Australia is being hit with the largest outbreak of wildfires in more than a decade and the United Nations says the country’s bush fires are “absolutely” linked to climate change. More than 60 fires are now burning in the country and three large fires in the southeast could merge into one giant “mega-fire” and threaten Sydney. The largest blaze outside Australia’s largest city has a 190-mile front.
A total of 120,000 hectares are ablaze or have been ravaged, and more than 200 homes have been destroyed and many more damaged beyond repair, prompting a state of emergency in New South Wales. More than a thousand firefighters and 83 firefighting planes are battling the blazes in the state.
Although wildfires are common in Australia, what makes these fires unique is not only their intensity and magnitude but the fact that they came so early. With the southern hemisphere’s warmest period starting in December, it does not bode well for the remainder of the year.
Australia has been plagued by an unusually dry winter and a hotter than average spring which have combined to create perfect fire conditions.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said there was “absolutely” a link between climate change and Australia’s widespread bush fires.
While Figures concedes that “The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change – yet,” she goes on to say that, “what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us that there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe and Australia … that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”
Making matters worse, the new government led by Tony Abbott has abandoned the efforts of the previous government to combat climate change. This includes scrapping the former government’s carbon pricing scheme.
Figueres said the Abbott government will pay a heavy political and economic price for walking away from Labor’s commitments on climate change. “What we need to do is put a price on carbon,” she said.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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