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As 'Unparalleled' Bushfires Ravage Australia, Calls to 'Connect the Dots'

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A state of emergency has been declared in the eastern Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) as the worst bushfires in decades have destroyed hundreds of homes and prompted calls for urgent action on climate change.

The Associated Press reports that there are "68 fires still burning — 22 of them out of control," and hot, dry and windy conditions in the days ahead pose ongoing threats. 

"We are talking wind strengths starting at 25 to 30 kilometers [over 15 to over 18 mph] and gusting up to 50, 60 and right up to - as the days roll on - wind strengths of 70 to 100 kilometers per hour [43 to 62 mph] across these fireground areas," said NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

"We've got what would be unparalleled in terms of risk and exposure for the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury communities throughout this week," he told reporters.

"If you are to draw a parallel, and it's always dangerous to draw a parallel, at best you'd be going back to time periods in the late 60s."

"We are not in a catastrophic [weather] ratings scale [but] we are talking about fire danger ratings that will be in the severe category and you overlay that with the fires that are already burning and it's a whole new ball game," he added.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Changes in the Forest Fire Danger Index have already shown that many regions have had an increase in extreme fire weather, partly due to the increasing intensity and duration of hot days - January this year was the hottest month on record.

Meanwhile, some Australian politicians are "connecting the dots" between the raging bushfires and global warming.

At a walk to "put climate back on the agenda" on Saturday, Tasmanian Climate Change Minister Cassy O'Connor, who joined the Australian Youth Climate Coalition on the walk, said that the blazing bushfires are one of the signs pointing to the need for urgent action on climate change, and slammed Australia's "climate-denying government" that is "taking us backwards on climate change at a time when the world needs leadership and committing to bringing down emissions."

"Australians are very aware that this is part of the future we are moving towards," she continued, "a time where we will see more intense and increased frequency of bushfires, more flooding, sea level rise, extreme weather events.

"We have a collective moral responsibility to do something about it," said O'Connor.

Australian Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has also said, "This is what global warming in Australia looks like. And unless we get dangerous global warming under control we may be experiencing these kind of awful terrifying fires on a much more regular basis."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, who axed the nation's climate watchdog hours after being sworn in, and other climate change denying politicians should be charged with “criminal negligence” for their “willful blindness,” charged Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki while speaking in Australia last month.


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