Over 130 wildfires in Australia spark call for ‘Climate emergency’ action

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Updated: September 11, 2019 11:47:55 AM

Top government bureaucrats, including officials from the defense and energy departments, have war-gamed “national-scale systemic climate risks” facing the nation and warned that they are already “overwhelming” the country’s ability to respond.

More than 130 fires have destroyed homes and threatened lives in Queensland and New South Wales states in an alarmingly early start to the nation’s bush fire season. (Bloomberg Photo)

An outbreak of bush fires in Australia just days after winter officially ended is stoking fears that the world’s driest-inhabited continent faces a disastrous summer and increasing pressure on the government to take more action to combat climate change.

More than 130 fires have destroyed homes and threatened lives in Queensland and New South Wales states in an alarmingly early start to the nation’s bush fire season. While firefighters are hoping that cooler weather expected on Wednesday may give them a reprieve, authorities are warning that some blazes could continue for weeks.

Greens and independent lawmakers plan to band together in parliament Wednesday to demand the government “declare an environment and climate emergency and to take urgent action consistent with internationally accepted science.”

“We are facing an existential climate crisis that threatens life as we know it,” the group said in a statement. “With record drought and Australia ablaze barely a week out of winter, it is time to tell the truth about how severe the climate emergency is.”

While the government says it’s on target to meet its Paris emissions-reduction targets, critics say Australia is not doing enough. The nation derives the bulk of its energy from burning coal, a fuel that last year was its largest export earner.

David Littleproud, the minister responsible for a portfolio including drought and natural disasters, was labeled a “climate change denier” by the Labor opposition on Tuesday. After being asked whether the fires could be linked to climate change, Littleproud responded: “I’m not a scientist, I haven’t made an opinion one way or the other” and “I don’t think it really matters.”

Top government bureaucrats, including officials from the defense and energy departments, have war-gamed “national-scale systemic climate risks” facing the nation and warned that they are already “overwhelming” the country’s ability to respond, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

The group, formed in March 2017, has become dormant, the ABC reported, citing documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.

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