Canberra : Climate change has been found to be an “overwhelming factor” in the increase in Australian bushfires in both frequency and intensity, according to a report by the country’s national science agency.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) on Friday published an analysis of bushfire activity in 324,000 square kilometres of forest over the last 32 years, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to the report, the average area of forest burned annually was 800 per cent higher between 2002 and 2019 than from 1988 to 2001.
Since 1988 the average burned area has increased five-fold in winter, three-fold in autumn and ten-fold in spring and summer.
The report found that factors such as the amount of vegetation, time elapsed since the last fire in an area and hazard burning reduction all impact the intensity of fires but that climate change was the “overwhelming factor” in the increase in frequency and intensity since 1988.
Of the four “megafires” defined as a bushfire that have burnt more than 1 million hectares in Australia since 1930, three have occurred since 2000.
CSIRO scientist Pep Canadell said it was one of the most extensive studies of its kind ever undertaken.
“In Australia, fire frequency has increased rapidly in some areas and there are now regions in the southeast and south with fire intervals shorter than 20 years. This is significant because it means some types of vegetation won’t reach maturity and this could put ecosystems at risk,” he said in a media release.
“The results also suggest the frequency of forest megafires are likely to continue under future projected climate change.”
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which was called in the wake of the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, found that fuel-load management through hazard reduction burning may have no “appreciable effect” under “extreme conditions” caused by climate change.
The CSIRO report corroborated that finding, questioning the viability of native forest logging as a fire management technique.
“This is happening regardless of anything that we might or might not do to try to stop the fires,” Canadell told Nine Entertainment newspapers.