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Climate Change Factor In Bushfire Disaster

  • February 11th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

bushfires-4.jpegAustralia’s bushfires tragedy following the savage outbreaks in Victoria on Saturday (7.2.09) — with over 200 expected dead and more than 1000 homes destroyed — has raised fresh anxiety about climate change.

The fires broke out after a long dry period; it happened during days when record high temperatures were recorded, up by fully 3-degrees centigrade, against a fraction of a percent usual for such records; and in a period of extraordinarily low humidity.

A joint study by the national science agency the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, on climate change and bushfires, has predicted that certain regions in the state of Victoria would get up to 65% more days of extreme fire risk by 2020, and 230% by the 2050s.

Those trends would be accompanied by reduced flows of water in streams and more very dry days generally.

bushfires-2.jpegThe trend accentuates concerns over forging a global climate change agreement at the forthcoming international conclave at Copenhagen; the main strategy expected to be taken up is a trading system for carbon emissions by industry, to try to achieve set limits: the 20/20 goal in the case of the EU; much more modest objectives so far adopted by Australia and others.

Europe itself has seen dramatic increases in forest fires, with major destructive outbreaks during Summer months, especially in Southern regions, but also extending into Central Europe.

In 2008 satellite tracking showed outbreaks spreading over large areas, some up to 50 000 hectares in Portugal and up to 88 000 hectares in Spain.

The EU set up its European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) to coordinate early risk warnings and damage assessment.

For European forest fire emergencies in recent years, see EUAustralia archive, search  “Forest Fires”; also search “Climate Change”.


EFFIS, Brussels, Forest Fires in Europe 2005, document. , (10.2.09).

EFFIS, Brussels, home: , (10.2.09).

European Commission, Brussels, Getting a new global deal on climate change:EU foresees major role for carbon trading in efforts to tackle climate change; media release, 28.1.09.

Adam Morton, “Climate change must be ‘a factor’ in deciding whether to rebuild”, The Age, Melbourne, 11.2.09., (11.2.09).