Bob Debus: Natural disasters will get worse if we don't combat climate change

A bright red heart banner attched to the second story of the boarded up Newcastle Permanent buliding in Lismore. Picture: Marina Neil
A bright red heart banner attched to the second story of the boarded up Newcastle Permanent buliding in Lismore. Picture: Marina Neil

Former NSW Minister for Emergency Services Bob Debus, says the best natural disaster response is climate action.

Speaking after the flood events in northern NSW Bob says emergency services are not prepared to deal with intensifying disasters.

"We have to get better at dealing with these terrible events. We have to get better at mitigating them. And we have to get better at fixing things up after they've occurred," he says.

"But at another level, we have to start to attack climate change in a really dramatic fashion."

Climate scientists say if fossil fuel emissions aren't reduced soon and the planet continues to warm we'll see more ferocious and frequent climate disasters.

In Australia this means more droughts, heatwaves, floods and fires.

Bob Debus served as Minister from 1999 to 2005 and says since then disasters have already intensified.

"The point really is that these events are getting more intense and more frequent. We know that's the case, then it's not unpredictable, it is happening. And we are not properly prepared for that."

"We've known it for 20 years, and in Australia we've done really shockingly little about it."

Australia's emergency services are world leading, Bob says, even though it's largely volunteer based. But says as disasters get worse their job becomes much harder.

"I think that we don't have nearly enough resources invested in mitigating disaster before it occurs, almost all our resources spent on recovery after the event."

"We've got to innovate because the circumstances that we're dealing with have changed."

But the real problem Bob says, is that we're not doing enough to combat climate change.

"We have to address climate change. If we don't, all this sort of stuff is going to get worse and it's going to get increasingly difficult to deal with."

Bob Debus appears in our Disaster Country podcast series about how we live with intensifying climate disasters.

This story The best emergency response is climate action first appeared on The Canberra Times.