The Deputy Prime Minister launched a full-throated attack against the “disgraceful, disgusting” behaviour of people linking climate change to the bushfires in Queensland and NSW.
When asked about the link between climate change and the bushfires on Monday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there was no doubt drought had contributed to the conditions.
“But I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into a political argument as to what the causes are at this stage,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also fended off questions about climate change while touring areas devastated by fire and drought.
When a journalist asked Mr Morrison in Taree on Sunday to respond to local residents who wanted to know what the Prime Minister was doing about climate change, he said he was focused on the immediate needs of the local people.
“I’m focussed on the needs of the people in this room today, as is the Premier, the needs of resourcing of our firefighters and to ensure that they have everything they need, to keep those firefighters safe and to protect as many properties as we can,” Mr Morrison said.
“You’ve got firefighters out there saving someone else’s house while their own house is burning down. And when we’re in that sort of a situation, that’s where our attention must be.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has cited the fires as another reason for more significant action on climate change, saying his party was saddened by the loss of life and full of praise for firefighters but also believed that “thoughts and sympathies” were not enough.
“For decades we have known that burning climate changing fossil fuels would lead to more frequent and intense bushfires, and yet with Queensland and New South Wales burning, the Coalition Government refuses to acknowledge this scientific reality and instead wants to use taxpayer dollars to fund new coal-fired power stations,” Senator Di Natale said in a statement.
The Australian Academy of Science has cautioned that predicting the impact of climate change on rainfall was “not as robust” as forecasting temperature change.
“The drier the fuel, the more likely it is to burn. Increased average temperatures caused by climate change will contribute to fuel dryness,” the academy states in a summary of work by its member scientists.
“Rainfall will also influence how dry (or wet) the fuel is. While the predictions for changes in rainfall are not as robust as those for temperature, it is expected that there will be less rainfall in the south-eastern and south-western regions of Australia.”
“It is inevitable that Australia will always have large fires but, with better land management and continued research into our changing climate and bushfire behaviour, we can aim to avoid the catastrophic loss of life that has occurred in the past.”
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.