Fire danger rising at home and abroad Media Release

Nov 20, 2009 - 10:30am

Firefighters’ warning to Parliament on Thursday, that a failure to take effective action on climate change was risking lives through an increase in catastrophic fire conditions caused by global warming, is backed by updated research from The Climate Institute.

“In 2007 our research showed fire danger increasing as emission levels rise and that a new ‘catastrophic’ category would be needed. Tragically, since then Australia has seen devastating uncontrollable ‘fires of climate change’ in Victoria,” said The Climate Institute CEO John Connor.

“The ‘catastrophic’ fire warnings in NSW and SA mean that lives are potentially at risk and cast a very dim light on the political squabbling in Canberra.

“We’ve had repeated warnings, from our top scientists and now our professional firefighters – rising global emissions will see an increase in catastrophic fire conditions.

“The reality for firefighters and rural communities is that the rules that applied in the past to fighting and surviving bushfires have changed forever – because of our warming planet.

“Unless we address the root cause of the problem – rising global emissions - our firefighters and communities will increasingly be faced with these devastating fires of climate change - which require an entirely new level of preparedness, resourcing and research.

“With just days before Copenhagen, which needs to deliver the foundations of a ratifiable treaty later in 2010, the Parliament needs to strengthen, not weaken, the CPRS next week.”

In 2007, in research for The Climate Institute, the Bushfire CRC, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research produced Bushfire Weather in Southeast Australia: Recent Trends and Projected Climate Change Impacts.

The Climate Institute’s latest fact sheet Fire Danger Rising at Home and around the World adds latest findings and analysis.

Mr Connor said the rising danger of catastrophic fires in Australia was consistent with the findings of scientists around the world, with global fire patterns shifting fast, and worsening wildfire activity in places like the Mediterranean and the western United States.

Earlier this year, Monash University climatologists published research demonstrating a clear link between rising emissions levels and more frequent drought conditions in southern Australia – a key factor in catastrophic fire conditions.

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