Burning Issue: Climate change driving earlier, more dangerous fire seasons

21.08.18 By

WORSENING CLIMATE CHANGE is driving earlier and more dangerous bushfire seasons, with the Rural Fire Service declaring the earliest fire danger period on record across a series of local government areas in New South Wales.

Climate Councillor and ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes said the legislated Bushfire Danger Period traditionally commenced from October 1 in New South Wales, but 14 council areas had already declared the season underway due to conditions.

“Climate change is driving Australia’s escalating bushfire threat, creating longer and more dangerous bushfire seasons,” she said.

“Intensifying climate change, caused by rising greenhouse gas pollution levels, is exacerbating extreme weather events across Australia, leading to increasingly hot and dry conditions.

“Dozens of blazes burned across Queensland over the weekend, along with fires placing homes under threat across parts of regional New South Wales.”

Professor Hughes said that Australia needs to take significant action to slash its rising greenhouse gas pollution levels to contribute our share of the global effort to stabilise the climate.

“If greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels continues to rise, we will experience an increasing number of dangerous fire weather days, placing fire services and medical professionals under pressure, and communities at risk,” she said.

Climate Councillor and internationally recognised bushfire and natural disaster expert Greg Mullins said that August 15 had seen the earliest declaration of a Total Fire Ban in New South Wales’ history, with homes lost in two of the dozens of fires burning across the state. Conditions have also been bad for Queensland and Northern Territory firefighters.

“New South Wales has had very little respite after a huge fire threatened homes in Sydney just last April,” he said.

“Over almost 50 years as a fire officer, I’ve seen firsthand how the changing climate is driving more intense and severe fire seasons, storms and floods. As we’ve seen last week, fire seasons are commencing earlier than ever before and lasting far longer.”

Mullins said periods of Severe, Extreme and even Catastrophic bushfire weather have been increasing in Southeast Australia over the past 40 years due to worsening climate change, which unfortunately has increased the odds of dangerous fires, including the events we have seen across regional New South Wales.

“This is a recognised phenomena around the world with sharing of critical assets like large water bombing aircraft restricted as the northern hemisphere tries to deal with unprecedented fire conditions in places like Greece, Sweden and California, he said.”

Mullins, a former New South Wales Fire and Rescue Commissioner and head of the peak body for Australian fire and emergency services said very high fire danger warnings had been declared for a number of local government areas across New South Wales last week, along with parts of Queensland. Fire danger reached Severe on 15 August in Sydney and the Illawarra.


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