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‘Absolutely’ a link between climate change and wildfires, U.N. climate chief Figueres tells Amanpour

October 21st, 2013
02:57 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

There is “absolutely” a link between climate change and wildfires, U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

Wildfires are raging in a ring around Sydney, Australia, as that country experiences its hottest year on record.

“The World Meteorological Organization has not established a direct link between this wildfire and climate change – yet,” Figueres said. “But what is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that there these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”

Australia’s new prime minister, Tony Abbott, has expressed deep scepticism about climate change, once even calling it “absolute c**p” (he has since walked those remarks back).

Abbott is trying to get rid of Australia’s carbon tax and has dissolved its climate change commission.

“What the new government in Australia has not done is it has not walked away from its international commitment on climate change,” Figueres told Amanpour. “So what they’re struggling with now is not what are they going to do, but how are they going to get there.”

The U.N. climate chief said that she believed the Australian government would pay a very high political and economic price for straying from the path established by the previous Labor government.

“We are really already paying the price of carbon,” Figueres said. “We are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts.”

Proponents, Figueres included, believe that it is only by putting a tax on carbon – on fossil fuels – that the true cost of energy, taking into account the effect on the environment, can be reflected.

“We have very little time,” she said. “The important thing is that we still have time, although inasmuch as we delay, we are closing the window upon ourselves.”

Right now, Figueres said, emissions are still rising; humankind has to get past peak emissions by the end of the decade, she said, so that zero net emissions can be achieved by the second half of the 21st century.

“What we have seen are just introductions to the doom and gloom that we could be facing. But that’s not the only scenario,” she told Amanpour. “We could – as humankind – we could take vigorous action and we could have a very, very different scenario. That’s a scenario that is worth examining.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Climate • Latest Episode
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. ashok

    We seem far more willing to pay the catastrophic costs that global warming / climate change will impose than working in concert to prevent it.

    October 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Reply
    • mememine69

      Or, we could all be happy climate "crisis" was exaggerated.

      October 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • TER

      Ash, are you that gullible, even in the 3rd paragraph the fool says there is no scientific link between climate change and the fires yet IT HAS TO BE OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! Seriously, if you think it is that bad, turn off your plastic coal fired computer and save the children.

      October 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • Peter

        Perhaps you should learn to understand what you read. She (or as you are pleased to call her, "the fool" ... this of course only qualifies you) said no link was established yet to THIS wildfire. I guess with your reasoning abilities (and I used that expression very loosely) it then applies to ALL wildfires.

        October 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
      • jimjim

        " said no link was established yet" HUH?

        "YET"

        "There is “absolutely” a link between climate change and wildfires, U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday."

        "“We are really already paying the price of carbon,” Figueres said. “We are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts.”"

        Did we read the same article?

        October 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • Copernicus

        You're an idiot.

        October 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
      • jim

        the fact is climate change is causing more heat waves and therefore increases the occurrence of conditions needed for bush fires. climate change will continue to occur and Australia will become hotter and the risk will increase further. simple stuff guys.

        October 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Mike

      There is also "absolutely" a link between climate change pushers and the desire to have absolute control over every facet of every soul on earth. I'd rather die from global warming that be controlled by these loons.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      Property owners use to work with their neighbours to back burn their own land, it was common practise until the do-gooders got involved.

      Back burning has been in practise for tens of thousands of years by the aboriginals, who called it firestick farming. It worked for them.

      Also, if you live in amongst a forest which hasn't been backed burn in decades., then you will have a large amount of fuel building up. So expect a big fire sometime in the future. If you live next to a volcano and it erupts, then whose fault is it?

      No back burning = large amount of fuel
      Fire started illegally by kids = Deliberately started fire
      Large amount of fuel + lit by kids during a fire ban = Nothing to do with climate change

      October 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
    • Brett

      Very succinctly put. The powers that be want hard proof. They do not appreciate the concept of 'prudent avoidance'. I don't have a solution - do you?

      October 22, 2013 at 3:05 am | Reply
    • Michael

      That's because the cost is not borne by the oil companies that provide campaign contributions to the politicians.

      October 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • AJ Virgo

      .."will impose"...sometime in the future? The problem with that is there has been no increase in Global Average Temperature for 15 years and there will not be because the "Modern maximum" has ended. Australia supposedly had its highest "Average" temperature ever. Except there are no records for averages and they are meaningless because they are collected temps from stations allover the Country that didnt exist even decades ago so there is no reliable comparison for averages from times past when no temp stations existed in those areas !

      November 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  2. mememine69

    Deny this:
    YOU believers and news editors and politicians cannot say a crisis WILL happen until science agrees it WILL happen. They only agreed on nothing beyond "could be" and have never said or agreed it WILL be an "inevitable" crisis. Prove me wrong.
    Find us one single IPCC warning that isn't swimming in "maybes" and actually says a crisis WILL happen.

    October 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Dave

      The same logic that cigarette companies used. Smoking may give you cancer, it may not. But it will definitely increase your risk of cancer so better to error on the side of caution.

      October 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply
      • Rex

        As someone who has lost people to cancer, smoking was a minimal factor. 10 people over ten years and only one was a smoker and no, the other nine did not hang around smokers ingesting second hand smoke. Lots of factors occur in how a person gets cancer, just like lots of factors occur for climate change, not just man made pollution. Weather is not a given science. It never has been. If you think it has then why can't weather forecasters predict exact weather several days in advance. You are dreaming if you think man knows everything about this planet we call earth.

        October 22, 2013 at 5:34 am |
  3. Andrew Arens

    Anyone who knows anything about forests knows that human suppression of fires is the biggest cause of forest fires. In fact, it's quite natural. Actually, it's vital for the existence of many species of tress – particularly Southern Pine trees. Before settlement, Longleaf Pine Trees dominated the American South. Now, largely due to human suppression of fires, hardwoods are taking over. It's difficult to find Longleaf Pines these days. It is believed that 25-50% of the state of Florida was on fire each year before settlement. It's normal.

    October 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  4. Jimjim

    The previous prime minister went to an election saying, and I quote – "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead" – within 6 months she announced a carbon tax. She was a con artist.

    October 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  5. john

    This is the biggest SCAM since the YK2 computer bug in the year 2000.Australian forest and bushes has been burning every year for the last 400 million years and these so called climate expert should put a sock in it.They cannot predict the weather tomorrow and now telling us that will happen in the next 100 years.

    October 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  6. joseph jean claude landry

    last chance1970...good lock.

    October 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  7. Steve

    OMG, I am so tired of these 'Absolute' comments by so called experts with no basis or foundation. Its like living in the 15th Century.

    For goodness sake stop it and have some self respect.

    October 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • Emma

      so called experts? And what exactly is your educational background? 97% of scientist believe climate-warming trends are very likely due to human activities. Obviously you can not predict the future with 100% certainty, but scientist have developed complex modeling tools that show different scenarios based on various human behavior.

      People just don't want to accept climate change as a probability because it would inconvenience their lifestyle.

      October 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Reply
      • jimjim

        Emma, let me tell you what the experts say, the problem is URBAN "lifestyle" as you call it. Some people find "climate change" the perfect cover to instead of taking responsibility for living in the bush surrounds.

        The Australian CSIRO experts; February 2008
        "Much of Australia’s vegetation has evolved with fire and curiously, like the vegetation in other harsh dry environments, it has developed characteristics that promote the spread of fire"

        "All the potentials are there and sooner or later, in some part of Australia, weather patterns will occur so that strong, hot, dry winds will blow from the centre of the continent after the fuel has been preconditioned by drought. All that is needed is a spark to produce a conflagration that simply cannot be stopped until the weather moderates. Fire is not the foreigner in this country – people are."

        "Since European settlement, the total amount of fire in the landscape has declined. The first inhabitants of this country learnt that they had to break up the fuel to survive. They burnt extensively and often."

        October 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
      • john

        CRAP. Also 99% of computer engineer predicted that all computers and everything control by computers will stop working at the end of the year 2000 by the YK2 bug.

        October 22, 2013 at 12:48 am |
  8. Louis Cypher

    omg we gonna rost

    October 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  9. Louis Cypher

    omg USA is safe "heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia"

    October 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  10. Louis Cypher

    omg Im on fire

    October 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  11. Louis Cypher

    bull crap

    October 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  12. Louis Cypher

    omg we gonna die

    October 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  13. Louis Cypher

    cagar nisso ainda era pouco

    October 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  14. Jackie

    i predict that human being will extinct very soon because of global warming...

    October 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      No back burning = large amount of fuel

      Fire started illegally by kids = Deliberately lit fire

      Large amount of fuel + lit by kids during a fire ban = Nothing to do with climate change

      Read this news article about how back burning is slowing the fire down

      http://www.skynews.com.au/national/article.aspx?id=917287

      October 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  15. mjschriner

    Do you think there will come a day in the near future, while we are roasting our marshmallows, from the heat given off by the sidewalk, in mid-January in New York, that we will all agree that the planet is being destroyed by US!!!!!!!!!

    October 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  16. John

    Jimjim. The previous prime minister did NOT say that. The prime minister before that did. And if you want to follow that line, look at all the lies Abbott and his ministers told during the election campaign, and all the promises that he has already broken in just a few weeks. Abbott changes his mind, opinions and policies on a whim. It shows you can get away with it when you have the Murdoch media in your camp.

    You have a choice – either pay a carbon price, or pay the price of carbon.

    October 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Reply
    • jimjim

      My appologies, John, yes the previous PM did not say that, he went to the 2007 election saying it was the "greatest moral challenge of our time" then dumped the idea and was knifed in a midnight sting, by the next PM, who then went to the 2010 (november) election saying "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead" and then 3 months (January) later to hold onto power announced a carbon tax, who was then knifed in the back by the first PM who then turned around and tried to again run the carbon tax out of town because it was hurting jobs and Australia's future and tried to swing the "the greatest moral challenge of our time" over to an ETS to minimise the impact. And you wonder why the current pm Abbott got elected, because the previous party had no interest in Australia outside of holding power.

      No mention of murdoch papers there, but I see what you did.

      October 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • Wayne

      John can you elaborate on some of the promises that Abbott has already broken

      October 22, 2013 at 4:14 am | Reply
  17. Timtim

    My Country

    The love of field and coppice,
    Of green and shaded lanes.
    Of ordered woods and gardens
    Is running in your veins,
    Strong love of grey-blue distance
    Brown streams and soft dim skies
    I know but cannot share it,
    My love is otherwise.

    I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of droughts and flooding rains.
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel-sea,
    Her beauty and her terror –
    The wide brown land for me!

    A stark white ring-barked forest
    All tragic to the moon,
    The sapphire-misted mountains,
    The hot gold hush of noon.
    Green tangle of the brushes,
    Where lithe lianas coil,
    And orchids deck the tree-tops
    And ferns the warm dark soil.

    Core of my heart, my country!
    Her pitiless blue sky,
    When sick at heart, around us,
    We see the cattle die –
    But then the grey clouds gather,
    And we can bless again
    The drumming of an army,
    The steady, soaking rain.

    Core of my heart, my country!
    Land of the Rainbow Gold,
    For flood and fire and famine,
    She pays us back threefold –
    Over the thirsty paddocks,
    Watch, after many days,
    The filmy veil of greenness
    That thickens as we gaze.

    An opal-hearted country,
    A wilful, lavish land –
    All you who have not loved her,
    You will not understand –
    Though earth holds many splendours,
    Wherever I may die,
    I know to what brown country
    My homing thoughts will fly.

    Australia always been a continent of drought, fire and flood since time began almost. What the climate chief should have said is she has a direct link to BS

    October 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • jim

      yea, and the severity and frequency of such events is increasing every decade. maybe the poem needs another verse so as to bring it up to date?

      October 22, 2013 at 12:40 am | Reply
    • Chris

      My Country is a great poem that sums up our wonderful land. What would these fools know about our eco system and its dependence on fires and that it is a fact of life in Australia? This situation, bad as it is, is being hyped up and used by those trying to justify their positions. Granted it is a bad fire but how much of that it because the greenies are so dead against hazard reduction controls?

      October 22, 2013 at 12:51 am | Reply
      • jim

        hazard reduction has something to do with it, but thats not what this article is about. its about the link between climate change and the increased fire risk. other factors increase the risk also, but that is a different subject

        October 23, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  18. CC

    This is too funny to ignore. We have bushfires every year here in Australia; and every 10 years or so we have a bad one.
    Next you'll be telling me that the various arsonists that have been arrested for lighting many of these current fires were driven by climate change too?

    October 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • jim

      irrelevant to the topic

      October 22, 2013 at 12:35 am | Reply
      • Damien

        When one person alleges a cause of this fires how is pointing out another real cause irrelevant? Oh that's right, you must be one of those that only accept debate from those that already agree with you.

        October 23, 2013 at 1:53 am |
  19. Robert Schoales

    Except for the US Tea Party and the anti-science GOP fringe groups there are not many who are so oblivious to the obvious.

    October 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      Stop drinking the kool-aid. You're hurting yourself.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  20. chrisozman

    This sort of propaganda reminds me of Al Gore trying to buy the "fire tornado' video in Australia, but he got refused! Nothing to do with climate change. Google it

    October 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  21. H. B.

    I have great faith in humanity.

    It is bent on self-destruction, and even when the destruction can be seen, it continues being self-destructive.

    We are not a viable species any more – if we ever were one, it was thousands of years ago. We've shown such a grasping, malevolent hand that Nature itself has noticed. And Nature's focus is on species, on their existence, their continuance, and their viability. When a particular species goes Section 8, Nature is adept at removing the threat to other species. Which it is doing, and will continue doing, until we're gone.

    That doesn't mean Nature will "do us in" tomorrow. It doesn't need to; it has all the time in the world. But the job will be done. It's so nice of us to help things along the way we're doing.

    October 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  22. Wayne

    Some people just talk so they can hear themselves speak. We have had fires in Australia since it was first discovered, many a lot worse than these and they were before climate change was ever thought of. As CC has mentioned the majority of them a lit by arsonists.

    October 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Reply
    • LF

      Dear Wayne & CC

      This argument that 'arsonists lit the fires' is entirely moot. The source of ignition is completely irrelevant in this case. The point is that climatic conditions are changing to the point that these fires are larger, burn hotter, and cause more damage than they have before. The fuel load combined with the drynesss and the weather conditions on the day are why a small fire becomes an out of control bushfire. The science is there, it is peer reviewed, it is published. Speak to someone working in the fire services who monitor such things for a living, and ask them whether they have ever seen conditions such as these in Blue Mountains. Your flippant comment that "the other fires in the days we cant remember were worse than this" are unhelpful and frankluy vacuous.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Reply
      • jim

        i agree LF. but i suspect you are speaking to people who are uneducated and/or highly emotional; and probably gullible enough to believe the conspiracy theories over the peer reviewed system. These types can't follow a logically argument if you give them one.

        October 22, 2013 at 12:34 am |
      • Wayne

        LF the reasons that there is more fuel to burn is because the greenies will not allow Councils to burn off this excess fuel during the winter months

        October 22, 2013 at 4:12 am |
  23. Jeant

    Maybe we will kill each other before the nature kill us. ( by war)

    October 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  24. jim

    just being reading through all the denialist comments here lol. some people here have zero ability to follow basic lines of logic. primary school students could spot the link it is so damn obvious. the fact is climate change is causing more heat waves and therefore increases the occurrence of conditions needed for bush fires. climate change will continue to occur and Australia will become hotter and the risk will increase further. simple stuff guys. all the comments related to back burning, and 'Australia always had fires' stuff is true; but completely irrelevant to the article. increased heat waves = increased fire risk. & if we counter this increased risk with back burning etc. thats great. but thats a different subject.

    October 22, 2013 at 12:27 am | Reply
  25. harry lilley

    When are climate gurus going to admit there TOO MANY PEOLE ON THE PLANET.

    October 22, 2013 at 12:38 am | Reply
  26. Jeff

    Abotts direct action is another form of money laundering. Money to the pouluters who funded his election campaign.
    As to the fuel load in our bush changing climate is reducing the window of opertunity to do H/R as normallythis is the time we would be doing H/R not fighting major fires

    October 22, 2013 at 12:42 am | Reply
  27. Chris

    Australia always has and always will be prone to bushfires. Because of this the eco system has adapted to the point that some flora can't propogate without fire.
    There have been worse bushfire disasters in the Blue Mountains – in 1952, 1957 and 1968. The worrying factor here is the intensity of the fire caused by a high fuel load. The high fuel is a direct result of not being able to use hazard reduction techniques for the last twenty years. Green dominated councils have put a stop to it. Incidentally the bushfire season officially commences on the 1st October for a reason!.

    Funny though, we have a cold snap or unseasonably cold temperatures and people just blame it on the weather. Have a few hot days and people scream climate change! How about considering instead that we are in a El Nino-La Nina neutral period and that the centre of the continent did not have its usual cloud cover allowing the centre to heat up earlier therefore producing these hot winds from the north west. Or doesn't El Nino exist anymore due to "climate change"?

    October 22, 2013 at 1:02 am | Reply
    • jim

      first paragraph is possibly true. don't know enough to comment on it. however the second paragraph demonstrates that you don' t quite understand the science. i believe the bureau of meteorology may have some info on this on there website

      October 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  28. Wayne

    What I find ammusing is, if it wasn't for global warming in our distant pass (160000 years ago) we would all be extinct. Warming is good for humans. It allowed us to spread around the world. What kills us is the cold. If you want to live in fear of something you can't control, fear gobal cooling. Warm = increased rain fall and abundance. Cold = drought and harsh living! Very simple.

    October 22, 2013 at 3:35 am | Reply
  29. David

    Seriously, what would you expect a UN climate chief to say? That they aren't linked? The smug quote about the WMO not linking them 'yet' is classic spin. The WMO either links them or they don't. There is no 'yet'.

    October 22, 2013 at 5:27 am | Reply
    • jim

      yes. there certainly is a link. increased heat waves = increased fire risk. its very simple

      October 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  30. Michael

    What can one expect from the party that doesn't believe in evolution and condemns the teaching of critical thinking skills. And doesn't want to fund education or head start because educated people may develop critical thinking skills and make corporations bear the true costs of activities that produce their profits.

    October 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  31. Lyn

    If the undergrown is not controlled there is extra fuel. If the temperatures and wind and everything else comes together as it does, we have bushfires and sometimes large ones due to arsonists adding to the situation. Climage change NO natural event in Australia YES. Do we have rise in sea levels here – NO and so how do we have rises in the same area on Islands. Well the islands are coral and the coral breaks up and down goes the island. I saw footage of an island being a meter or more at times under water and if this was the sea rising why is it not happening everywhere not just on one or 2 CORAL Islands. If you want to help the planet send rubbish boats out to the huge rubbish dump out in the ocean and sieve it off and bring it to the land and get rid of it. If you want to help the planet, plant millions of trees and stop cutting down the forrests. If you want to help the planet, CLEAN IT UP and stop the corporations spewing their filthy waste into rivers and onto land. Stop perpetuating this CLIMATE CHANGE

    October 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  32. steven

    i think global warming and its affects on climate change is real and if you listen to what Abbott said he says the same. he only made a comment that he didn't believe the fires we are having were the result of climate change. people jump on these bandwagons like the greens Adam Brandt who blames Abbott for the fires. extreme statements like some religious nutter and it just makes matters worse. politicizing the situation to gain brownie points doesn't help either.
    the facts are that only 6% of fires are started naturally ie from lightening strikes, 35% from accidents ie camp fires ect and the rest are lit on purpose. if the do gooders who are making all these claims and creating a fear in people spent 2 seconds and consider some of the other factors like why and how to stop young people from having the need to start a fire then they would be contributing to helping and not making matters worse. we give twice as much attention to this trendy new green policy and dont put the same importance on other factors which are just as real and in this case more relevant.

    October 23, 2013 at 12:54 am | Reply
  33. Tony Lear

    Incidence of wildfires and droughts are down not up. Impossibly stupid alarmism from the UN.

    October 23, 2013 at 1:22 am | Reply
    • jim

      mmmmm. weird thing to say

      October 23, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  34. Damien

    The key word in Ms Figueres statement is 'yet'. It suggests she believes a link will be found, even though she admits there is no evidence to support it. That is called faith, a key component of any religious belief including the 'green faith' she obviously belongs to. How can someone claim have science on their side but base their beliefs on faith?

    October 23, 2013 at 1:56 am | Reply
  35. Woody

    I was very disappointed to see Christiane spouting such one sided clap trap. Tony Abbott's whole campaign was based on scrapping the carbon tax and the people of Australia voted him in because we want it scrapped. Only 12.5% of all the carbon in the atmosphere is 'man-made'. Of the 12.5% Australia only produces 1.5% or 0.0001875. There is nothing anyone in Australia can do that will change the climate, even if you still believe the whole problem is manmade.

    Did any of you believers notice the part of the latest IPCC report that mentioned the warming increases are below the predicted forecast and that the increase is within the liveable range and will in fact contibute to increased food production in northern areas? Mankind has only flourished during the relatively brief warm spells on our planet.

    October 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Reply

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