Australia to face increasingly frequent & intense bushfires – Climate Council

Intro

With temperature records falling with alarming regularity and an early, intense start to bushfire season in New South Wales, it is increasingly clear that climate change has arrived in Australia, and a new report from the Climate Council warns this is just the beginning. Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat draws together the latest science and submissions to recent Royal Commissions into bushfires and their impacts.  It shows that the hot, dry conditions that have a major influence on bushfires are becoming more regular and more pronounced in Australia as the global climate changes. This is driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather, and extending the fire season – increasing not only the chance of risky fire conditions, but also diminishing the ability of authorities to make safety preparations, such as hazard reduction burning. It has been noted that Australia is underprepared for the impacts of climate change and, given a warming world will make preparations for extreme conditions even more difficult, it seems logical that a firefighting Prime Minister would take climate action seriously. Unfortunately, despite the science of climate change being clearer than ever, loud warnings from firefighters, independent advice, and report after report detailing the dire environmental, social and economic consequences of inaction, the Australian government is doing everything it can to roll back climate action and derail international progress,   condemning future generations to a new normal of extreme fire and weather conditions.

Tweet

MT @takvera: As Australia sets new temp records, the @ClimateCouncil releases report on #bushfire & #climate change http://t.co/3kXoQ0D3D2

Key Points

  • Bushfires have long been part of the Australian landscape and experience, but an increasingly warmer world is bringing with it increasingly intense and frequent bushfires, putting Australia at the forefront of climate impacts. The Climate Council warns that hot, dry conditions have a major influence on bushfires, and climate change is already making hot days hotter, and heatwaves longer and more frequent in Australia, driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather. Since 2009, the number of declarations of Catastrophic conditions around southern Australia has been in step with the hotter and drier climate, and in coming decades the number of days with extreme fire danger is expected to increase substantially, as is fire frequency and intensity.
  • Australia is unprepared for climate change and, as climate impacts become more pronounced, being prepared – particularly when it comes to bushfires – will become increasingly difficult and expensive. One estimate of the future economic costs of bushfires indicates that with no adaptive change, the agricultural industry in Victoria could suffer increased damage costs of $1.4 billion by 2050 according to the Climate Council report. By 2030 the number of professional firefighters will need to approximately double compared to 2010. Climate change is projected to cost the world economy $60 trillion. Extreme weather events cost the Australian economy $8.8 billion in the three years to March 2013, and is expected to intensify in the future.
  • Australia needs an emissions reduction target of at least 15 to 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 if it is to do its part to keep the world under the internationally agreed red line of 2DegC of average global warming. Right now, analysts say the Government’s policy plan would increase instead of reduce emissions. This is the Critical Decade: Australia must strive to cut emissions rapidly and deeply to join global efforts to stabilise the world’s climate and to reduce the risk of even more extreme events, including bushfire­­­s.

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Key quotes

  • “Australians have always had to live with bushfires – but climate change is driving that fire danger even higher. And we’re not talking about a distant threat to future generations. According to real observations from around the country we can see that in Australia today, hot days are getting hotter, and heatwaves longer and more frequent.” Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and Climate Councilor, Lesley Hughes.
  • “People lose their lives in Australia due to fires, and property and infrastructure is also damaged. We must understand the risks of a changing climate to protect ourselves into the future. Extreme fire weather has already increased over the last 30 years, across the southeast of Australia where some of Australia’s largest population centers are located. This is reducing opportunities for hazard reduction burning meaning that there’s less chance to safely reduce the fuel.” Chief Councilor, Professor Tim Flannery.
  • “On a subject as complex as climate change, I would have thought every government – whatever its complexion – would want to get good, independent advice,” he said. ”I find it a bit frustrating this opportunity … seems to be foreclosing a bit with the present government. It think that’s a disappointment.” Former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser.

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More tweets

  • MT @climatecouncil: Climate change already driving up the risk of fire danger weather http://bit.ly/1cdBUox #climate #bushfires
  • MT @climatecouncil: Increased damage to agricultural industry from bushfires in Vic could cost extra $1.4 billion http://bit.ly/1cdBUox
  • RT @JoshBBornstein: The hottest year on record in Oz? I dedicate this tweet to David Murray. #auspol #Climate http://t.co/2GiDeatnWf