Australia — EDITOR: Further to your front page story (Cooma swelters in hottest, driest Summer in years Express February 6) and as local fire crews have just mopped up after the Murrumbucca fire, it is worth considering what the Climate Institute had to say about bushfire risk.
Bushfire risk is rising. Between 1973 and 2010, the Forest Fire Danger Index rose at 16 out of 38 weather stations around the country.
No station recorded a fall. Most of the most severe fire seasons have occurred from the 1990s. The number of days of very high to extreme fire danger in NSW could more than double from the current average of 17 days per year to 38 by 2050, by which time, Victorians could face the prospect of a ‘Black Saturday’ every two or three years.
The Climate Institute goes on to say that, while fuel loading is an important factor in the risk of fire, weather conditions including drought, high winds and extreme temperatures are often a major influence. According to the Institute, climate change doesn’t light fires, but by rendering southern Australia drier and hotter, it’s creating favourable conditions for more dangerous, more frequent bushfires. The Bureau of Meteorology’s observations show that, since the 1970s, fire danger has been rising in many parts of the country. The average temperature of the continent has risen by almost a degree since Federation, while rainfall in the south has fallen.
The mix of warmer and drier weather is raising the risk of severe, extreme and catastrophic fire weather conditions in southeastern Australia.
Because the fire season itself is spreading further into spring and autumn, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for authorities to conduct hazard-reduction burns. With this in mind, it is critical that we pull out all stops to mitigate further climate change.
These past weeks should be a warning to us all.
We need stronger action on climate change, not total dismantling of all climate policies by the Abbott government.