Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Climate change: Our future is burning

Like many, I've spent the last week watching the Nelson fire in horrified fascination as the Australian-style spectacle of a huge long-lasting fire threatening an urban area played out. But while it looks like we were lucky this time, the bad news is that climate change means such fires are significantly more likely in future:

Parts of the country with low or moderate fire risk are likely to see dramatic increases in danger as climate change occurs.


Scion fire scientist Grant Pearce said the organisation, a Crown Research Institute, had studied climate change and its impact on fire risk.

Research in 2011 looked at 21 weather stations across the country and what the projected change in conditions - temperature, humidity, windspeed, and rainfall - would mean for fire danger.

It said drier conditions expected with climate change were "likely to result in significantly greater risk of large and damaging wildfires that threaten life and property, and economic and environmental sustainability. Longer fire seasons, increasing population and associated demographic impacts, changing land use and changes in vegetation cover are expected to exacerbate these risks."

The accompanying risk maps show serious fire risks in parts of the country that have never had them before, which means a real risk of rural firefighters facing something they're not equipped to handle. And it will probably end up costing lives, as it does in Australia. Which is another reason why we need to cut our emissions now: because people are going to burn to death if we don't.