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The nation’s leading academics have been amongst a chorus of Australians declaring a climate emergency and demanding action from the federal government.

It comes as air pollution levels across parts of NSW hit the worst in the world with the large parts of the state ablaze with bushfire.

Climate Council health expert Professor Hilary Bambrick said air quality in parts of Sydney was more than 12 times the threshold deemed “hazardous”.

“These are the health consequences of a changing climate that health professionals have been warning us about. Climate change is supercharging bushfires and that is what we are seeing now with massive, unprecedented fires producing unbreathable air.”

The Board of The University of Sydney Law School voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency in mid-December.

“In passing this motion, the members of Sydney Law School recognise that as legal academics we have a moral duty to stand up, speak out and express our concern, from a justice perspective, for all of the people, ecosystems and species across the world facing an existential threat,” University of Sydney Professor of Climate and Environmental Law Rosemary Lyster said.

NSW was currently experiencing two climate-induced disasters, she said.

“Bushfires that have burnt through 2.7m hectares since the start of the 2019 fire season, causing suffocating and hazardous smoke for weeks on end, while drought cripples more than 98% of the state.”

“This is a crisis for people’s health, for communities and the environment. Our leaders need to acknowledge that this is climate change and do far more to swiftly and urgently lower our greenhouse gas emissions, in order to protect Australians’ health today, and into the future,” Professor Bambrick said.