Godfather of Australian Science Warns Government

AFTER ISSUING the first-ever warning 30 years ago, Australia’s godfather of climate and bushfire science has today sounded the alarm about not listening to the science on climate change.

Dr Tom Beer, who wrote the world’s first bushfire and climate change paper over three decades ago, has today spoken out, urging the government to take credible climate action.

“For decades, climate scientists have been warning Australian governments about the escalating threat of catastrophic bushfire conditions because of climate change,” said Dr Beer, who spent three decades at the CSIRO.

REPORT LAUNCH DETAILS: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2020

TIME: 11am (AEDT)

LOCATION: MELBOURNE, Flagstaff Gardens, meet near the Flagstaff Gardens tennis courts.

TALENT:

  • Dr Tom Beer, author of the world’s first bushfire and climate change study in 1988 and former leader of climate variability and change research program, CSIRO.
  • Professor David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania.
  • Professor Will Steffen, Climate Councillor and Emeritus Professor, Australian National University.

His groundbreaking work was released in 1988 under the title Australian bushfire danger under changing climatic regimes.

Dr Beer’s work predicted what we are seeing today.

“I am horrified that what my study found has now occurred and the fact this means it is only going to get worse,” he said.

Dr Beer has today been joined by Professor David Bowman and Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen. They have issued a joint statement calling for people to take heed of the science, warning that the severity of bushfire conditions in Australia will continue to escalate.

“When we did our work in 1987 the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 were the worst we had seen. Since then, we have experienced the Black Saturday fires; had to create a new catastrophic fire danger rating; and in the past few months, we’ve seen 10 million hectares of Australia burn,” said Dr Beer.

“Time has made our warnings a terrible reality. Without urgent action to deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions it is only going to get worse,” he said.

The joint statement released today states: Let’s learn from our mistakes. The time to deny these facts is over. Failing again will cost our country greatly. It is critical we now listen to the science.

SEE THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW


Climate Scientist Statement: The science can no longer be ignored

Statement by:

Dr Tom Beer, author of the world’s first bushfire and climate change study in 1988 and former leader of the climate change research program, CSIRO.

Professor David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania.

Professor Will Steffen, Climate Councillor and Emeritus Professor, Australian National University.

FOR OVER 30 YEARS, climate scientists have been warning Australian governments about the escalating threat of catastrophic bushfire conditions because of climate change.

In that time, our calls for urgent action to address this issue have become louder and more certain.

Climate change is fuelling the national bushfire catastrophe, and it will get worse without radical action.

As part of the Australian scientific community, with our colleagues around the world, we have warned that climate change is leading to hotter temperatures, more frequent, longer and more intense heatwaves, shifting rain patterns, and more severe bushfire conditions.

We have warned that Australia will continue to face record high temperatures. 2019 was the hottest year on record with the annual temperature 1.52°C above the long-term average. Nine of the ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2005.

We have warned that hotter, drier conditions in southeast and southwest Australia would lead to more intense bushfires. In 2019, our rainfall was the lowest since records began, and southeast Australia has experienced an ongoing decline in cool-season rainfall for two decades, and southwest Western Australia for almost five decades. These warnings have been validated this summer. But we have also warned about risks of cyclones moving south with implications for building standards, of increased storm surges with implications for local land planning, impacts on food production, of inland flooding such as we saw last year, and of impacts on water supplies, on economic growth and on property values. We are starting to see signs of all of these warnings eventuating also.

This summer, it’s enormously distressing to see so much of Australia burn in unprecedented fires.

We do not seek recriminations, but rather, today we seek to state clearly that the time has passed where we can ignore these warnings, or continue to deny Australia’s role in this global problem.

Clearly, bushfire conditions are now more dangerous, and the risk will continue to escalate. The risk to people and property has increased significantly and will continue to do so.

The length of the bushfire season has increased substantially, making it harder to prepare for dangerous conditions.

The costs of fighting fires have also increased substantially, as have the costs of their impacts.

The Federal Government, in partnership with the States, must develop an urgent plan to (1) prepare Australian communities, health and emergency services for escalating fire danger and other weather-related hazards; and (2) rapidly phase out the burning of coal, oil, and gas which is the ultimate factor driving more dangerous fires, and increases in other hazards.

We expect the severity of bushfire conditions in Australia to continue to escalate, with rapid action to deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions required to stabilise the climate around 2040 or 2050. We must stop jeopardising the future of our children and grandchildren, and that of the ecosystems with which we share our continent.

While clearly important, bushfires are but one consequence of a changing climate. Others will bring their own challenges. The time to deny these facts is over. Failing again will cost our country greatly.

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