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More frequent bushfires? Fears are being realised, says emergency council

Tony Abbott, Australia

Tony Abbott believes the link between climate change and bushfires is ‘complete hogwash’. Photograph: REX/Kym Smith/Newspix


Powered by article titled “More frequent bushfires? Fears are being realised, says emergency council” was written by Lenore Taylor political editor, for on Friday 25th October 2013 07.41 UTC

Predictions that climate change would lead to a greater frequency of bushfires and a higher average intensity of bushfires are being realised, according to the peak government and private sector body for fire and land management and emergency service authorities in Australia and New Zealand.

The statement runs counter to the view of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, who insists any link between climate change and bushfires is “complete hogwash”.

In a submission to a 2013 Senate committee inquiry into recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) referred to a 2009 paper it had published reviewing all available scientific evidence on climate change.

It found that scientists were predicting greater frequency of bushfires and higher average intensity of bushfires, among other things.

“In the period of just over three years since September 2009, Australasian fire and emergency services have been involved in responding to the realisation of that prediction, with a number of emergencies and disasters linked to extreme weather events. Examples include, bushfires in Western Australia, notably at Toodyay, Roleystone/Kelmscott and Margaret River, occurring in the context of prolonged dry and warm weather … and the Tasmanian and New South Wales bushfires in early 2013, which were associated with record high average maximum temperatures in Australia,” AFAC says in its submission.

“AFAC is not in a position to say with any certainty that there is a causal link between any one of these events and climate change, and we would defer to the opinions of experts in the field in that regard. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of events of this kind are what was anticipated in our climate change position.”

In fact the Senate committee, chaired by Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham, received evidence from many organisations that the projected increases in hot days and in consecutive dry days and droughts would lead to more days with extreme fire danger.

The Australian Academy of Science told it that “there is a clear observed association between extreme heat and catastrophic bushfires”, the Bureau of Meteorology said “projected rising temperatures and likely decreases in winter and spring rainfall across southern Australia … will also contribute to an increased bushfire threat” and the CSIRO said it was projecting “that warmer and drier conditions are expected in future over southern and eastern Australia, and that consequently, an increase in fire weather risk is likely, with more days of extreme risk and a longer fire season”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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