Australia The cost of bushfires to New South Wales and the ACT is likely to more than double by 2050, according to a new report from one of Australia’s leading authorities on climate change.
The Climate Council found bushfires currently cost both jurisdictions about $100 million every year.
And the council’s chief executive officer, Amanda McKenzie, said without strong action to decrease Australia’s reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, that figure would only climb higher.
Ms McKenzie said severe bushfires were again forecast for the coming summer in NSW and the ACT, and that in general terms, the fire season was lengthening into spring and autumn.
“So that reduces the amount of time for hazard reduction burns and means also that it is more difficult to share firefighting resources between states,” she said.
She said when multiple fires were being fought across states and territories, there was less opportunity for support from other jurisdictions.
The report’s release comes following a warning from ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Dominic Lane that extra growth in the ACT and surrounds during spring was likely to result in more fire fuel this summer.
Meanwhile, in NSW the high-risk season is already well underway, with bushfires fought on multiple fronts around the state since November.
Move to renewables needed, CEO says
The report, compiled using data from a range of sources including the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and peer-reviewed academic research, found there was an urgent need for communities, health services and emergency services to prepare for worsening bushfire conditions over time.
“It’s not just about this year we need to think about our preparedness in the long term we do need to make sure that our resourcing is in line with the accelerating risk over time,” Ms McKenzie said.
According to the report, the next 10 years will prove critical in the race to protect Australians from the impact of climate change.
Ms McKenzie said Australia’s leaders and policy makers could help mitigate the impact of bushfires and extreme weather events in the future by doing more to address climate change now.
The answer, according to the Climate Council, is more investment in renewables.
“Australia’s pollution continues to go up and up,” Ms McKenzie said.
“So unless we can move away from sources like coal, oil and gas to more renewable energy, the risks [posed by bushfires] just accelerate into the future.”