News from the United Nations about the shortfall in national emission pledges—that there is ‘no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place’—is echoing across the world. The incoming chair of the next climate meeting (COP27), Sameh Shoukry, has cautioned current geo-politics may cause even further slippage. The situation could not be more grave. While the world prepares to focus on negotiating pledges and loss and damage, these slow reactions are still nowhere close to the needed transformation for over three billion people already teetering on the cliff edge of losing everything because of climate change.

Climate-driven wildfires destroyed my farm, my home, and more than 211,500 hectares (816 miles2) of our landscape, inside the continent-wide Australian Black Summer 2019/20 wildfires that devoured 19,000,000 hectares (73,359 miles2). On the morning of January 4, 2020, with little more than our cars and our phones, we stood with ash on our faces and smoke in our hair, and a deep knowledge-scar of the clear line between the wildfire and our changing climate.

In the weeks that followed, we learned that our government had no plan or road map to lift devastated communities from the disaster. Our once strong community shattered like exploding glass under thermal shock. With pain and empathy we then watched the tragedy of government neglect, before and after climate disasters, play out again and again as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Australia have flooded, wildfires have scorched dozens of countries, and extreme heat waves have blanketed large parts of the planet. As someone who has experienced a disaster, being rescued is important, but we expected to be protected by government adaptation. Government negligence of this is galling.

This is not without warning. A year ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change was already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways, and that the scale of change was escalating—increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons, shorter cold seasons, and more violent, dangerous storms. Chillingly, the critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and human health will soon be crossed. In the near future over three billion people’s lives will crash because of climate change. In the current, ill-prepared world, farming is at risk, and many food-producing regions won’t make it. Entire communities are vanishing, like Tebunginako in Kiribati. Some communities are lost to the ghettos of the city because insurance payouts are too small or denied, government decisions are too slow or fail entirely. People’s health is collapsing from wildfire smoke inhalation, toxic sewage-laden mud, or the debilitating trauma of PTSD. Survivors wake in the aftermath of the flood or fire to reality that nothing is being done to adapt for future protection. People are now 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather than in years past. Entire communities are vanishing, and biodiversity is being decimated. It is raw neglect that governments have not prepared. Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the context of climate change has called it ‘an intolerable tide of people’ harmed by climate change.

Inger Andersen, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, has rightly said, ‘Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster’.

An urgent radical discussion must start within communities about how to survive the next colossal disaster that threatens their wildlands, their crops, their homes; that risks transport and communications, or stops their income. Communities need to take their future into their own hands, too audit their risk, to assess their strengths, and to plan, within or beyond the law, for survival. Every community has its own risk and its own path. What my community has learned—an experience echoed in the disasters across the world—is governments are not prepared to mitigate disaster. We realise now only communities can rationally, and radically, plan for survival.

Governments have broken the contract. Communities must step deliberately into the radically local space and consciously adapt to facing a world with more apocalyptic wildfires, killer heat domes, catastrophic rain bombs, lethal floods and mudslides, deadly droughts, and violent sandstorms.

The time for pretty words, hollow targets, and the drip feed comfort of climate hopium is over. We must adapt to survive and save what we can before it is too late.

About the Author

Margi Prideaux has lived and breathed wildlife and international politics and law almost every day for the past 33 years. As an author, international negotiator and independent academic with a PhD in wildlife policy and law, having tuned her words to inform policy audiences in over 20 different international conservation processes. After losing her home, farm, and wildlife sanctuary to the unprecedented and climate-driven Australian Black Summer wildfires, she now advocates for communities (human and non-human) impacted by climate chaos. Her latest book is FIRE: A Message from the Edge of Climate Catastrophe. Find her on social media through