Who: “these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re just a function of life in Australia.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott
The claim: The Prime Minister is saying that climate change is not a contributing factor to the October bushfires in the Blue Mountains.
The facts: Climate change is making Southeast Australia hotter and drier which is increasing the number of extreme fire danger days. Drier and hotter climate conditions make fire risk extremely high. Australia has just experienced its hottest 12 months on record and the hottest September on record. NSW recorded below average rainfall for the four months from July to October.
The finding: The Prime Minister was incorrect to say that the October bushfires in the Blue Mountains were not a function of climate change. Climate change has made the climate in NSW drier and hotter which were important contributing factors to the bushfires.
Discussion of evidence: By making the climate in Southeast Australia drier and hotter, climate change is increasing the risk of bushfires occurring. While the variability inherent in Australia’s climate has made bushfires a part of our history, climate change is making very destructive fires, such as those in the Blue Mountains, more likely. Fires may be part of life in Australia, but their frequency and destructiveness is a function of climate change.