on track
to meet and beat

the targets we have set for 2030,

just as we are meeting
and beating our Kyoto targets.

That was embarrassing. It was...

It was just... like, it was humiliating.

This government is not taking action
to address climate even though

our country is burning
because of their inaction.

Fossil fuel lobbyists were able to just

sort of weave in and out
of government cubicles,

whereas indigenous activists
and young people were locked out.

Shame on you! Shame on you!

Shame on you!

And we saw these negotiations break down.

We’re disappointed that we once again
failed to find agreement.

This is really becoming very worrisome

for a lot of countries.

Coming back to Australia,

we were really left
with not much hope at all.

The fires were everywhere.

It was just horrific,
and I was really burnt out.

Like, you know, your heart can sink.

I think my heart had just hit the floor
and just kept going.

I cried for three days straight.

I was totally shocked by the scale.

If you’d have asked me before the fires

how big a percentage of the forest area
would have burned,

I might have said maximum five percent.

But to see 21% burned,

it’s-it’s like we’ve...
we’ve crossed a threshold.

We’ve entered a new era.

Those fires burnt ten times more
than had ever burnt before.

And the impact was beyond comprehension.

You-you drive for hundreds of kilometers

in New South Wales,

and all you see is blackened earth.

Three billion animals were killed.

You pick him up, and I’ll...

All right.

We’ll get going in a second.

- Yeah.
- Okay.

We saw places burning
that have never burned before.

Forests millions of years old
that dinosaurs used to walk through

that had always been
too wet and cold to burn...


Usually in a fire,
you get blackness and grayness.

But the trees burned so hot
that when that fire had passed

it looked like snow had fallen,

because the ash was snow white.

And that’s what it was like.

It was kind of almost like walking out

into the apocalypse or something.

Like, everyone just was a bit dazed.

The first thing that we saw was just
all the houses around town, just gone.

So I just started photographing.

You know, by January,

there were people going about
their holidays having to be rescued

by the Australian Army, the Navy.

Unbelievable scenes
for a country like this.

You know,
I’ve seen people who’ve lost houses.

We’ve all seen them on television
being interviewed and stuff like that.

But until it happens,
I don’t think you’ve got any idea

what it’s actually like.

And it’s... and it’s layer
upon layer upon layer of...

of dealing with it.

It’s-it’s not, you know,
there’s the initial shock

and-and, you know, um, despair
that you’ve lost everything you own.

I mean, I have no photos.

I have nothing of my mother’s,
my father’s, my grandparents’, nothing.

It’s just... it’s like a whole part of
my life has just been wiped away.

Former New South Wales
Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins

is demanding action
to prevent future catastrophes.

We have to talk about climate change

because our bushfire situation
in Australia has changed forever.

What the ex-fire chief
is saying is patently absurd.

They said that I shouldn’t
have been talking about climate change

when people were suffering in the fires.

This is what it’s come to.

Hysteria and, uh,
completely fact-free ranting

can see you elevated
to some heroic status.

I don’t care.

I’m actually in this business,

and I know that when people suffer loss

they want to know why immediately.

They want to know what the hell happened.

I don’t want to look at it right now.

...they’re all from
the original businesses in Cobargo.

Brian Ayliffe from just over the road,

lived there for 48 years.

That was a family business. They’re gone.

We heard a rumor that there was

multiple cars getting around town.

Why is there four, like,

SUVs all blacked out getting around town?

It’s gonna be someone of some degree
that needs security.

So we all went,
"Oh, you know, the prime minister’s here."

It wasn’t a leader saying,

"This has been an emergency.
What do we need to do?"

He got out,
and he started taking selfies with people.

Got a smile.

Looking in this direction.

Good on ya. Thank you very much.

- Thank you.
- Good on ya.

He just went, "How are you?

"All right, you’re not good. Next person.

"Oh, how are you? Oh, you’re not good.
Next person."

That boiled my blood.
I’m not going to lie.

I... My house was in rubble,

and here he is taking selfies
with people, smiling.

I thought that was
extremely inconsiderate.

And he come up to me
and asked, "How are you?"

And I-I just saw red.

Hello. How are you?

I’m only shaking your hand
if you give more funding to RFS.

So many people here have lost their homes.

Yeah, I understand, all right?
I understand.

We need some beds.
We don’t have enough beds here.

-We need more help.
-Shh, shh, we understand that.

It’s okay. It’s okay.

How come we only had four trucks

to defend our town, Mr. Prime Minister?

Fuck, you’re an idiot, mate.
You really are.

You won’t be getting
any votes down here, buddy.

- You control the funding.
- You’re an idiot.

What about the people around here?

- No, I’m pissed off!
- What about the people

who are dead now, Mr. Prime Minister?

You’re not welcome, you fuckwit!

Are you from the media?

Tell the prime minister to go
and get from Nelligen.

We really enjoy doing this ,

Thank you very much.

The bushfire crisis
ignites on the streets.

Our country is on fire!

We’ve been telling the politicians

the same message for over ten years,

and they are not listening.

We have a prime minister
in denial about climate change.

This is real.

We will rise! We will rise!

Australians started
coming out on the street

at such short notice
to really demand change.

People were angry,
and people were scared for their lives.

And I think it shows how bloody angry
everyone is here in Australia.

An estimated 20,000
demand action on climate policy.

It was people taking a stand.

People who hadn’t really listed climate
among their priorities.

I’ll set Australia’s policies
consistent with what I believe

and my government believes
is in Australia’s national interests.

But hasn’t... Sorry to interrupt,

but hasn’t that changed a bit?

Look, I’m-I’m someone who...
who was probably on board

with what you took to the... to the polls
wh-when you went.

I think now, though, that I’m part
of a growing groundswell of support who...

people think that more needs to be done,
that now is the time for action.

It’s not a time to sit around
and keep-keep chatting

and saying that we’ll
discuss this down the track.

When this big realization

started to come through
that we couldn’t just put

greenhouse gas emissions
into the atmosphere for nothing,

this was a big shock.

Key National Party
figures have hit out at a push

for the Morrison government to promise
zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Why not be aspirational?

Why not have a bold target?

But I think just as people thought

that we might finally
have a serious debate

about climate change policy
in this country, COVID hit.

I watched in sore amazement

as the Morrison government
dealt with the COVID crisis.

There they were listening
to the chief health officer.

In fact, Australia declared a pandemic

12 days before
the World Health Organization did.

Hotel quarantine
for all travelers entering Australia

is now well underway,

as the Army enforces
the strict mandatory isolation.

We had this very severe lockdown

that had enormous economic impact.

The government became
a socialist government overnight,

subsidizing people’s wages and so forth.

The spending in response
to coronavirus has been historic.

Now, they were hard yards
for any government to do,

but to see a right-leaning government
do them amazed me.

And I thought, "Oh, this is great.

We might actually get some action
on climate change as well."

Given the Bushfires,
which scarified everybody.

I mean, we’ve seen government act.

Now we know how it can be done.

We’re getting a snapshot of

our post-coronavirus economy.

And in startling news, the figures rival

the years after World War II.

Australia did a very
interesting thing when people were looking

at the economic recovery.

What is the world going to do
to come out of the COVID recession?

People started talking about
a green COVID recovery.

We can’t go from the COVID frying pan
into the climate fire.

We’re facing the biggest economic
fight-back of our generation,

and for many, the big question is:

Where do we get our energy from?

And where do we find our new jobs?

76,000 jobs in Australia
could have been created

with renewables.

There’s just so much could have been done.

Instead, the prime minister got up

and talked about a gas-led recovery.

Thanks very much.

There is no credible energy
transition plan

for an economy like Australia’s

that does not involve
the greater use of gas.

So, yeah, ladies and gentlemen,

moms and dads, boys and girls,

let’s extract more methane.

Got to get the gas.

We must unlock new sources of supply.

We must get additional gas to market

as efficiently as possible.

I sat there
watching the speech on television,

and I waited for the prime minister

to use the words "climate change."

I appreciate your patience this morning.

I waited for him to explain

how climate change fitted in

to this gas-led recovery.

His speech went on and on and on
right till the end.

He does not use the words

"climate change."

He never mentions
the words "climate change."

We’ve got to get the gas.

He was sending a message:

We are gonna double down
on our bet on fossil fuels.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, uh,

it’s not good enough, is it?

Um, look, it’s-it’s the
standard set of talking points.

I find it... I find it
laughable when politicians...

sorry, Darren, no offense...
uh, say that they’re not

into long-term planning,
they don’t know how to do that.

That’s-that’s the job.

We’re trying to plan what the nation’s

gonna do in the next ten, 20 and 30 years.

I think we-we need to sort of
raise a conversation, right?

We need to have a broader vision
for Australia.

I think we could be
a renewable energy superpower.

It’s news that came in from the sidelines

of the UN Climate Summit in New York.

The Australian tech billionaire
Mike Cannon-Brookes confirming

he’ll be investing in
the world’s biggest solar farm.

Australia has a DNA of exporting energy.

That’s the way we should tell the story.

Why do we export energy?

We have a lot of resources.

So, instead of digging them
out of the ground,

what if we got them out of the sky?

We have a land mass
larger than the continental United States.

We’re the sunniest country
outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

You could power the entire planet
five times over just from Australia.

You’re pretty hooked into global markets.

- Yep.
- Um, where is coal going,

from your perspective?

Um, oh, it’s going away.

Quite simply, look, I mean...

I don’t care what you think
about the climate.

We will need to pivot

from exporting coal and gas
to exporting renewable energy,

because the rest of the planet
will start figuring this out.

And as it does,
we are left exporting things

that no one else needs.

We can see that coming,

but we haven’t gotten
that storytelling through

when it comes to the myth
that Australia needs fossil fuels.

That is challenging
to our national psyche.

In Australia, you cannot talk

about electricity generation

and ignore coal.

Coal will continue to play
an important role

in our economy for decades to come.

That means jobs.

We’re sort of seeing these communities

staring down the barrel of a gun.

Politicians on both sides of parliament
say that they’re standing up

for these communities,
but I would question that,

because I think that they’re lying
to these communities.

My grandfather was a coal mining engineer.

He came to Australia in the ’70s
with his then wife.

Dramatic divorce.

In the ’80s, he was made redundant,

and so, all of a sudden,
he was left without a job.

Something that his, you know,
family had been working in

for a couple of generations.

Something that had been
an integral part of his identity.

Like, we were really close,
and he used to tell these stories

about his time down in the mines

and about his friends,
about what it meant to him.

I’ve had the fortune to learn
about these experiences,

to learn about having this economic
dependence on this industry

and as a town having
that dependence on that industry.

I really want to see a pathway

for these communities out of fossil fuels.

Being proud
of that industry is not a problem.

Mining is not a bad thing.

We need mining in Australia.

If you want to build batteries and panels
and wind turbines, guess what you need:

steel, gold, copper, nickel,

rare earths, lithium, obviously silver.

We have a lot of all of those
in Australia.

So that’s why we try to tell the story
and say,

look, it’s about energy
that we’ve been exporting.

We can continue to do that.

But we need to prove
that we can export renewable energy

in a massive way in large quantities.

If you think about exporting sun and wind,
it’s a little difficult, right?

We’re not gonna put up a giant mirror
and send it somewhere else.

We’re not gonna, like, turn the wind

and blow it somehow other ways
that they catch it on the other side.

So we need to figure out how to do this.

This is a problem
that Australia needs to solve.

The best part about this project...

it’s about 22 billion
Australian dollars, roughly...

is it’s possible.

Australian tech billionaire
Mike Cannon-Brookes

has announced plans to create
the world’s biggest solar farm...

And it’s aiming to generate power

and transmit that over to Singapore.

We’re dealing with
a vast amount of power here

that needs to move over a vast distance...

3,500 kilometers...

through some pretty hairy waters.

So, in between the world’s largest
solar farm and the world’s longest

undersea high-voltage DC cable,

we also need to build
the world’s largest battery.

If this works... which it will...

there will be 50 cables
from Australia to Asia

exporting massive amounts of energy.

We’ve got one of the best resources
to go to for the future of the planet

without changing our DNA.

It’s the entire planet
that is being challenged here.

It is the existential crisis
for the human race.

Climate change is affecting
the Australian economy.

It’s affecting businesses.
It’s affecting individuals.

I think it’s not an issue that business
should have its head in the sand on,

and that means they should be speaking out
in a government vacuum.

I think there is no doubt that
we are at a turning point in Australia

when it comes to climate change.

Some Australian companies
are powering forward

with a massive energy transition.

But what people don’t really understand
is the absolute urgency of this.

Today, average global temperatures

are about 1.1 degree above
what’s called the pre-industrial average.

So, where they were
200 years ago, basically.

Australia, however,

because it’s so sensitive
to climate change,

is already at almost
1.5 degrees of warming.

We knew that we would start feeling
the impacts before anyone else.

We are facing a new and terrifying future
in Australia, in terms of Bushfires.

We might expect Black Summer conditions
once every 400 years in the past.

From now on,
we can expect it once every eight years.

Our climate has changed forever.

I’ll never see it go back
to what it was when I was a kid.

We’re getting weather now
that no human being

has ever seen on this continent.

In 2019, there was one fire
near the Victorian border

where a Pyro-convective storm
picked up an eight-ton fire truck,

dropped it on its roof
and a young firefighter lost...

Yeah, he was killed, so...

Sorry, it’s-it’s tough for firefighters
to think of other firefighters, you know,

losing their lives in the line of duty,
and nine did in the last fires.

I’ve been around the world.

I’ve studied Bushfires
and how we deal with things.

We can’t deal with
the worst years anymore.

We’re having fires
in places like Greenland,

the Arctic Circle,

where they never used to happen before.

And I look at California.

Twice as much area burnt
as their worst ever fire season.

Oregon was on fire.

Washington state.

The whole West Coast.

There’s something wrong.

There’s something really wrong.

Climate change scares the shit out of me.

We can’t stop a lot of the global warming

that’s built into the system now.

There’s a certain amount of change
that’s inevitable,

and it-it’s extremely important
that people understand that

and understand what the impacts of that
really mean on their lives.

We are so close now
to some of the tipping points

that I wrote about
when I wrote The Weather Makers

all those years ago, committing the world

to 1.5 degrees of warming by about 2030.

What does 1.5 degrees Celsius look like?

1.5 degrees is a world where

we will have significant impacts
from heat waves,

megafires and all of the other things.

But where the Greenland ice cap
is melting relatively slowly

and we’re getting sea level rise happening
but at a... at a lower level.

So it’s not a great world.

The world we left behind
at one degree of warming

or less than one degree was a lot better.

But two degrees, by comparison, is hell.

So, um, we-we need to make sure
we hit that 1.5 degree.

What does a two-degree world look like?

A two-degree world
is a world of catastrophe.

It’s a world where
the Greenland ice cap’s melting rapidly,

where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
is decaying

and therefore sea level is rising rapidly.

It’s a world where
the Amazon rain forest is dying

and turning into a savanna or a woodland.

Where the permafrost
is melting away so rapidly

that massive amounts of methane
are being put into the atmosphere.

And then no matter what we do,

the temperature’s just
gonna keep on spiraling.

It’s a world of massive disruption.

Our economy, our food security,
our water security,

our peace will be threatened
by unprecedented change.

So, what should we do?

Sure, put some solar panels on your roof

and cut your emissions...
that is fantastic...

but never let the fossil fuel industry

or anyone else tell you
that that’s enough.

Right? It’s not my problem
as an individual.

It’s a collective problem we have,
and we need to act collectively

to find a solution.

And we’re not seeing that.

We’ve got states operating separately,
companies operating separately,

and we can’t guarantee
what the outcome will be.

This is a moment that needs leadership.

It really does.

We can all act and do our part,
but without government leadership,

it’s just not going to be done.

The prime minister
is feeling the heat on climate change

ahead of a UN summit of world leaders.

The pressure is growing on Scott Morrison

to commit to a target
of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Will you commit Australia to achieving

a net-zero emissions target by 2050?

Well, as you know,
our policy is to achieve that

in the second half of-of this century.

Well, as-as I outlined,

we’re seeking to get to net-zero.

Um, we’d preferably would like
to see that happen

by 2050, as I’ve said.

It could happen sooner
with significant technological change.

But I’ll tell you,
if there isn’t the technological change,

then it’s just a bit of paper.

It’s like this government
just doesn’t care.

I don’t get it,
because that’s what motivates me

is thinking of the future.

I worked in public service for many years.

You make a lot of sacrifices,
and you don’t get rich.

So it’s a bit of a calling,

and it’s about the greater good.

My career was fixing up
other people’s problems.

...could be seen from
about 50 kilometers away.

Uh, the-the flames were
15, 20 meters into the air.

When it all turns to shit,

they call the fire brigade,

and we turn up and we make things better.

I remember turning up
to a blazing warehouse one night

with an old, experienced station officer.

I was a pretty young firefighter.

I said, "What do we do?" And he said,

"How do you eat an elephant, son?

"You start with the first bite.

Just start. We’ll work it out as we go."

So that’s my mindset, and that’s what
we’ve got to do with climate change.

So we just don’t wait
for the climate denialists.

If they don’t get it, they don’t get it,
and they probably never will.

We’ve got a world to save,
and we’re going to do it.

We’ve got 20 to 30 years of warming,

and as long as we reduce emissions

to zero by 2050, the scientists are saying

the warming will stabilize
and then gradually start to come down.

I won’t see it, but my grandkids will,
and I want to keep them safe.

It is not okay!

These people and companies are literally

burning our futures.

The climate crisis impacts everyone.

The one comment
I got more than any other

"Oh, you give me hope."

Or: "Your generation is gonna save us."

I thought, "Great. Thanks."

We shouldn’t have to be doing this.

Like, as kids, we’re not equipped
to deal with these, you know, scenarios.

We should just be focusing
on freaking out about school,

our next assignment,
our next identity crisis,

and here we are trying to save the world.

Are you mad at us?


I’m not angry at the older generations.

I’m angry at people in power
who spread deliberate lies,

you know, deliberate misinformation

to deter people
from demanding what’s right.

I’m angry at people
who have incredible wealth

and decades of knowledge
about this brewing crisis

and decided not only to not do anything

but to exploit it
for their own self-interests and gain.

I foresee it being

the largest obstacle my generation faces,

in terms of having a safe future

and being able to have our own kids.

Like, that’s something I’m wary of,
is having my own kids, um,

because I don’t want
to bring them into a world

that’s going to be unsafe, um,
and that isn’t gonna provide them

with as good a quality of a future

as I have had the fortune to have.

-Three, two, one.

’Cause people look at it
as an incredible thing...

of young people exercising their power,

exercising their voices.

- What do we want?
- Climate action!

-When do we want it?

-What do we want?
-Climate action!

-When do we want it?

-What do we want?
-Climate action!

-When do we want it?

But I joined out of,

like, a feeling of necessity
rather than want.

And I think it is the most tragic thing

I’ve ever had the misfortune
to have to be a part of.

My mother taught me about Country.

We identify as Aboriginal
because of this, this and that.

This family, that family, that family.

It’s pretty obvious that the vast majority

of my genes are from Cornwall.

Um, but... and I’ve been to Cornwall,

but my heart didn’t flutter.

I came back to Australia, and...

this is what I know in my blood.

And all the time, I was writing.

I’ve written 33 books about the Country.

The Earth is the mother
of all Aboriginal people.

And we treat the Earth like our mother.

That’s our law.

And if we all respected the Earth
to that degree,

then we wouldn’t be damaging it
as greatly as we are at the moment.

I think we’ve been building toward this
for 250 years.

Europeans had so little respect
for Aboriginal people.

When the first Europeans came here,

they found a sweet and open land.

It was pleasant.

They said it looks
like a gentlemen’s park.

And it was a gentlemen’s park,

because the people here
were gentle men and women.

But Europeans then stopped the method
that had made it like that.

Indigenous Australians managed this land

for 40,000 years at least.

And it was carefully curated.

And then the Europeans came along.

We took the fire stick out of the hand
of Aboriginal people,

and we changed the landscape dramatically.

Now we are facing consequences
in terms of these huge Bushfires

that result from climate change,

and we have to recognize
that the land has really changed.

And that the old practices may not be
entirely effective in the new regime.

And we need to learn together again

really how to manage this land
at that very large scale.

This is the critical moment for humanity.

Right? I’m not going to let
my children’s future

be flushed down the toilet for inaction.

And whatever I feel internally,

it’s gonna stay there because,
well, I’m-I’m gonna fight to the last.

There’s-there’s no moment
where you can say you’ve done enough.

This is a long conversation.

We’re gonna hurt each other,
and we’re gonna bruise each other,

and we have to wear it.

There’s gonna be disappointment.

There’s gonna be hope.

All of that’s gonna happen,
and we have to stay patient.

This argument is such a big argument.

But I’ve seen really important things done

in circumstances
where nobody expected it to be done.

So of course we can do it.