Ex-emergency chiefs sound climate alarm

Former emergency chief across Australia call for action on risk of climate-change related disaster.
Former emergency chief across Australia call for action on risk of climate-change related disaster.

A group of former emergency services chiefs have sounded an alarm on climate change-fuelled catastrophic weather events which they say are putting lives at risk.

The group has also warned of burnout among emergency service volunteers and an impact on the cost of living.

They laid a set of demands at the feet of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as state and territory governments, in a joint letter issued in Melbourne on Wednesday.

"In NSW we've only had two months in the last 12 months where we haven't had fires, our fire season was quite extraordinary in that it started in the middle of winter last year," former NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service fire manager Bob Conroy told reporters.

"Climate change is upon us, it's perilous and we need to do more about it."

The group hit out at federal politicians laughing about climate change in parliament and refusing to take action, saying it was taking a toll on volunteers' physical and mental health, risking the lives of the public, straining resources and would see an increase in insurance premiums.

The 23 signatories - which include representatives from each state and territory - to the letter want the prime minister to meet with a delegation of ex-emergency services leaders to discuss the escalating climate change risks.

They also want a federal parliamentary inquiry into whether emergency services are adequately resourced to cope and funding for strategic national emergency management assets, like aircraft.

The group called on the state and territory governments to increase resources to enable better fuel reduction, focus on climate change adaption and mitigation programs, reduce emissions and stop cutting emergency service budgets through "efficiency dividends".

"We are deeply concerned about the lack of climate action at a national level and felt obligated to speak out," former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins said in a statement.

"In the last year we've seen unseasonal fires in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, floods and twin cyclones in parts of northern Australia, longer bushfire danger periods and fires burning in rainforests.

"Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger."

Mr Morrison said his government has a plan to address climate change, citing funding increases for emergency service and fire authorities across the country.

Australian Associated Press