Some are still suggesting that there is no direct link between climate change and Australia’s 2019 early bushfire season.
Adam Morton, Nick Evershed and Graham Readfearn did a factcheck at The Guardian. This graph shows that with summer about to begin 2019 was already streets ahead of anything we’ve seen in NSW since 1984:
The 1974 fires were entirely different, produced largely by above average rainfall in the remote outback grassland country in the state’s far west. The 2019 fires follow a record drought. Here’s the
cumulative forest fire danger index (FFDI) for winter (June to August) 2019 compared with all winters since 1950. The FFDI combines measurement of rainfall, evaporation, wind speed, temperature and humidity, and the cumulative FFDI is the sum of daily values over the specified period.
In this ABC RN segment, Mark Howden, Australian National University professor and vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the association with higher temperatures and changed climate is clear from the characteristics of the fire season and its concordance with what is happening world-wide.
David Spratt in Climate emergency (2): The scientific case says:
- Our climate is already too hot, with dangerous heatwaves and bushfires, droughts and crop failures, and coastal flooding becoming more intense and destructive.
As the climate warms towards 1.5°C what is now bad will become worse. He says we should aim for 0–0.5°C for a safe climate.
Remember, Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS said we need near term emissions reductions of 70%, and then drawdowns of atmospheric CO2 in order to reduce temperatures.
Frankly, if we declare a world-wide climate emergency now achieving temperature reduction is likely to take half a century at least, probably a century or more. So we need to think how we will cope along the way. Hugh Riminton in an episode of ABC RN’s The Roundtable spoke to David Bowman, Professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania, John Brockhoff, National Policy Manager for the Planning Institute of Australia, and Liz Campbell, Mayor of Kempsey Shire on this very issue.
Firstly, effort needs to be put into optimising the fire resistance of existing buildings, planning for orderly evacuation of vulnerable areas, possible road congestion, planning for safe areas, tuning up the warning system and so on.
Secondly, thought needs to be given to planning implications and building codes, given the increased risk.
Thirdly, the system of using ageing volunteers in fire-fighting had been stretched to breaking point. Prof Bowman in particular said we needed now to choose whether we would go down the American route to a bigger fire fighting force, more fire-fighting aircraft and effectively declaring war on fires.
If we did, he said, we would spend billions and lose, just like the Americans are losing.
The only rational alternative was pre-emptive hazard reduction including mosaic burning. Here local knowledge and skills are required, also coordination across private land, state forests and national parks. Permits and paperwork are inevitable, because there is liability if things go wrong.
Fire is obviously location-specific, so the implications for local government are huge. However, there is also a clear case for state support, plus national support and leadership. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was right to call for a special COAG meeting to deal with ongoing bushfires and other disasters in a coordinated way.
If we are to professionalise fire prevention and build more resilient communities, dollars will be needed which will stretch state funds. Prof Bowman also counselled that the fire prevention pot should be kept separate from the fire-fighting pot. Otherwise fire fighting will take priority, and as a result we end up losing the war.
Meanwhile, courtesy of Lethal Heating:
- As Smoke From Bushfires Chokes Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Dodges On Climate Change from Time magazine, and
The Time piece is a concise and accurate report of the whole episode.
The SMH piece tells us that our contribution to World War I was just 1.3 per cent of the allied total.
No one country can solve the challenge but each must play its part.
Countries with emissions under 2 per cent of the global total make up around 40 per cent of global emissions. This includes Germany whose leadership on the renewable energy revolution would not have happened had it thought itself irrelevant and balked.
- The fires in all their fury are telling us we must recognise the full seriousness of what is in front of us and step up.
That needs a plan, with policies for coming decades; uncertainty is no guide for the massive investments required for clean, green economic transformation and a defeatist view of our relevance is no compass for Australia to be the agent of our destiny.
Ask the Anzacs.
This image won’t be used to promote tourism:
When looking at our effort the world may well ask the question:
Where the bloody hell are you?