Deadliest wildfires strike Australia

Australia's deadliest wildfires have killed at least 130 people in the southern state of Victoria and increased pressure on the government to take firm action on climate change, Reuters reported. "Over the last few days, we Australians have looked our own future in the face," Greens party climate spokeswoman Christine Milne told the news agency.


Scientists said global warming was a likely element in the conditions that fuelled the disaster. Australia needed to prepare for more extreme weather events due to global warming, they added. Greens and environmentalists said the fires – as well as floods that have inundated large areas of the northern state of Queensland after torrential rain — proved that the government needed to toughen its greenhouse-gas emissions targets.


Prime minister Kevin Rudd has set a target of reducing emissions by 5% by 2020, with further cuts – to about 15% — if there is widespread international agreement on tougher action. Green groups want Australia to cut emissions by at least 25% by 2020 as an example to the developing world, particularly India and China. Australia creates about 1.5% of global emissions.


Bushfires are the country’s most dangerous natural hazards. But after years of drought, and with record high temperatures in Victoria, powered by hot winds from Australia’s arid centre, the conditions were set for disaster over the past weekend. "I have never seen weather and other conditions as extreme as they were on Saturday," said Mark Adams, a University of Sydney bushfire analyst. "The fire weather was unprecedented."


See full story