The following excerpt is taken from a new Climate Council briefing paper titled This Is Not Normal, which finds the catastrophic bushfire conditions affecting NSW and Queensland have been aggravated by climate change. To read the briefing paper in full, click here.
This is not normal. As we write, New South Wales and Queensland have declared a state of emergency. There are also fires in South Australia and Western Australia. For the first time catastrophic bushfire conditions have been declared for Greater Sydney. Climate change has worsened the catastrophic bushfire conditions. The nature of bushfires in Australia has changed.
Bushfire conditions are now more dangerous than in the past, and the risk to people and property has increased. For well over 20 years, scientists have warned that climate change would increase the risk of extreme bushfires in Australia. This warning was accurate. Scientists expect extreme fire weather will continue to become more frequent and severe without substantial and rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The catastrophic, unprecedented fire conditions currently affecting NSW and Queensland have been aggravated by climate change. Bushfire risk was exacerbated by record breaking drought, very dry fuels and soils, and record breaking heat.
Bushfire conditions are now more dangerous than in the past. The risks to people and property have increased and fire seasons have lengthened. It is becoming more dangerous to fight fires in Australia.
The fire season has lengthened so substantially that it has already reduced opportunities for fuel reduction burning. This means it is harder to prepare for worsening conditions.
The costs of fighting fires are increasing. Australia relies on resource sharing arrangements between countries and states and territories within Australia. As seasons overlap and fires become more destructive, governments will be increasingly constrained in their ability to share resources and the costs of tackling fires will increase.
The government must develop an urgent plan to (1) prepare Australian communities, health and emergency services for escalating fire danger; and (2) rapidly phase out the burning of coal oil and gas which is driving more dangerous fires.
The burning of coal, oil and gas is driving up global temperatures, leading to hotter Australian conditions. Since the mid-1990s, southeast Australia has experienced a 15% decline in late autumn and early winter rainfall and a 25% decline in average rainfall in April and May. Across Australia average temperature has increased leading to more record breaking hot weather. Extreme fire danger days have increased.
Climate change has worsened the current bushfire crisis.
This year bushfire risk in parts of northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland has been exacerbated by drought, very dry fuels and soils, and heat. All of these factors have been aggravated by climate change.
Rainfall for January to August 2019 was the lowest on record in the Southern Downs (Queensland) and Northern Tablelands (New South Wales). For example, Tenterfield and Stanthorpe were 77% below the longterm average.
Vegetation has been very dry with parts of New South Wales and Queensland experiencing record low soil moisture. The low soil moisture is symptomatic of both the recent intense dry conditions, as well as longer-term below average rainfall since 2017.
Drought means vegetation is more flammable and therefore more likely to support extreme fire behaviour and spot fires. Heat is a factor too, both exacerbating dry conditions and enabling sparks to take hold. For instance, virtually the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin has experienced record-breaking heat this year.
Climate change is lengthening the bushfire season. The northern and southern hemisphere seasons are now overlapping, making it difficult to pool resources such as personnel and firefighting equipment. The opportunity for hazard reduction burning to limit the threat of bushfires is closing, with all year round bushfires.
For more information check out https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/not-normal-climate-change-bushfire-web/
This isn't fantasy, this is very real. Politicians and world governments need to stop denying the obvious and burying their head in the sand. These 'eco- terrorists' have to step up and take responsibility in trying to avert the very worst that climate change will deliver. I say avert because it is far too late to stop it, the climate apocalypse has begun, the evidence is right in front of you. Australia has been burning for five months...FIVE MONTHS! Scott Morrison is the greatest liability this country has ever had to burden and if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!
For current Australia wide fire information check out your local RFS website or this link https://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/