Addressing the impacts of climate and global change on fire regimes is one of the most important strategic issues confronting bushfire managers in Australia. This project investigated the future scenarios for Australian bushfires and explored the role of economic evaluation in informing bushfire management and policy decisions into the future.
Dr Geoff Cary led the project, which also involved Dr Helena Clayton, Professor Stephen Dovers and Dr Malcolm Gill (Australian National University).
The study found that in wetter environments such as south west Tasmania, where fire is largely limited by fuel availability, an increase in warm and dry weather will likely result in an increase in fuel availability, in turn resulting in an increase in fire activity. In arid (drier) central Australia, where fire is generally limited by fuel amount, an increase in warm and dry weather will cause a decrease in fuel productivity, connectivity and load, resulting in a decrease in fire activity.
According to Professor Dovers, fire and land management agencies need to be able to make good investment decisions “and to be able to justify those to their stakeholders”.
“The research looked at the role that different economic modes of analysis can play in helping to inform decisions, make trade-offs and really pointing to the best areas to be invested in.
“This could be a cost-benefit analysis that looks at all the different assets – both built, and things like water catchments and biodiversity – to try and look at how economics can actually help management decisions. Part of that is to really look at the many different decisions that are made in fire and land management, and therefore what are the questions we really need to be able to answer.”
A number of key actions have been identified that will be needed to increase the use of economic evaluation methods, including:
• Increasing the economic expertise among bushfire management and policy professionals.
• Designing economic evaluation that connects to the broader social and political context of bushfire management decision-making.