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Ashen fingerprints of climate change all over Tasmanian fires

Tasmanian fires

Creative Commons: Quarrie Photography, 2014

Heavy rain may finally be bringing some relief to firefighting efforts in Tasmania, but blazes continue to burn throughout world heritage areas in what has been dubbed a global tragedy.

With Western Tasmania suffering through the driest summer on record, at the end of the hottest year ever recorded globally, the fingerprints of climate change are all over this crisis.

The parks service warned as much, saying the lightning fires that have torched vast alpine areas should not be seen as “natural”, but rather as a reality of the new world of extremes we are heading into.

Intense bushfires are happening three times more often than they did a century ago, and as intact nature offers the best  defense against climate change, the loss of vast tracts of forest, like the Tarkine, is not only a tragic loss of unique species, but a loss that raises the risk of more and worse climate impacts to come.

Key Points

  • Climate change is making fires more extreme and more frequent. Fire has always been a part of the Australian landscape, but fire risk is growing rapidly as the world warms and sensitive ecosystems like the Tarkine are increasingly vulnerable. Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests which use fire to regenerate, once gone, the 1,000-year-old trees and peat that exist only in places like Tasmania’s world heritage area are gone for good.
  • Climate action must part of a holistic response to increasingly dire bushfire dangers. Properly resourced and trained emergency personnel, strong public education, and preventative measures are absolutely needed, but to truly respond to growing fire risks far more needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, clean up national and global energy systems and economies, and protect and regenerate natural systems.

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