Climate change is increasing the risk of bushfires in Queensland and communities, emergency services and the health sector must prepare, a new Climate Council briefing paper has found.
The report was released to coincide with Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes’ address to the Rural Fire Brigades’ Association of Queensland’s general meeting in Brisbane today.
“While damaging bushfires are less common in Queensland than other states in Australia, climate change is now increasing the incidence of extreme heat and making heatwaves longer and more frequent, leading to higher risk,” Professor Hughes said.
“Record breaking heat and hotter weather over the long term in Queensland will worsen fire weather and the impacts of bushfires.”
The report found:
- Above average bushfire risk has been forecast for this season for several areas around Queensland including the coastal east around Bundaberg and Cairns, inland in the Mt Isa region, and in small pockets at the northern tip of the state.
- Climate change is driving an increase in extreme heat in Queensland with seven of the state’s ten hottest years on record having occurred since 1998, which is in turn increasing the likelihood of high fire danger weather.
- Fire risk in Queensland has been increasing substantially in recent decades, with more than 50% of extreme Queensland fire days having occurred since 1990.
- Climate change is likely to drive large declines in rainfall in southeast Queensland in the coming decades, which will lead to higher drought factors (e.g. drier, more ready-to- burn fuels) and an increase in high fire danger days.
Professor Hughes said the increased risk of high fire weather conditions in Queensland is likely to place increased pressure on firefighting services.
During the past decade, state fire agencies have increasingly needed to share suppression
resources domestically during peak demand periods,” she said.
“As climate change increases the severity and frequency of bushfires in Australia, firefighting services will be less able to rely on help from interstate and across the world as fires occur simultaneously. This is a major challenge for Queensland.”
Professor Hughes said stronger action was needed to reduce the bushfire risk in Queensland.
“Australia’s emissions reduction target of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030 is not sufficient to protect Australians from worsening bushfires and extreme weather events,” she said.
“Australia must reduce its emissions rapidly and deeply to join global efforts to stabilise the world’s climate and to reduce the risk of exposure to extreme events, including bushfires.”
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