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BUSH FIRES AND CLIMATE CHANGE July 12, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Global Warming (climate change).
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Last January was a wake up call, but I did not realize the full extent of its warning. The fire danger rating was catastrophic,  but I did not appreciate what that implied. We can expect bush fires, but are we ready for them?

The conditions last summer were unexpected because El Nino has just occurred, which at leas to me suggests the weather patterns have been significantly disrupted. Tim Radford  reports in The Guardian that heatwave conditions are “five times more likely” due to the change in the climate system caused by human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels. Inquiring minds might like some explanation given that it is suggested that half of the hot days will be due to those human activities. Hot summers will be more frequent, last longer and be hotter. Thus the bush fire potential is likely to similarly increased.

The reporting, as is typically the case, is qualified but provides what might be described as provisional strength for taking appropriate action. Tim Radford notes the comments of two climate research scientists:

“We cannot categorically ascribe the cause of a particular climate event to anthropogenic climate change; however, the roles of various factors contributing to the change in odds of an event occurring can be identified”, the two scientists write. They examined the historical record of more than 150 years of observation, and found, repeatedly, that extreme summers tended to occur in step with El Niño years: in fact were three times more likely to happen in an El Niño year than a La Niña season. Clearly, something else was at work in the summer of 2013. Natural climatic variations were not likely to have caused the bush fires and the floods. It was possible to say, with more than 90% confidence, that human influences on the Australian atmosphere had dramatically increased the odds of extreme temperatures.

There is ground for serious concern that at the National and State level, will be considered as too hard and put into the too hard file. Preparation and adaptation to climate change is one necessary and practical response, but it seems some of our political leaders, in particular Tony Abbott seem to be in climate change denial despite the mounting evidence of extreme weather events.

Bush fires are one of the emergencies we have to face at a local level.The NSW Rural Fire Service  pamphlet provides one source of information and advice of what is necessary. They emphasis been ready and prepared, with some detailed advice. Preparedness implies been ready for the worst scenario. While  it can be hoped the  same conditions of the catastrophic  warning level will not apply. We all got the phone call, and although we did not know it we were supposed to leave until the conditions changed. That is easier said than done. Peoples circumstances and priorities differ. On that occasion the fires were not close. There is a clear advantage in leaving early.

They assume that each household will make there own arrangements. It more motivating and informative to talk to other people for their ideas and experience, especially when it is essential to be prepared. There are many contingencies. One of our neighbours is confined to a wheelchair. Social media and social networks might be effectively used and developed.

It looks like this is a problem for the long term, until some effective  solution to global warming  can be developed. The scientists quoted above suggest their findings indicate a 90% confidence level that mean temperature are increasing and by implication the fire potential is increasing. David Karoly (via Independent Australia) suggests there is now no alternative to strategies of adaptation and mitigation, and in the normal course of events the situation will not be stabilized  for the life span of two generations, at least:

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