Massive bushfire, more intense heatwaves tipped for WA in climate council report

Massive bushfires, more intense heatwaves tipped for WA in climate council report

24 February 2015

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Australia — The council’s report on bushfire risk in the state, The Heat is On, found the number of severe fire days in Western Australia would double by 2090 if carbon emissions were not drastically curbed.

It also said the number of professional firefighters would need to double by 2030 to meet an increased risk of bushfires in a hotter and drier climate.

Report co-author Professor Lesley Hughes said higher temperatures linked to carbon emissions would increase the risk of massive bushfires, such as the blaze that burned for more than 10 days, razed more than 90,000 hectares and threatened the town of Northcliffe in January.

“Climate change is driving up the incidence of extreme fire danger weather,” she said.

“With increasing hot days and the increased dryness of the fuel load, we will undoubtedly keep seeing the trends towards longer, more dangerous and hotter bushfire seasons.”

She said emissions globally needed to be cut, but Australia needed to accept there was already a “significant amount of additional climate change already locked into the system”.

“We need to be resourcing our emergency services and our health services in particular to be prepared,” she said.

“We are heading towards a future where it is even hotter than it is today, where the incidence of extreme events is increasing, whether it be tropical cyclone intensities, bushfires, droughts, flooding, all of those extreme events that have major impacts and Australia is particularly vulnerable to those impacts.

“Eventually if we don’t turn the climate around to something that’s safe and stable, there will be many parts of Australia that will become unliveable.”

The report said the number of heatwaves in Perth had increased by 50 per cent since 1950, where a heatwave was described as a period of three days where the combined effect of high temperature and excess heat was unusual within the local climate.

Nine of Western Australia’s 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1991, according to data obtained the council.

“Western Australia also recorded its highest ever annual average maximum temperature in 2014, 1.17 degrees Celsius above average,” the report said.

Professor Hughes said the productivity of agriculture and mining in Western Australia could be reduced because the number of days considered dangerously hot for outdoor workers would increase tenfold by 2070.

A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement the Government was committed to achieving emissions reduction targets.

“We’re investing $2.55 billion to reduce Australia’s emissions,” the statement said.

“We’ll achieve our targets and we’ll do it without higher electricity prices under a carbon tax.”

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