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Friday, November 22, 2019

Bushfires and climate change: Australian Prime Minister denies the evidence

With highest per capita emissions, Australia needs to reduce emissions faster for reducing extreme event risk including Bushfires. Source: The Australia Institute

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says no evidence links Australia's carbon emissions to bushfires, yet he has been strongly contradicted on link between emissions and bushfires.

The scientific evidence is clear that Climate change is driving catastrophic mega fires.

Australia is not prepared - fire authorities and scientists have been warning governments for years and they haven't acted to reduce bushfire risk by implementing a strong climate and energy policy.

Governments have failed to properly equip and resource our firefighters to deal with a longer fire weather period, much hotter and more intense bushfires.

As part of it's duty of protection of public safety, the Federal Government should be honest with the community about their role.

Since 2014 the Climate Council has warned of Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire threat, but have been ignored by the Liberal and National Party politicians in power.

In April 2019 23 former Fire and Emergency Leaders with more than 600 years of combined experience banded together and called for stronger action on climate change, warning that worsening extreme weather is threatening Australian lives. They were ignored by the Morrison Government.

The leaders issued a joint statement, with signatories from every state and territory, which called on the Prime Minister to:

* Meet with a delegation of former emergency services leaders to discuss rapidly escalating climate change risks.
* Commit to a parliamentary inquiry into whether Australian emergency services are adequately resourced and equipped to cope with increasing natural disaster risks due to climate change.
* Consider current arrangements and their effectiveness and properly fund strategic national emergency management resources.

The former fire commissioners reiterated their call in the midst of the east coast fire crisis on November 13, as events unfolded as predicted.

Read the latest Climate Council Bushfire report, published 18 November 2019:
This is Not Normal’: Climate change and escalating bushfire risk, which articulated these key findings:

1. 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.

2. 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

3. 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.

4. 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

5. 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.

Also read what the experts said about the current bushfires.

On Australia's climate action global contribution

The Guardian quoted Morrison as saying:
“the suggestion that any way shape or form that Australia, accountable for 1.3% of the world’s emissions, that the individual actions of Australia are impacting directly on specific fire events, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the world, that doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence either”.

“Climate change is a global phenomenon and we’re doing our bit as part of the response to climate change – we’re taking action on climate change,” he said.

“But I think to suggest that at just 1.3% of emissions, that Australia doing something more or less would change the fire outcome this season – I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all.”

Well actually very few countries are doing enough to meet the Paris Agreement target, but some are ramping up their targets, while Australia's present targets are far too low and assessed as insufficient by the Climate Action Tracker.

Australia is not insignificant on the global scale. Ritchie Merzian, the Director Climate & Energy Program at the Australia Institute, highlights in a twitter thread Australia's importance and significance for global climate action in the leadup to the UN climate Conference COP25 to be held in Madrid:

  • Australia is one of only five countries in the OECD that has actually increased emissions! (The other countries are Turkey, Iceland, Estonia and Poland)
  • All 32 OECD countries combined make up 57% of world GDP and those countries that saw emissions fall make up 54% of world GDP. Australia is not part of the pack. It is at the back and is an outlier
  • Australia’s total emissions rank it as 14 largest in the world.
  • Australia has higher absolute emissions than 40 countries with bigger populations.
  • If you look at per capita emissions, Australia tops it.
  • While Australia’s domestic emissions are high, its exported emissions (as largest global coal and LNG exporter) are more than double the size in terms of emissions

Out of the 32 OECD countries, Australia is one of five that has increased emissions. Australia is a climate laggard. Source: The Australia Institute

Australia's fossil fuel exports dwarf our domestic emissions, and has a moral responsibility for all these emissions. To deny responsibility for export fossil fuel emissions is to adopt the same logic of the drug pusher in refusing responsibility for end use of the drugs and the crime and social problems this engenders. Source: The Australia Institute

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