Australia turns from defense to offense in wildfire battle

By Canadian Press	
	 		Australian PM’s leadership criticized during wildfire crisis				Jan 08 2020

People across Australia are calling on the government to implement stronger climate measures.

The 60-year-old married father of two children was recognized in November for his 40-year job with the forest authority.

Sheep graze in a field shrouded with smoke haze near at Burragate, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020.

"Although we have tremendous experience in identifying risky trees, sometimes these tree breaks can not be predicted", said Hardman. "Working on the fire ground in a forest environment is a dynamic, high-risk environment and it carries with it significant risk".

The tragedy brings the death toll to at least 27 people in a crisis that has destroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched an area larger than the US state of in since September. Four of the casualties have been firefighters.

Australia's wildfires have dwarfed other catastrophic blazes, with its burned terrain more than twice the extent of that ravaged this year by fires in Brazil, California and Indonesia combined.

"Even with rain in Melbourne, even with forecast better conditions next week, there is a long way to go in what has been an unprecedented fire event", Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told a televised briefing.

Morrison said yesterday he would take a proposal to Cabinet to hold a Royal Commission national inquiry into the bushfires, including examining the response to the crisis, the role and powers of the federal government and the impact of climate change.

While this is all well and good, Morrison has still not flagged any meaningful changes to Australia's current climate policy.

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The prime minister - a staunch supporter of fossil fuel industries - said emissions targets would "evolve" but ruled out curbing Australia's vast exports of coal. The government was now working through the details of the framework with local governments.

"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better", Efe news quoted Morrison as saying in an interview on the state broadcaster ABC, adding that an investigation would be launched into the fire response.

According to global media, Morrison on Sunday said that he would propose a powerful judiciary enquiry known as the Royal Commission into the handling of the fires. Another young lawmaker, Craig Kelly, has also publicly denied any link between climate change and the fire crisis.

The fires have emitted 400 megatons of carbon dioxide and produced harmful pollutants, the European Union's Copernicus monitoring program said.

He said his government accepted that climate change would lead to longer, hotter, and drier summers, although junior government legislator George Christensen posted on social media at the weekend that the cause of the recent fires was more arson than man-made climate change be.

Twenty-eight people have died and thousands of homes have been lost in the nation's unprecedented fire disaster.

When asked why he made a decision to holiday overseas instead of in Australia, Mr Morrison said "the irony of all of this was my original intention was to holiday on the South Coast for two weeks". "But like the government, I am aware of the very real scars that will remain for quite a while for those who have been subjected to the trauma of these bushfires".

The latest plank in the federal response is a $76 million mental health plan to provide support to firefighters and residents in affected communities, but more announcements are expected in coming weeks including a royal commission and further support for small business.

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