Climate Change Influenced Australian Bushfires: Study

30% more likely today than in 1900 . . .

A recently-released study authored by 17 scientists from institutions in Australia, Europe, and the U.S. concludes that human-induced climate change has increased the likelihood of devastating bushfires in Australia – like the ones that ravaged the country this year – by at least 30 per cent above what would have been expected in 1900. Further, the researchers found that extreme heat waves, such as the one in 2019/20, are 10 times more likely now than 100 years earlier. The study, however, concluded that the country’s extreme drought in 2019/20 was mostly caused by record variations in prevailing weather systems in the Indian and Southern Oceans, and not by climate change.

Researchers say findings are conservative . . .

The study drew on a broad range of weather and climate data, including the widely-used (and Canadian-developed) Fire Weather Index. Researchers assessed long-term trends in extreme temperatures and drought, and analyzed significant recent increases in the Fire Weather Index and related ratings for severe weather. The researchers only used results at the lower end of the ranges of probability and explained that their findings are conservative.

What now for Australia’s climate policy?

Australia’s governing Liberal-National Coalition was criticized for being tone-deaf in its response to the bushfires and accused of being in the pocket of the country’s fossil fuel industry. And yet the just-released quarterly update on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions shows Australia’s emissions fell slightly in the year to September 2019, and are in fact 13 per cent below 2005 levels. The report also trumpets large reductions in emissions per capita and the country’s energy intensity thresholds from 1990 levels. But the same document reveals emissions from the country’s LNG sector, a significant industry in Australia, grew over 16 per cent from the previous year. The prospect of a major overhaul of Australia’s climate policy – which former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called non-existent – seems slim.