EGCAN Submission to the Bushfires Royal Commission Part 1


East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) is a community group promoting urgent action on climate change. We focus on our region of East Gippsland, but we see that national and indeed global solutions are required…our members have been affected by the fires; loss of property, loss of income, long term smoke inhalation, and had their lives disrupted for weeks and months as they were forced from their homes and communities by the fire threat. Many are living amongst a blackened landscape, still waiting for permanent housing and property restoration. Now all are in social isolation due to the COVID19 pandemic. The bushfires that impacted much of East coast Australia over many months have caused immense damage to individuals, whole communities, regions and the precious remaining forests in the burnt areas. The British Met office has estimated that global CO2 will rise by 10% in 2020 with 1/5th of the rise solely attributable to our bushfires.

The only way to mitigate fires such as those in 2019-20 is to treat global warming as an international emergency, as we have with the COVID19 pandemic. With ‘all stops pulled out’ we may be able to hold warming at 1.5ºC. While we will still have an increase in severity of weather events, the risk will not get exponentially worse, as it will with the Federal Government’s plan of only 25-28% cuts to CO2 by 2030.

In 2008 Ross Garnaut made the prediction that global warming would result in extreme fire weather with resultant bush fires by 2020. While he may seem to have been prescient, he based his predictions on research from multiple organizations including the CSIRO. The CSIRO report Climate change impacts on fire weather in South-East Australia (2005) predicted extreme fire weather by 2020. They also identified that this would become even worse by 2050. Astonishingly little effective action has been taken on this and myriad research that has predicted similar dire outcomes.

Indeed, as it is well publicised, more than 97% of climate scientists agree with the evidence showing that burning fossil fuels and releasing long stored carbon into the atmosphere is causing dramatic increases in global temperatures. The consensus is clear. There are also many alarming studies showing that if we do not act decisively in the next decade we may trigger a series of tipping points that will lead to a cascade of dramatic, irreversible changes in our planet.

There is a great deal of research outlining solutions to this global issue. The key however is to urgently cut greenhouse gases. The ‘unprecedented’ fires of the 2019-20 fire season, which burnt from September to March, have been somewhat overwhelmed by the equally unprecedented COVID19 pandemic.

However, unlike COVID19, to which we will hopefully develop a vaccine, global temperatures will continue to rise until effective action is taken. There is no vaccine for climate change. Governments and communities at all levels have listened and acted with a sense of urgency following clear scientific advice in relation to COVID-19. Early decisive action has been central in reducing the scale of future devastation. The same must happen in relation to the clear scientific advice regarding climate change.

(to be continued).

Footnotes and full article here.