Politics

Feb 9, 2009

Bushfires: Don’t mention the c word

Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events? Asks Clive Hamilton.

Climate scientists have been predicting more frequent and severe bushfires due to climate change for some years. A 2007 report for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire CRC concluded that we could expect a two to four-fold increase in the number of extreme fire danger days by 2050 under a high global warming scenario, the path we are now on. It identified northern Victoria, the site of the most deadly fires over the weekend, as one of the areas most prone to catastrophic fires.

The bushfires and the extreme heatwave, whose death toll when tallied will probably be in the hundreds and exceed that of the fires, are global warming made manifest in the daily lives of ordinary people. Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events?

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Climate scientists have been predicting more frequent and severe bushfires due to climate change for some years. A 2007 report for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire CRC concluded that we could expect a two to four-fold increase in the number of extreme fire danger days by 2050 under a high global warming scenario, the path we are now on. It identified northern Victoria, the site of the most deadly fires over the weekend, as one of the areas most prone to catastrophic fires.

The bushfires and the extreme heatwave, whose death toll when tallied will probably be in the hundreds and exceed that of the fires, are global warming made manifest in the daily lives of ordinary people. Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events?

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