Dec 20, 2019

Bushfires Are Raging Outside Every Major City in Australia

Mount Mercer VIC 3352
Cainbable QLD 4285
New South Wales
Sydney NSW
Australia
by
Amy Gunia
,
Time
Hundreds of bushfire hotspots across the nation as of Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. Credit: My Fire Watch
Hundreds of bushfire hotspots across the nation as of Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. Credit: My Fire Watch

Signals Summary: Climate change has increased the risk of wildfires through warmer temperatures and drier conditions, including in Australia


Article Excerpt: Hundreds of bushfires are raging across Australia, with hotspots in every state.

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And it’s only going to get worse in the coming days as hot, windy conditions are expected in parts of the country on Saturday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

“When you have very hot, dry, windy conditions, if all of those things come together, a fire can get quickly out of control,” Lesley Hughes, with the environmental group Climate Council of Australia, tells TIME.

“As the climate is warming up, we’re getting more and more extreme hot days and currently, of course, Australia is in the grip of probably unprecedented heatwave conditions almost right across the continent.”

Despite the bushfire crisis, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has argued that there is no direct link between Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and the severity of the fires burning across the country. However, he acknowledged that climate change could be impacting bushfires. Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, according to Climate Analytics, an advocacy group that tracks climate data.

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Hughes tells TIME that the widespread bushfire crisis has made climate change a reality for many Australians.

“Certainly this summer, these conditions, the ongoing drought, the heatwave and the fires, are really bringing home to people that climate change is not some future hypothetical issue,” she says.

Dunn [a former commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Authority] agrees that the bushfire crisis has “fundamentally shifted” the climate debate in Australia. He and other climate change activists believe Morrison’s position on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions is hindering the government’s ability to tackle the bushfire criss.

“By not accepting the link between climate change and bushfires as fully as [the government] should, we’re not getting sufficiently prepared to cope with the problem,” Hughes says.