The Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council (AFAC) is calling for more investment on mitigation and adaptation to natural disasters, following the release of the Climate Commission’s report today that predicts record heatwaves, bushfires and rising sea levels in New South Wales because of climate change.
AFAC CEO Naomi Brown said that the fire and emergency management sector is concerned about the predictions nationally, as well as in NSW.
“Our member agencies do an outstanding job in responding to a range of emergencies such as bushfires and floods,” Naomi said. “However, it’s not just about fighting the fires or dealing with floods when they occur.”
“We believe that we are likely to see more bushfires and floods as the impacts of climate change are felt across the community, as has been seen by the number of natural disaster events of the past few years, and we would like to see a greater focus on activities that mitigate the risk,” she said.
The Climate Commission report released today highlights the likely impacts of future climate resulting in greater losses resulting from more high fire danger days, increased heat waves, increased storm events and more intense rainfall in New South Wales. This complements its previous national report “The Critical Decade” that contained similar predictions for extremes of natural hazards across Australia.
These reports highlight the importance of Australia needing to maintain its research into the mitigation, adaptation and response strategies to fire and natural hazards given the uncertainty and magnitude of the predicted impacts.
“We need to increase our knowledge on how best to work with the community to further develop their ability to prepare. We currently have a proposal before the Federal Government to fund a national collaborative research institute across all hazards when the current Bushfire CRC funding ceases on June 30, 2013,” Naomi said.
Australia’s only national centre for research into fire and related natural hazards, the Bushfire CRC, is currently funded to June 2013 under the Commonwealth’s Cooperative Research Centres program. Since 2003 Australian Government funds have been matched with the support of all state fire and land management agencies working closely with researchers in 15 universities, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
All partners in the Bushfire CRC support the transition of the centre to an independent Institute with a broader focus on fire and natural hazards but the Australian Government has not yet committed to maintaining its funding for collaborative research in this area.
“Australia has developed a strong science base in this field that is helping us find better ways to adapt to the predicted impacts of such changes in our climate,” said Gary Morgan, CEO of the Bushfire CRC.
“Now is not the time to end national collaborative networks on the science of fire and natural hazards. These need to be maintained and broadened so Australians can begin today to anticipate the climate impacts of tomorrow.
“Partners have committed their organisations to the continuation of this important research. A solid funding commitment from the Australian Government is needed now.”
“Without an ongoing research capability we will not be able to undertake the research needed to increase efforts in mitigation and adaptation that we believe are necessary to protect the Australian community,” Naomi said.
Shesiedo Ringdahl, Communications and Events Co-ordinator, AFAC (03) 9419 2388 or firstname.lastname@example.org
David Bruce, Communications Manager, Bushfire CRC (03) 9412 9606 or 0414 223 281 or email@example.com