Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Climate spells 'code red' for bushfires

With Bushfire Action Week upon us, it was good to see the Victorian Government announce a range of improved communication measures and finally urge early evacuation in the face of high-level bushfire risk. What they must also admit, however, is that climate inaction by Australia and other developed nations has given us more bushfires we can't defend.

To reduce our long-term risk, our current inadequate climate policies - including the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and those outlined in Victoria's Climate Change Green Paper - must be assessed according to whether they tend to increase, decrease or have no effect on climate impacts such as bushfires - any other approach amounts to climate blindness.

It was also ironic that 'code red' was chosen as the new warning for days of catastrophic bushfire risk when Climate Code Red is one of our leading books on the disastrous impacts of climate change. I commend that book to Premier Brumby, together with Mark Diesendorf's Climate Action, and, as of yesterday, the Greens' Safe Climate Bill (more on that soon).

Finally, The Age has today run my letter capturing some of these thoughts, unfortunately lopping the 'climate code red' bit at the end. Nevermind - it ends appropriately enough with the sad contrast of Bushfire Action Week and our climate inaction years (scroll down to 'Years of doing nothing' on their letters page).
So it's Bushfire Action Week in Victoria. No doubt Premier Brumby, climate minister Gavin Jennings and emergency services minister Bob Cameron will all be scrambling for the phone to tell Kevin Rudd that his emission reductions targets are so pathetic they will do nothing to reduce global bushfire risk even if adopted by all other developed nations.

Maybe they will tell the prime minister that all climate policies should be assessed to see if their broad international adoption would increase, decrease or have no effect on the range of climate impacts we're now facing.

Of course, Rudd may ask why all the fuss now, when the bushfires royal commission didn't bother to make even one recommendation about effective climate policy as a tool of long-term bushfire prevention. Why all the fuss from the State that continues its addiction to the coal-fired electricity that is propelling carbon emissions, global temperatures and climate risks relentlessly upwards?

And of course we now have the new 'code red' for the increasing number of days we'll be facing 'catastrophic' bushfire risk. Sadly, Bushfire Action Week isn't helped by our long stretch of climate inaction years - especially when, in the title of a leading Australian book on the topic, we have already reached climate code red.
Comments welcome.

Read more about the 2009 Victorian bushfires and climate change.

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