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Climate Change “Absolutely” Linked To Bushfires, Says Top UN Official

Bushfire smoke over Sydney

The head Climate Change official at the United Nations, Christiana Figueres, when asked in an interview with CNN this week if there is a link between climate change and wildfires said, “Yes, absolutely there is”.

Figueres, who is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), went on to explain that “The World Meteorological Organization has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change – yet – but what is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”

Although the new, right wing Australian government led by Tony Abbott has promised to scrap the previous government’s carbon tax initiative, and has axed Australia’s independent climate commission (which was almost immediately relaunched with crowdfunding support under a new name), Frigueres is careful not to criticize the new Australian government too heavily. She says the the Abbott government “has not stepped away from its existing international commitment on climate change. However, they are changing they way they say they are going meet that commitment”. The U.N. thinks that Australia is “going to have to pay a very high political price, and a very high financial price, because the route they are choosing to get to the same target that the previous government had, could be much more expensive for them, and for the population”.

Figueres points out that we are already starting to pay the price of carbon. “We are paying the price with wildfires. We are paying the price with droughts. We are paying the price with so many other disturbances to the hydrological cycle”.

In response to Christiana Figueres’ comments about the link between bushfires and climate change, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today in a 3AW radio interview that, “I think the official in question is talking through her hat”. Ignoring any increases in intensity and frequency of heat waves and forest fires around the world, Abbott pointed out the long history of devastating Australian bushfires, adding that “Fire is part of the Australian experience. It has been since humans were on this continent”. However, he did also say that, “Climate change is real, as I’ve often said, and we should take strong action against it, but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change. They are just a function of life in Australia”.

Image CC licensed by Sydneyn Malmelinit: Bushfire smoke over Sydney, October 17, 2013

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