Nothing about Australia's current fire crisis is normal

Nothing about Australia's current fire crisis is normal

WE'VE barely hit summer, but it's been a horrendous start to the bushfire season. At least two million hectares of bushland have been destroyed, more than 1000 homes lost and the damage to our environment and native wildlife is yet to be confirmed. It's hit close to home, even for those in the cities.

Sydney and Canberra have been shrouded in smoke, with pollution levels rivalling those of Beijing and Delhi. Schools are being advised to keep children indoors and masks have become a common sight on our streets. Nothing about this is normal.

While we've always had bushfires, what we have experienced in the last few months is unprecedented. There is a clear trend that fire weather is increasing. We're seeing longer fire seasons and more extreme and catastrophic fire danger days.

Politicians have argued now is not the time to talk about climate change, that we must focus on the victims of this tragedy and the firefighters bravely protecting us. However, residents, emergency service chiefs and volunteers have demanded we address the underlying causes, to do what we can to reduce disasters like these in the future.

Climate change will be a problem our children inherit. Their world is likely to exceed two degrees of global warming, which is the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement.

Even if the world meets this goal, Sydney and Melbourne could see 50-degree days and 25 more heatwave days every summer.

The 2019 bushfires have occurred with just one-degree of global warming.

The strongest link between changes in bushfires and climate change are from the increase in temperatures. Future climate change is likely to increase hot temperature extremes, which means the number of fire danger days is likely to increase.

We must fight the fires, support our firefighters and volunteers, and help those who have been affected. We must also prepare for the future. Have your bushfire plan ready, find your local emergency radio station, download the Fires Near Me app. Consider joining the Rural Fire Service or State Emergency Service - they're under-resourced and they need all the help they can get.

Importantly, make your concerns known. Talk to people about how you are worried about our kids' future, the health impacts and how our beautiful natural environment and animals are suffering. Talk to people about how our volunteers aren't getting the resources and support they need. We can only hope that our politicians will listen.

Dr Sophie Lewis is a climate scientist at UNSW Canberra and an author of the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.