- Title: Bushfire smoke has a chokehold on Australia's clean, green reputation
- Date: 19th December 2019
- Summary: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (DECEMBER 19, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SYDNEY HARBOUR COVERED IN FOG (SOUNDBITE) (English) 14-YEAR-OLD PROTEST ORGANISER, AMBROSE HAYES, SAYING: "We want to be listened to. We want a future. And if our government doesn't act, there will be more protests like this. There have been so many recently and this just shows how much of an issue this is." PROTESTERS HOLDING SIGNS AND LISTENING TO SPEECHES PROTESTER WEARING FACE MASK VARIOUS OF PEOPLE HOLDING PLACARDS (SOUNDBITE) (English) CONCERNED CITIZEN, LISA MUMFORD, SAYING: "The reality of climate change is upon us. Droughts are getting longer and more severe. Heatwaves are becoming longer and more severe. Our bushfire season is creeping into spring and winter. We are living in a dangerous climate and it is time for our Prime Minister to get out of pockets of the coal and gas lobby groups and to start thinking about the future of Australians. Australian families are worried about climate change. We're worried about the climate change of the future but we are worried about the climate change of the present. PROTESTERS HOLDING SIGNS WOMAN WEARING A FACE MASK (SOUNDBITE) (English) GENERAL PRACTITIONER DR KIM LOO SAYING: "It actually breaks my heart because I've been working for 30 years and some of my patients I've seen for 25 years. It breaks my heart when I see my patients because they're like my family and when I see that they're being punished by the smoke and heat and I have felt powerless but I've got to government for the last five years, state and federal, and it looks as though we have no health policies to deal with climate change federally."
- Embargoed: 2nd January 2020 08:25
- Keywords: Australia Sydney air quality bushfires climate protest pollution smoke smoke haze
- Location: SOUTHWEST SYDNEY REGION/ SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
- City: SOUTHWEST SYDNEY REGION/ SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
- Country: Australia
- Topics: Environment,Climate Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA002BAN3H3B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Plumes of thick smoke billowed from bushfires on Sydney's outskirts as a second state of emergency is declared in as many months on Thursday (December 19) as extreme heat and strong winds stoked more than 100 bushfires, including three major blazes on the city's doorstep.
In the same week, the continent recorded its hottest day on record, thick smoke blanketed the harbour city, shrouded the Opera House and brought many outdoor activities to a halt.
"We want to be listened to. We want a future. And if our government doesn't act, there will be more protests like this. There have been so many recently and this just shows how much of an issue this is,"14-year-old Ambrose Hayes told a group of protesters on Thursday who gathered outside Prime Minister Scott Morrison's residence.
Hundreds of protesters assembled outside the prime ministers Sydney residence, demanding he returns from an overseas holiday to take action as fires continue to burn across the country. Students, parents, and health professionals, many wearing masks to help protect themselves from smoke, condemned Morrison's trip out of the country.
By late afternoon on Thursday, Sydney was sitting at No.4 on the IQAirVisual live rankings of pollution in global cities, above Dhaka, Mumbai, Shanghai and Jakarta.
"This is definitely as bad as I've ever seen it in Sydney so yes, it was fairly shocking, especially considering how sustained it was over a period of days. When air pollution is short, it's easy to tell people, give people advice about how to avoid it, stay indoors, avoid physical activity. But when it's sustained over a number of days or weeks, then the messaging becomes more complicated and the evidence is not as strong as to what we actually do about it, especially for a population as big as Sydney," Lecturer, University of Sydney school of public health, centre for air pollution, energy and health research, Edward Jegasothy.
The smoke haze from the bushfires is largely made up of small particles suspend in the air as wood combusts. Jegasothy explained that particles can also differ in size, but the smaller the particles are, the further into the respiratory system they can go, lodging in the lungs or back of throat. However, extremely small particles can be absorbed into the blood stream causing inflammation and systemic effects. So even days when the smoke haze is not thick, there can still be health concerns.
The NSW state of emergency gives firefighters broad powers to control government resources, force evacuations, close roads and shut down utilities across New South Wales state, where 100 wildfires are burning.
The current state of emergency will last for seven days, while a total fire ban that has been in place since Tuesday will remain until midnight on Saturday (December 21). The heightened fire danger in NSW state comes as Australia is in the grip of a nationwide heat wave. The country recorded its highest average maximum temperature of 40.9C (105.6F) on Tuesday (December 17), and Bureau of Meteorology data shows that record was likely to be exceeded again this week.
(Production: Jill Gralow, Cordelia Hsu)
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