There are not many political messages that can slip through a closed window or a locked door, but that’s just what happened last week in Australia’s biggest city.

Climate change didn’t just come knocking; it slithered in under every crack, filling houses and offices across Sydney with the acrid smell of burning forests.

The Sydney Opera House, whose white-tiled sails normally sparkle in the sunlight, was seen through a haze of smoke. Asthmatics were advised against exercising. Schoolchildren were kept in their classrooms, away from the smoke-filled playground.

And politicians, especially from the ruling conservative coalition, issued instructions that it was inappropriate to discuss climate change while the fires were actively being fought.

That instruction fell on deaf ears.

How could climate change not be discussed? Australia has a history of terrible bushfires, but many on the front line of the blazes used the same phrase: “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

Not this early in the season. And not over such a geographical spread. On one day, late last week, there were out-of-control fires in all six Australian states.

The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, went furthest in trying to shut down the wider discussion, attacking the “inner-city, raving lunatics” who were obsessed with climate change. People on the front line, he said, “don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time, when they’re trying to save their homes.”

Read more: Washington Post