Climate change is “undoubtedly” increasing the risk of wildfires around the world, while the Australian government has been criticised for denying that bushfires are clearly linked to global warming, British researchers said thursday, according to a report on the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
At least 28 people have been killed, 2000 homes destroyed and 11.2 million hectares of fire have been destroyed in a fire that has raged in Australia in recent days. The Australian government insists there is no direct link between climate change and the fire. But a British team combined 57 studies to conclude that global warming is leading to more hot and dry weather around the world, creating the conditions for wildfires.
Ian Colin Prentice, director of the Liversham Wildfire, Environment and Society Centre at Imperial College, said there was “no doubt” there was a link between climate and fire risk, with “temperatures in Australia rising by more than 1C … The occurrence of the fire is extremely sensitive to temperature”.
The 57 studies covered analysis of global wildfires, including those focusing on countries such as Australia, the United States, Greece and Canada.
The authors say the global fire season has been extended by an average of 20 per cent, and although fire-burning area has declined in recent decades, the main reason is that some savannahs have become hard-to-burn farmland. In addition, fires have caused increased damage to dense forests, which are carbon sinks that help slow global warming.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor have previously said Australia does not need to adopt more aggressive emissions reduction measures to stop global warming and has met its 2020 emissions reduction targets. The comments were criticised by climate protesters.
Richard Bates, head of climate impact research at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, said: “Fires do happen naturally, but as a result of climate change, fire events are getting worse and becoming more common. Limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius helps to avoid further increases in the risk of extreme fires. “
Analysis by the World Resources Institute also points out that the number of wildfires currently raging in Australia is “unprecedented”, with the number of fires increasing more than fourfold in 2019 compared with any other year in the past 20 years.