It is spring in Australia. The hot summer is yet to come, but already devastating bush fires raging in the state of New South Wales in the vicinity of Sydney and Queensland. The record-breaking area of about one million hectares has already been burned - that is one quarter of Switzerland's total area. More than 300 houses were victims of the flames. Meanwhile, the conservative government is trying to suppress any discussion about the role of global warming.
The fact that global warming significantly increases forest fire risks is clearly documented and undisputed in science. The current report of the IPCC on the land areas of the earth reveals this again. Thus, even below a degree of warming, the forest fire season expands "with high confidence" - exactly what we can observe in Australia right now.
The report also warned of increasing forest fires in high northern latitudes - almost as evidence provoked huge forest fires of unprecedented proportions in Siberia and Alaska during the report's launch last August, as satellite monitoring showed.
In the video: bushfires in Australia - the worst is yet to come
Above all, there are two effects that cause climate change to fuel the fires.
- Lack of rain - the IPCC has documented that even today drought phases are increasing in already low-precipitation areas such as the Mediterranean, California or even Australia.
- Higher heat - high temperatures cause the vegetation to dry out more quickly.
Both factors, along with the wind that fuels the spread of the fires, are routinely included in the forest fire hazard levels. In Australia, the Forest Fire Danger Index hit catastrophic levels on Tuesday in several regions, including Sydney for the first time in history.
The latest official climate report from the Australian Meteorological Service and the research organization CSIRO shows a significant increase in the risk of fire over the past decades. "Climate change, including rising temperatures, is contributing to these changes," the report said.
The conservative Australian government, which is firmly in the hands of the coal lobby and already trying hard to gloss over the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, now wants to stifle any discussion about global warming in the bud.
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Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister of New South Wales, said on television that we should discuss the role of climate change in the fires "neither today, nor tomorrow, nor in the next few weeks." Greg Mullins, formerly the Commissioner for Rescue and Firefighting of New South Wales, countered this in an article: "If not now, when?" He is one of 23 senior firefighters, who in April issued a forceful open letter to the government, warning that Australia is not prepared for the increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.
Meanwhile, the government is trying to present the discussion about the root causes of the increasing fires as irreverent politicization of the victims. Government officials attending a climate change adaptation workshop in New South Wales were ordered not to discuss the link between climate and bushfires. Australia's Deputy Prime Minister even went so far as to say that the connection between fire and climate change was an invention of "fabulous inner-city madmen".
The ruling party is virtually incapable of speech and action in climate policy, as a significant portion of the party is denying the reality and even denying the scientifically proven existence of man-made global warming.
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This is an irresponsible and fatal bird-ostrich attitude, as it unfortunately also in Germany in parts of several parties can be found. It is one of the reasons why, despite the many commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement and a unanimous decision of the Bundestag, the necessary measures are difficult to enforce and are watered down again and again.