Do forest fires contribute to climate change

Study: Climate change promotes forest fires in Australia

In this gallery: 2 images

Sydney - According to an investigation report, climate change clearly contributed to the particularly severe forest fires in Australia at the turn of the year. A committee of inquiry set up by the government of the state of New South Wales submitted a 436-page report on Tuesday, which clearly contradicted the deniers of man-made global warming.

"Global warming from increases in greenhouse gas emissions clearly played a role in the conditions that started the fires and the conditions that nurtured them and helped them spread," the report said. In view of the complex situation, however, it is impossible to precisely quantify the influence of climate change.

Years of drought

The report cited years of drought leading up to the forest and bush fires, strong winds, thunderstorms, and low humidity as factors causing the fires. Climate change is not the only explanation for the extent of the fires, but these agree with the predictions with regard to climate change.

Forest fires occur in Australia every year, but in 2019/2020 they were particularly devastating and long. Only after nine months did the situation calm down in March. In the hardest-hit state of New South Wales alone, 55,000 square kilometers burned down - an area half the size of Portugal. 26 people died and more than 2,400 homes in the state were destroyed.

Government sees no connection

As global warming continues, the investigation report warns that "extreme fires" are likely to become more common. Climate skeptics have repeatedly argued that the serious fires were the work of arsonists or were due to deficiencies in the management of forests. Parts of the conservative government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are also dismissing calls for more climate protection.

However, the investigation report revealed that only eleven of the 11,000 fires were deliberately started. Most of the fires were therefore caused by lightning strikes in remote areas. The increased drought caused by climate change then favored the spread of the flames. In order to prevent such serious fires, the Commission urges the fire brigade to be better equipped with more fire-fighting aircraft and modern technology for the early detection of fires in remote areas.

The national committee of inquiry will also present its conclusions on the devastating fires by the end of the month. (APA, AFP, August 25, 2020)