Firefighters and emergency services workers will have to work in more dangerous situations more often, the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance says.
The warning comes as the Climate Council’s latest report found climate change was increasing the frequency, and often the severity, of extreme weather including Tasmania’s bushfires.
Firefighters Alliance director Vivien Thomson said emergency services workers and communities were being put in danger by extreme weather events.
“The science has been clear for a very long time that climate change is making extreme weather worse, and this is exactly what emergency services workers have been seeing on the ground for some time now.” Ms Thomson said.
“We see the heavy toll this takes on communities, many of whom are battered by multiple consecutive extreme weather events with virtually no respite.
“Communities and firefighters alike need time to recover and rebuild from the aftermath of extreme weather events, but because they are becoming more intense and frequent, they are just not getting it. This is not good for their mental health and well-being.”
Volunteer firefighter and alliance member Jonty Bruce, who has spent time in Tasmania fighting bushfires said he had seen first hand how exhausted firefighters had become.
“Having just spent a majority of January supporting firefighting operations in Tasmania and New South Wales, I have seen the exhaustion that firefighters power through to battle increasingly uncontrollable fires, and the fear, anxiety and loss that communities suffer,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this is becoming too much like the new normal for both firefighters and communities.
“We can only invest so much into firefighting resources, and measures to help communities prepare for these disasters.”
In its latest report, the Climate Council said temperatures coming close to 50 degrees, bushfires destroying rainforests and people at increased risk of cardiac arrests because of heatwaves were becoming the “new normal”.
Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie attributed the Tasmanian bushfires and floods in Townsville to climate change.
She said the report, Weather Gone Wild, showed the past four years had been the four hottest on record for global surface temperature.
“All extreme weather events are being influenced by climate change, as they are occurring in an atmosphere that contains more energy than 50 years ago,” Ms McKenzie said.
“Extreme weather events are very costly, with insurance companies in Australia paying out more than $1.2 billion dollars in claims last year.”
Franklin Greens member Dr Rosalie Woodruff said the Climate Council’s report confirmed what all Tasmanians have lived for the last six weeks.
“Australia’s foremost authority of independent scientists, the Climate Council, have documented the recent impacts of climate change on the increasingly extreme weather under which all Australians have been suffering,” she said.
A separate council briefing paper said a range of climate change factors combined to create the tinderbox conditions that led to fires destroying ancient forests in Tasmania.
The paper said experts warned that much of the burnt areas of alpine flora was unlikely to ever fully recover.
Private Forests Tasmania said the bushfires were having “ a significant effect” on the forest industry with 35,325 hectares of private forest burnt.
Award winning Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan has written about the affects of climate change on Tasmania’s South West as outlined to him five years ago by water scientist Prof Peter Davies.