Climate change is the "determining factor" leading to increasingly intense forest fires, according to a study by Australian public research scientists, published in the journal

Nature

, on Friday, contradicting the government.

In a peer-reviewed study, researchers at public agency CSIRO looked at 90 years of data and concluded that climate change is the main factor behind mega fires like the ones that ravaged Australia in 2019- 2020.

Eight factors involved

Experts studied a range of fire risk factors, from the amount of dead vegetation on the ground to moisture, weather and fire starting conditions, to determine what could lead to huge fires. “While the eight factors of fire activity played a variable role in influencing forest fires, climate was the determining factor in fire activity,” said Pep Canadell, head of fire research. climate at CSIRO. The results of the study were published in the latest edition of the science journal Nature on November 26.

Australia's Conservative government has repeatedly downplayed the role of climate change in the 2019-20 fires, which ravaged the South East Coast and shrouded in thick acrid smoke major cities like Sydney.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted that wildfires were normal in Australia, pointing the finger at forest management, especially the lack of brush clearing.

But the researchers' model analyzes failed to establish a statistical link between fuel loads and area burned.

More than 800% of surface burnt in twenty years

Atmospheric phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña can influence changes in the intensity of forest fires from year to year, but the researchers found that nine of the eleven years in which more than 500,000 km2 burned have taken place since 2000, when global warming has accelerated. They linked these events to "increasingly dangerous and fire-friendly weather conditions," such as fire-generated thunderstorms and dry lightning, "all associated to varying degrees with anthropogenic climate change."

The area burned has increased by 800% on average over the past 20 years compared to previous decades, according to the study.

In recent years, Australia has suffered a series of droughts, wildfires and floods made worse by climate change.

The Australian government, however, refused to set a short-term emissions reduction target and pledged to remain one of the largest exporters of gas and coal.

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