Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Australia fires a climate wake-up call: experts

The remains of St. Andrew's church is seen after it was destroyed by fire at the community of Kinglake, north east of Melbourne, Australia February 9, 2009. Weary firefighters and rescuers pulled the remains of dozens of people from charred buildings on Monday as the death toll rose to 130 from southern Australia's deadliest bushfires. REUTERS/Rick Rycroft/Pool

By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Weekend bushfires in Australia that killed 173 people are a climate change wake-up call for the public and politicians and a window to the future, experts said on Tuesday.

With the death toll still growing from the nation's deadliest fires, some analysts say the sheer scale of the tragedy might prompt industry to back-off calls to weaken the government's emissions targets or delay a carbon-trading scheme set for 2010.

"What the bushfires might do is suck the oxygen out of the debate. I think public awareness has been focused now on climate change again. We knew what the scientists had predicted and we've actually seen it in action," said Matthew Clarke of Deakin University in Melbourne.

"It may be very difficult for those who want weaker carbon reduction scheme targets or those who want to see it delayed to put those arguments into the public sphere. The atmosphere might be more hostile to those arguments," said Clarke, associate professor at the School of International and Political Studies.

Australia fires a climate wake-up call: experts

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