WITH the international authority on climate change, the IPCC, in town, global warming is back on the agenda.
But its presence in Hobart is not the only reason why people have been turning up the heat on climate change. One of Australia's hottest starts to the year has seen climate experts tell us that our current record-breaking heatwave and shocking bushfires have been exacerbated by changes in our climate.
The Climate Commission has released a report into the recent sweltering summer heatwave, which stated that "climate change has contributed to making the current extreme heat conditions and bushfires worse."
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri confirmed that with climate change "there is an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves ... and of course with heatwaves you get drought and other problems, you get forest fires. The trend is unmistakable."
But even with this latest consensus, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has described blaming our recent bushfires on climate change as "very convenient", while acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss has said that it is "utterly simplistic" to draw a connection between the two. They say this because bushfires are just a natural part of the Australian environment. We are the "sunburnt country" after all.
These comments by our nation's leaders seem to show their lack of understanding about climate change, which is worrying to say the least.
Let's be clear. Australia has always had bushfires and always will.
Changes in the climate do not directly cause specific bushfires, just as they do not directly cause any other particular weather events.
What climate change does is increase the risk of bushfires by making the conditions necessary for them - high temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds - more frequent and severe.
Not only that, but these more extreme conditions intensify "the nature, ferocity and duration of bushfires," according to Gary Morgan, head of the Bushfire Co- operative Research Centre.
Given that bushfires are an inevitable fact of life in a fire-prone environment, and that climate change will increase the risk and severity of bushfires, we need to start thinking about what to do in light of a warming world.
Many Australians like living close to the bush. Just over 10 per cent of homes in Tasmania lie within 100 metres of bushland - that's about 34,000 homes.
During the horrific 2009 Victorian bushfires, 85 per cent of homes destroyed were less than 100 metres from the bush. While this desire to live near bushland may never change, in order to save lives and homes the way in which we interact with the landscape must.
We need to start a conversation about how we will live with bushfires in the future and how we will adapt our towns and cities to deal with climate change. Yet we also need to start taking seriously the task of drastically reducing our carbon footprint, because without action to prevent further climate change it will only make living with bushfires all the more dangerous in the coming decades.
Climate change remains understandably abstract and distant for many. This is one of the reasons why the current heatwave has been so shocking. It is a sign to everybody that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change. This is not only a concern for our children's children, but something we need to adapt to today and mitigate for tomorrow.
Will Bibby is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (Hobart branch). He is completing a Master's in geography and the environment at the University of Oxford.
Aaron Wraight is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (Hobart branch). He is undertaking a combined honours thesis in philosophy and geography at the University of Tasmania.