Climate change shouldn't be a political issue, but a health and safety issue. Photo: Jeff de Pasquale
When I was at school, and we learnt about climate change, it was a dry, scientific subject; all ''four degrees hotter by 2100'' and ''sea level rise of one metre''.
Of course, those numbers were fairly terrifying given what they meant; scary enough that I started campaigning to get Australians to change their light bulbs. Yet climate change was always an abstract, rational thing.
Then I grew up, and was lucky enough to travel around Australia and the world, I started seeing the human face of climate change. People I met from Pacific islands told me how their homelands were disappearing due to rising sea levels.
And of course there were the bushfires. Growing up in Melbourne, I always knew bushfires were distinctly Australian, but they tended to happen on the news rather than in my backyard.
Then on Black Saturday in 2009, shortly after my 18th birthday, a friend lost her home. I also started meeting firefighters who told me that ''mega-fire'' was a word they hadn't used when I was born. These firefighters are not professionals - they are brave local volunteers just trying to protect theirs and their neighbours' homes.
Every summer, friends who live in fire-risk areas tell me of their preparations - wetting towels, filling gutters. These are the mundane rituals that more Australians are getting used to. Rituals that sit strangely next to the horrifying spectacle of a 40-metre wall of fire that threatens homes and lives. We shouldn't have to become accustomed to these tasks. We still have a choice.
After years of being told climate change would lead to more - and worse - bushfires, the real price we pay for our addiction to pollution started to hit home. Now that climate change has that human face, the facts and figures I learnt in high school start to take on a new poignancy.
Since I was born in 1990, the world - and Australia - has experienced the two hottest decades on record. Since I turned seven, we have had all of the 10 hottest years.
Today I am 22 and those predictions are becoming a reality faster than anyone thought. No one is suggesting that some mystical climate change monster is running around starting fires, but when scientists tell us that there will be more fires and droughts, and I hear again about a ''once in a hundred year'' weather event, I become nervous.
How many ''once in a hundred years'' disasters can a 22-year-old mathematically have lived through?
According to the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, by the time I'm 30 we can expect up to a 30 per cent increase in the number of days of dangerous bushfire weather in Sydney than we did when I was 18. On my 40th birthday, my midlife climate crisis, my home town of Melbourne could be experiencing 40 per cent more days over 35 degrees every year.
When I turn 60, the number of dangerous bushfire days in Sydney could have doubled.
Climate change really shouldn't be a political issue. It's not a left versus right, Liberal versus Labor issue. It's a health and safety issue. Tackling our unhealthy reliance on polluting industries is about preventing future fires, much like tackling smoking is about preventing cancer.
For most people, climate change is not an academic exercise. It is under way, and it has real effects on people.
It is obviously going to be the big challenge of my lifetime. Hopefully when I turn 60, I won't be reading a 22-year-old saying the same things I am today.
Linh Do is a community co-ordinator with the Australian Conservation Foundation, and was awarded Australian Geographic's Young Conservationist of the Year on Tuesday night.