The Aussie government has staunchly rejected arguments that climate change is causing the wildfires ravaging eastern parts of the country following a record hot start to the spring season.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the link as ‘complete hogwash’ in an interview with News Corp’s Australian newspapers.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt backed his prime minister, saying no individual event can be linked to climate change.
But a climate science organization abolished by Abbott’s government released a report on Friday declaring a clear link between climate change and the wildfires. The severity and scale of the fires was unprecedented for this time of year, it said.
Last month had been the hottest September on record in New South Wales state. The 12 months preceding it had been the hottest year on record across Australia.
The government abolished the state-funded Climate Commission after being elected last month. But the organization survives through public donations as the Climate Council to continue its independent work of communicating reliable information about global warming.
To deny the influence of climate change on extreme fire weather placed people and property in unnecessarily risky situations, the report warned. The findings are interim, and the final report will be released next month.
Will Steffen, a Climate Council member and director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, said he was frustrated that the established science on global warming was not yet accepted in Australia.
‘We’d like to see a discussion in this country that gets beyond these futile debates about the science that have been settled for decades in the scientific literature and get on with the real debate about what is really the best way of dealing with the problem,’ Steffen told reporters. ‘That’s where the political debate really needs to be.’
Some scientists are frustrated that the established science on global warming was not yet accepted in Australia
Abbott argues that Australia has experienced wildfires for more than 200 years of European settlement and had suffered worse fires in the past.
This week, he accused Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, of ‘talking through her hat’ when she referred to the Australian wildfires as the world ‘paying the price of carbon’ in the atmosphere.
‘They are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause,’ Abbott said, referring to people who link the fires to global warming and who criticize his government’s climate change policies.