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.”