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Climate change has role in Australia fires

By Karl Wilson in Sydney | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-09 09:29

Anthony Thomas, a farmer, carries a dog at his uncle's property destroyed by bushfires in Kiah, Australia, on Wednesday. TRACEY NEARMY/REUTERS

Expert says rise in temperature and reduced rainfall across country led to severe weather

Australia has just lived through its warmest and driest year on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology's Annual Climate Statement.

The average mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52 C above average, said the bureau's head of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza, at a media briefing on Jan 8.

The national average rainfall for the year was 277 millimeters, the lowest on record.

Braganza said that while the debate on climate change continues, there is little doubt climate change has "played a big part" in the disastrous fire season, adding, "the science is quite clear on that".

"We are now seeing clear, well-defined trends in climate change over the past several decades in Australia," he said.

"We are seeing trends in maximum temperature rises, reduced rainfall throughout the country, especially in southwest Western Australia and in the southeast of the country (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania)."

Braganza said the mix has contributed to the severe fire weather now being experienced across Australia.

Since the fires began in September in southern Queensland, some six million hectares of land has been burned around the country. In the state of New South Wales alone, the loss has been four million hectares.

The death toll from the current bushfire season was 26 people by Jan 8, compared with 173 in Victoria state's Black Saturday fires of 2009. Analysts attributed the reduced mortality to the courage of communities and firefighters, with the assistance of other states and nations, the military, new technologies, and in some cases the policies put in place as a result of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Paul Read, a senior research fellow at the Monash Sustainability Institute at Monash University and a co-director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, said: "Despite resistance from people who become enraged at the very mention of climate or Greta Thunberg (the young Swedish climate activist), these fires are unprecedented in Australian history and the reasons have all the hallmarks of climate change.

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