The heat is on: climate change, extreme heat and bushfires in WA

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4 KEY FINDINGS

1. Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of heatwaves in Western Australia and driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather.

  • Western Australia is experiencing a long-term increase in average temperatures and in 2014 the state recorded its highest ever annual average maximum temperature.
  • The number of heatwave days in Perth has increased by 50% since 1950.
  • Nine of Western Australia’s hottest Januarys on record have occurred in the last 10 years.
  • The number of days per year
    with severe fire danger weather is projected to almost double in south west Western Australia by 2090 if global carbon emissions are not drastically reduced.

2. Recent fires in Western Australia have been influenced by record hot dry conditions.

  • The long-term trend to hotter weather in Western Australia has worsened fire weather and contributed to an increase in the frequency and severity of bushfires.
  • The concept of a normal bushfire season is rapidly changing as bushfires increase in number, burn for longer and affect larger areas of land.
  • By 2030, the number of professional firefighters in WA will need to more than double to meet the increasing risk of bushfires.

3. The economic, social and environmental costs of increased extreme heat and bushfire activity is likely to be immense.

  • In Perth, from 1994-2006, there were over 20 heat attributable deaths per year. If average maximum temperatures were 2°C warmer, this number would almost double to 40 deaths.
  • Some of Western Australia’s most fire-prone regions may become unlivable as the risks to lives and property caused by bushfires continue to increase.
  • Without effective action on climate change, there will be 20 times the number of dangerous days for outdoor workers by 2070, reducing productivity.

4. Tackling climate change is critical to protecting Western Australia’s prosperity.

  • As a nation we must join the global effort to substantially reduce emissions and rapidly move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy if we are to limit the severity of extreme heat and bushfires both in Western Australia and nationally.

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