Friday, April 10, 2009

Fire missing from climate debate US scientists say

A report on the 8 April edition of Radio National's World Today program details US research employing satellite imaging to study increased fire risk from climate change. Scientists interviewed about the research, which features the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires, say that the increased rate of change of fire risk features in the outcomes, that the Victorian fires are consistent with climate change, and that fire has been missing from the climate debate - in fact, there is no 'fire chapter' in climate reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

One way to bring fire back into the climate debate is to make sure climate change gets the air-time it deserves at the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, the terms of reference for which are silent on this issue, leaving investigation of climate change as a contributor to the Black Saturday bushfires to the discretion of the commissioners when other factors are specifically identified for investigation.

If we can face up to the role of climate change in Victoria's devastating bushfires, then maybe we can look at Australia's proposed emissions reduction targets in a new way - namely, do they contribute to long-term bushfire prevention through international advocacy on a stronger global climate policy? Or are our current, inadequate targets in fact entirely consistent with more frequent occurrences of the fires that burnt so much of Victoria and took so many lives back in February? I fear the answer is 'yes'. If that's not a call to action by the Australian Government, I don't know what is.

Read more coverage on the 2009 Victorian bushfires on this blog.

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