The United Nations has said the bushfires currently raging in parts of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, are an example of “the doom and gloom” the world may be facing without vigorous action on climate change.
The executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, says the fires prove the world is “already paying the price of carbon”.
“The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change yet, but what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe and Australia,” Ms Figueres told the United States news channel CNN.
“These heatwaves will continue, and they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”
“But what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us that there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe and Australia … that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”
Her comments come after deputy leader of the Australian Greens Party Adam Bandt was accused of politicising the bushfires, when he claimed the Liberal-National government’s climate policies would lead to more fires in the future.
Mr Bandt’s remarks prompted a rebuke from the Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
However, several climate scientists have told the ABC TV’s 7.30 program the link between global warming and bushfires has been established and it is time for action.
“What we have seen are just introductions to the doom and gloom that we could be facing,” Ms Figueres said.
“But that’s not the only scenario. We could, as humankind, we could take vigorous action and we could have a very different scenario”
Ms Figueres also criticised the Liberal-National government’s Direct Action policy on climate change, saying it may prove more expensive than a carbon price.
“What the new government in Australia has not done is it has not stepped away from its international commitment on climate change, so what they’re struggling with now is not what are they going to do but how are they going to get there,” she said.
The government has vowed to scrap the carbon price legislation and instead pursue a plan that involves a $3 billion emissions reduction fund.
“They’re going to have to pay a very high political price and a very high financial price,” Ms Figueres said.
“The route that they are choosing to get to the same target that the previous government had could be much more expensive for them and for the Australian population.”
“We are already paying the price of carbon. We’re paying the price with wildfires. We’re paying the price with droughts,” she told the network.
“We’re paying the price with so many other disturbances to the hydrological cycle. That is the price we’re paying.
“So what we need to do is put a price on carbon so that we don’t have to continue to pay the price of carbon.”
Ms Figueres said in order to effectively combat climate change, global emissions must peak this decade and then begin a downward trajectory.
She added the world must reach zero net emissions by the second half of the century.