Mayors from bushfire-impacted communities in Queensland and New South Wales are pleading with the federal government to acknowledge that this month’s catastrophic fire conditions are tied to climate change.
Twelve mayors, including leaders of fire-ravaged council areas Bellingen, MidCoast and Noosa have signed a statement begging Scott Morrison to recognise the spiralling costs of the disaster to the community.
“Now is the time to talk about climate change” said Mayor of Byron Shire Simon Richardson.
“Everybody who’s involved with the bushfires are talking about climate change, the only people who aren’t talking about it are the politicians and their media supporters,” he said.
Official weather forecasts for NSW and Queensland on Friday showed no substantial rains for at least three months, providing grim news as firefighters battle to get more than 100 bushfires raging across the east coast under control.
Blazes have killed four people, destroyed hundreds of homes and wiped out 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush over the past week.
The fires have been fuelled by tinder-dry conditions after three years of drought that experts say has been exacerbated by climate change.
Firefighters have said the blazes will burn for weeks without significant rainfall.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said there is just a 25% chance that the country’s east coast will receive average rainfall between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28.
Stoking the threat, BOM said there is more than 80% chance that temperatures will exceed average levels over the next three months.
More immediately, Rural Fire Service NSW deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said fatigued firefighters face another challenging few days.
“Conditions are starting to warm up tomorrow, into the weekend and then heating up early next week, a return to more gusty conditions. We’re in for the long haul,” Rogers told Channel 7.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly batted away questions on the issue, drawing criticism from climate activists and the opposition.
The group of mayors said the government’s refusal to discuss climate change issues were impeding preparations for large-scale fires.
“Fire seasons are now starting earlier and lasting longer,” the statement said.
“Apart from the stress this takes on first responders and communities, it also results in a shrinking window to carry out hazard reduction burns.
“Now, it is time to honestly and bravely address one of the major causes of these fires, climate change.
“Now we need to significantly increase funding to frontline services. Now we need to place the welfare and safety of citizens ahead of profit.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said earlier in the week that linking the fires to the government’s support of the coal industry was “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies”.