Extreme bushfires to become the “new normal”: climate change report

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Extreme bushfires are to become the “new normal” in Australia as the climate becomes hotter and drier due to climate change, a new report says.

Megafires will be 30% more likely to occur by 2070, the ‘Natural hazards in Australia: Extreme bushfire’ report, published last month, said, and the time between fires is increasing while the conditions are worsening.

Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance spokesman Jim Casey said that extreme wildfires are becoming the “new normal”.

“Essentially these fires are just so big and so fuel loaded they act more like a storm than a fire,” he told news.com.au. “With shorter winters and less time to do hazard reduction burning, it creates perfect conditions for fires like this.”

Previous megafires have become so fierce that crews could do nothing to stop them, he added.

“Their real danger is their size, they are unfightable,” he said. “When fire crews are faced with fire fronts stretching across 50km and it’s 10m high, the only option is to leave.”

According to Insurance Council of Australia figures, insurance claims as a result of fires totalled $88 million in 1987-1996.

This jumped to $491 million between 1997 and 2006, and more than doubled to $1.179 billion between 2007-2016.

Casey said rising insurance costs over the past 20 years were evidence that fires were occurring more regularly.

He added that the research and cost findings from the Insurance Council of Australia came as no surprise to firefighters on the frontline.

Megafires have been fought in Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT during the past decade, and, just last year, four people lost their lives in bushfires to the north of Esperance in Western Australia.

Casey warned that unless there was real leadership shown on climate change, disasters would continue to occur.

“We can take all the steps to try and get ready that we can,” he said, “But at the end of the day it’s like sticking a Band-Aid over a wound that is rapidly becoming gangrenous.”

“The cost of not addressing the root cause of worsening bushfires is high, and growing ever higher,” he continued.

“This is a real threat because it has the potential to be so catastrophic.”

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RAA Insurance warns against bushfire complacency
Munich Re uses big data to develop new insurance offerings

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