CSIRO study proves climate change is driving the 800% increase in bushfires in Australia

Climate change is the dominant factor driving the increase in bushfires in Australia’s forests, according to a landmark study that found average annual burnt area had grown by 800 percent over the past 32 years.

The peer-reviewed research by the national science agency CSIRO – published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature – reveals evidence that weather changes due to global warming were the driving force behind Australia’s bushfire boom.

CSIRO climate scientist Pep Canadell says climate change is the “overwhelming factor” driving a huge increase in bushfires in Australia. Credit:Nick Moir

Lead author and CSIRO chief climate researcher Pep Canadell said the study showed the correlation between the Forest Fire Danger Index — which measures weather-related vegetation drought, air temperature, wind speed and humidity — and the increase in forest cover burned since the 1930s.

“It’s so tight, it’s so strong that it’s clear that when we have these big fires, they’re guided by the climate and the weather,” said Dr. canadall.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison went to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow to commit Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050, and to raise his expectations for Australia’s 2030 carbon reduction, but he defied global pressure to to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Instead, the coalition government supports a significant expansion of the gas industry, which is expected to be 13 percent larger by 2050 than it is today.

As part of the federal government’s gas industry strategy, taxpayers will support the private sector to develop viable new gas fields and develop an extensive network of new pipelines and related infrastructure.

The Royal Commission on Wildfires identified climate change as a major risk to the ongoing wildfire disaster, but made no recommendations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to contain the threat.

The CSIRO report found that other factors influence the size and intensity of wildfires, such as the amount of vegetation or fuel load in a forest, the time elapsed since the last fire, and burning hazard reduction. But dr. Canadell said the study showed the link between weather and climate conditions and that the magnitude of wildfires was so small, it was clear that these factors were much larger than any other firefighter.

“Almost no matter what we do, the overall size of the fire is determined by those climate conditions,” he said.

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