‘Like hell’: World reacts as Australia burns


Media outlets around the world have reacted as more than 100 blazes burn across NSW and Sydney's sepia-toned sky - the result of harmful smoke pollution - becomes the new norm.

Global publications and angered readers have placed responsibility for the fires on the Australian government and their failure to address the current climate crisis, calling the nation "the indirect architect of its own demise".

Australia "is the largest exporter of thermal and coking coal in the world now, adding massively to global warming through their own expert initiatives," commented one reader, saying that both the federal and state governments are "owned by climate sceptics".

"No filter, no photoshop. And from the Australian PM … no interest," wrote another.

Those who live in the affected areas "can taste the fire and feel it in our throats", and the "fresh air and ocean breezes" in Sydney that have "long been treated as a daily birthright" are no more.

The thick grey smoke that has blanketed the city's skyline and coast for days looks "as if the country were being devoured by a chemical reaction", award-winning novelist Anna Funder described in The New York Times, writing that the failure of the government to acknowledge the current climate crisis "is literally choking our children".

"The planet is on fire", a reader commented.

"If only the climate change deniers would choke on the smoke."

The New York Times said that Sydney was choking as Australia burned.
The New York Times said that Sydney was choking as Australia burned.

The author of the Times piece wrote that the government, in refusing to address the threat of climate change, is "favouring the country's powerful fossil fuel industry over its largest city, as well as the rural areas where fires have already destroyed hundreds of homes".

"The response has been to double down on denialism," director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney, David Schlosberg, told the publication.

Readers of The Guardian have echoed the sentiment, with one responding to footage of the NSW "megafire" with: "Oh look. Scott Morrison's climate policy in glorious technicolour" and another saying, "This looks like hell."

"Here we are in the worst bushfire season we've ever seen, the biggest drought we've ever had, Sydney surrounded by smoke, and we've not head a boo out of a politician addressing climate change," climate scientist Sarah Perkins-Kilpatrick told the British publication.

"They're burying their heads in the sand while the world is literally burning around them and that's the scary thing. It's only going to get worse."

The Guardian's coverage of the bushfire crisis.
The Guardian's coverage of the bushfire crisis.

Asian publications like the Straits Times and South China Morning Post have written extensively about Sydney's poor air quality, drawing comparisons between the city and Shanghai.

"The Australian city of Sydney is world famous for its shimmering harbour and clear blue skies," the Straits Times wrote.

"Not this summer."

The Straits Times has compared Sydney's air quality to Shanghai's.
The Straits Times has compared Sydney's air quality to Shanghai's.

According to health officials, the thick smoke haze has led to a 25 per cent increase in people presenting in emergency departments for asthma and breathing problems.

"Desperately sad," commented one reader.

"The 'lucky country' no more."

America's ABC News shared footage of Sydney's hazy conditions, prompting angry reactions from followers, who demanded that the government take responsibility.

"Have you asked the government, if this is so 'normal' a fire season, why are the poor fireys and emergency services unable to get all the equipment and support they need?" wrote one.

"Because it isn't normal in any sense of the word. Hold the people responsible to account."


The Guardian has reported Australia is 'literally' burning.
The Guardian has reported Australia is 'literally' burning.