Crisis Summer Fuelled by Climate Change: New Report

The Climate Council has produced the first comprehensive overview of the devastating climate impacts Australians experienced this summer.

“I’ve been fighting fires for almost 50 years and I’ve never seen an Australian summer like this one,” said Climate Councillor and former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, Greg Mullins.

“The data contained in this new report confirms what we all suspected. The bushfire season was the worst on record for New South Wales in terms of the scale of the bushfires, the number of properties lost and the amount of area burned. Climate change fuelled the unprecedented fires,” said Mr Mullins.

The new Climate Council report, Summer of Crisis, assesses the human, environmental and economic costs of the summer’s extreme weather events.

The catastrophic bushfires spewed an average estimate of 900 million tonnes of carbon

dioxide into the atmosphere, which is approximately the same as annual emissions from commercial air travel worldwide.

“The fires produced more greenhouse gas emissions than Australia normally emits annually,” said Mr Mullins.

Australia’s economy has taken a massive hit from the bushfires, with losses from the tourism industry expected to reach at least $4.5 billion.

Report Key Findings

  • Climate change fuelled Australia’s devastating Black Summer.
  • Thirty-three people died in the bushfires, 25 of them in NSW.
  • Nearly 80 percent of Australians were affected either directly or indirectly by the bushfires.
  • Nationally, an estimated one billion animals were killed by the bushfires.
  • This season’s fires were incredibly large in area, even compared to forests all around the world. Around 21 percent of Australian temperate broadleaf and mixed forests was burnt. The average annual area burnt for most continents, including Australia, is well below 5%.
  • Catastrophic fire danger ratings were experienced at locations and times of the year never before recorded.
  • More than 23,000 bushfire-related insurance claims were lodged across NSW, Qld, SA and Vic between November and February totalling an estimated value of $1.9 billion.

“Burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – drives climate change, which is harming our economy, health and environment,” said Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen.

“We must remember that the recent fires took place in a world that has warmed just over one degree,” said Professor Steffen.

“To eventually halt the worsening storms, fires, extreme heat and floods, we must do our fair share in urgently reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage other countries to do likewise. If we do not, we will be helping to push the world further towards a disastrous three-degree climate,” said Professor Steffen.

“As the sunniest and one of the windiest countries on the planet, we have the solutions to address climate change. We must accelerate the transition to renewable energy and storage,” he said.

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