One of the questions on Australia’s mind this week-end has been whether the intensity of the wild fires devastating large parts of Victoria is linked to climate change.
The nightmare is that the scenes of total devastation they are witnessing are a sign of things to come in a warming world. There are those are making the connection.
Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, argues “Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more. It’s a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change.”
Roger Stone, a climate expert at the University of Southern Queensland, adds: “It certainly fits the climate change models, but I have to add the proviso that it’s very difficult, even with extreme conditions like this, to always attribute it to climate change.”
Although scientists say it may be difficult to attribute this one event to climate change, the buildup of scientific evidence is overtaking the lacklustre political response. Even with Obama in the White House, more and more scientists are concerned that the world’s politicians are being too timid in their response to climate change.
That is why climate experts will gather in Copenhagen next month to agree a stark message to politicians, which they hope will break the political deadlock on efforts to curb rising temperatures. The meeting follows “disturbing” studies that suggest global warming could strike harder and faster than expected, just as is happening in Australia.
Other evidence is the decrease in the amount of carbon pollution absorbed in the oceans, and an increase in Greenland ice melt. The meeting will publish an update to the 2007 IPCC report using this new scientific data that will add urgency to the December Copenhagen meeting.
Katherine Richardson, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen, who is organising next month’s event, said: “This is not a regular scientific conference. This is a deliberate attempt to influence policy.”
Hopefully the politicians will listen to what they have to say.