Australia– A new long-term forecast of Tasmania’s fire conditions has predicted the state’s fire danger risk would double by the end of the century if carbon emissions continued at current rates.
The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) report showed the state’s fire season would begin a month earlier and cover twice the area if carbon emissions continued at high levels.
Tony Worby from the ACE CRC said the number of fire danger days was also likely to increase by about 10 per cent per decade this century.
“Perhaps most concerningly, areas that are at greatest risk now of bushfires are likely to be the areas of even more increased risk in the future, so those areas a likely to get worse more rapidly,” he said.
The data analyses potential scenarios up until 2100, with an expected increase in fire risk predicted despite the recent Paris climate deal.
Even with the Paris deal added to calculations, Professor Worby said the best possible case scenario was a 1.5 degree Celsius to 2C increase over pre-industrial levels.
“That would certainly limit some of the worst-case scenarios that were identified in this report, but at the same time we know that over the next several decades CO2 emissions will continue to increase,” he said.
“It would certainly be nice to think that, on the back of the deal that was reached in Paris, that we will have a future that moves towards low emissions more quickly than perhaps we otherwise anticipated.”
The report says that the fire danger season could begin up to a month earlier, especially in the Central Highlands and the south east of the state.
“What’s presented in the report is a realistic assessment of the likely risk over the next several decades,” Professor Worby said.
“Beyond the middle of the century, depending on where global emissions go, some of the worst outcomes potentially might not be realised, but I don’t think there’s any doubt at all that that we’re going to see increasing bushfire risk in many parts of Tasmania over the next few decades.”
Firies rethink strategy with changing conditions
ACE CRC climate future leader Nathan Bindoff said the report was a stark reminder of the changing climate.
“Total fire ban days have moved progressively earlier in the fire ban season,” he said.
But he said the changes were not easy to predict.
“What has surprised us actually is that it’s not a uniform increase around the state, by valley, by region.”
Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) community fire safety director Damien Killalea said emergency services would have to respond to the changing conditions including conducting hazard reduction burns earlier in the season.
“What it means is that the window for conducting those burns, particularly in the spring time, is going to be shorter than we’ve had in the past, but that’ll mean the need for more autumn burning,” he said.
“We’re getting much more frequent, very intense fires.
“We had the Dunalley fires in 2013, the Victorian fires in 2009.”