Australian news, and some related international items

Talking about bushfires: we should be talking about climate change too

Deal with the cause of bushfires, not just the symptoms, Canberra Times,  October 8, 2015 -Ellen Sandell

bushfireThe talk is all about the fires, there is also another conversation we should be having: the conversation about climate change. “…..Today, 100 bushfires are raging across Victoria and it’s not even November. The footage we’re seeing of houses and properties going up in smoke are gut-wrenching. Most dinner table conversations in Victoria this week will undoubtedly focus on these fires and our collective hope that everyone we love stays safe.

But while we’re talking about these fires, there is also another conversation we should be having: the conversation about climate change.

The Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley​ said that such high temperatures and winds speeds have never been seen this early in October. These are the worst fire conditions in Victoria’s history, and we’re heading for worse with a strong El Nino coming our way.

We know that any one single extreme weather event cannot be attributed just to climate change. But we can look at the climate models and predictions, which all say that in a climate-changed world extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense.

The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO last year reported that temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, and that this had led to more warm weather and extreme heat, an increase in extreme fire weather and a longer fire season.

Longer fire seasons means less time for preventative controlled burns that are supposed to happen in cooler months. Controlled burns are riskier in hot weather, as we’ve seen with one getting out of control this week……….

I want to know our governments are doing everything they can to help fight these problems at the cause, rather than just deal with the symptoms.

Unless we drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, end our dependence on polluting brown coal for power, and build clean, renewable energy, the unusually risky conditions and extreme temperatures we are seeing could become the norm. Bushfires will always be a fact of life in Australia, but we can take action now to make sure that firefighters don’t need to be on high alert for half the year, every year.

The Andrews government  was elected with a mandate for change, and they have made a start in indicating they want more renewable energy. But we must do more. We must redouble our efforts to address climate change.

This week we have been battling the symptoms – extreme weather and early bushfires – of a bigger problem. My hope is that the Andrews government realises using breath freshener won’t stop a smoker getting lung cancer, only quitting cigarettes will. Now is the time to set in motion deep changes to our energy system and economy, including weaning ourselves off brown coal, so we can combat bushfires for the long term by reducing the risk and severity of fire conditions.

Our thoughts and hopes are with those affected by the fires, and with the firefighters on the ground. But we must not let those people disappear from our minds when the blazes are eventually brought under control, and the immediate danger has passed. We must not undervalue their courage, and their sacrifice, by forgetting them when the crisis is over. Our responsibility is to do everything we can to prevent these fires in the future, including battling the extreme weather which has brought us to this point.

Ellen Sandell is the Greens MP for the state seat for Melbourne.

October 9, 2015 - Posted by | General News

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