Remembering our Bushfires

The bushfires that raged across eastern Australia in 2019-20 mainly affected four states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Wikipedia noted that this “period of bushfires in many parts of Australia… due to its unusual intensity, size, duration, and uncontrollable dimension, is considered a megafire”. Although known as the ‘Black Summer” the fires burned in all seasons. Over 11 months they burned about 30 million hectares, cost over $103 billion, and there were 33 direct fatalities plus a further estimated 445 from smoke inhalation. 

The influence of climate change on these events was obvious. From the initial ignition of the fires by more frequent lightning strikes (denied and ignored by the News Corp) through the extended dry period in eastern Australia to the extreme heat, meant that the fire season duration and fire intensity has been substantially increased. Also in many areas current logging and tree removal practices may have exacerbated the situation.

The Climate Council wrote that in “April 2019, a group of former fire and emergency services chiefs formed Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA). They shared deep concerns about the potentially catastrophic impact of the imminent 2019-20 bushfire season following serious bushfires in Queensland, NSW and Tasmania in 2018, and continuing drought. The ELCA group were united around the unequivocal scientific evidence that climate change, driven mainly by the burning of coal, oil and gas, is worsening extreme weather events, including more hot days, heatwaves, heavy rainfall, coastal flooding, and catastrophic bushfire weather – disasters they had all experienced during their long careers.”

In Gippsland the bushfires commenced on the 21.11.19 and it was not until 27.3.20 that they were declared contained, burning for a record more than 100 days. During this time I blogged regularly, which included catastrophic days of fire expansion, the declaration of a State of Emergency, and sitting under the smoke cloud as the fire front crept towards us. My blog on the 1987 predictions of CSIRO scientist Tom Beer, with over 7000 readers, remains my most read blog by far. The firestorm and the evacuation of holidaymakers from Mallacoota made headline news around the world.

Both the old prediction of the CSIRO and the more recent one by ELCA were ignored completely by a succession of Liberal National coalition (LNP) governments. As eastern Australia was engulfed in its ‘Black Summer’ our Prime Minister holidayed in Hawaii. The governing coalition continues to support and promote fossil fuels – a major source of greenhouse gases and a big part of the problem. Hopefully this election voters will remember this, connect the dots, and consign the LNP to the dustbin of history.