Tony Abbott says UN climate head is ‘talking through her hat’ about fires

Tony Abbott says UN climate head is ‘talking through her hat’ about fires

23 October 2013

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Australia — Tony Abbott has accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat” for suggesting there was a link between global warming and bushfires.

The head of a United Nations committee on climate change told CNN this week global warming was “absolutely” linked to wildfires and heatwaves.

“Yes there is, absolutely,” Figueres said when asked whether there is a link between climate change and wildfires. “The World Meteorological Organisation has not established a direct link between this wildfire and climate change – yet. But what is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”

But asked about the remarks on on radio 3AW on Wednesday, Abbott said: “The official in question is talking through her hat.”

Abbott said Australia had suffered “terrible fires” throughout its history.

“Fire is part of the Australian experience … it has been since humans were on this continent,” he said.

“Climate change is real … but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they are just a function of life.”

Many Australian studies support the idea that climate change increases the likelihood of the conditions that pose the greatest risk for fire.

In its 2011 report The Critical Decade, the recently abolished climate commission discussed the link between climate change and increased bushfire risk.

“Extreme events that are closely related to temperature are also showing changes consistent with what is expected,” it said. “The intensity and seasonality of large bushfires in south-east Australia appears to be changing, with climate change a possible contributing factor.”

Leaks of the second report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be released next year warn that Australia’s very high and extreme fire danger days will increase by up to 30% by 2020, and up to 100% by 2050.

A 2007 study, commissioned by the Climate Institute from the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, found a general trend towards more fire weather over the past 30 years, due both to natural variation and human-induced climate change.

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