Time to face up to and reduce climate risks like bushfires Media Release

Oct 18, 2013 - 2:00pm

It’s time to face up to real and growing climate change risks and impacts, such as the growing severity and frequency of our bushfires, The Climate Institute said today after yesterday’s historic fire weather danger. 

“Our national, state and individual interests depend on better preparation for growing climate change risks and impacts, which threaten personal health and safety as well as economic stability and our fragile environment,” said The Climate Institute CEO John Connor. 

“The evidence and analysis is clear: climate change is impacting Australia now and will only drive more risks, unless we engage in global efforts to avoid global warming of 2ºC above the pre-industrial average.” 

“With just 2ºC warming, south-east Australia can expect up to five times the number of days of very extreme fire danger by mid-century, according to work The Climate Institute facilitated through the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, and Bushfire CRC. And that is just a taste of what is in store.” 

“Our thoughts are with the firefighters, emergency personnel and families at the front line today. But we treat them and countless others in future with reckless disregard if we don’t face up to the reality and costs of climate change.” 

Since 2007, The Climate Institute has published research on the climate risks of bushfires, the human and economic consequences of them and other climate impacts, and the need for better planning for current and future warming.  

“We can no longer postpone discussion about the real and growing risks as well as the need for a credible plan for how Australia can help work with other countries to limit those risks,” said Connor. 

“In the last few years there has been a string of days of record breaking fire weather danger around Australia and yesterday around Sydney was yet another. Fires are not uncommon at this time but not at this scale.”   

Fire weather danger has already risen in many parts of the country since the 1970s, particularly in the southeast. The majority of New South Wales’ most intense fires seasons in have happened since the 1990s. 

The fire seasons in the continent’s south-east are getting longer: the largest increase in the index of fire danger—the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI)—has occurred during spring and autumn.

“Reducing emissions is not a free lunch, but neither is climate change. Global action can limit climate change risks, Australia needs to do its fair share by limiting emissions to around a quarter of current levels by 2020.” 

“We must also prepare for the climate change that is already on our door steps, instead of walking backwards into this century of climate change pretending nothing has changed.” 

"All relevant state and national agencies now need plans, approval processes and resources in readiness for a world that may see warming by as much as 4ºC this century.” 

The Climate Institute recently released a media brief outlining expected climate impacts for Australia under various degrees of warming. It has also kept track of the Government’s commitment to potentially up the target from 5 per cent to 25 per cent. 

For more information           
Kristina Stefanova, Communications Director, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299

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