The faces behind climate impacts: A photo essay of Tasmania post-bushfires Media Release

Feb 10, 2013 - 9:00am

An iconic Hills hoist clothesline, clothes intact, starkly white against burnt bushland. A father sitting amidst the rubble of what was once his daughter’s room, now just a pile of bricks and bent poles and cables.


These are some of the human stories captured in a photo essay by Michael Hall , Creative Fellow of The Climate Institute, shot in the aftermath of a record heat wave that led to as many as 40 devastating bushfires in Tasmania in January. The most damaging fire began in Forcett, destroying close to 200 properties, 21 businesses and facilities such a school, service station, and RSL club. Road access to the Tasman Peninsula was closed for more than a week. 


“This is a graphic insight into the human tragedy, suffering and danger that is growing as climate change risks become realities,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.


“In 2007, with the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, we published groundbreaking research that warned of rising bushfire weather danger . Since then, extreme heat and bushfire weather records have been broken, devastating human lives and livelihoods.”


January 2013 was officially declared Australia’s hottest month on record, with an average temperature of 40.3°C. For the first time since records began, the average temperature exceeded 39°C for seven days straight, breaking the earlier record set 1972. 


At least 20 places, including Sydney and typically cooler Hobart, set new heat records. The heat has been so excessive that the Bureau of Meteorology has added new colours—purple and pink—to its weather map to denote temperatures once considered off the scale: up to 54°C.

 

“Australia’s climate is naturally variable, but the land of droughts and flooding rains is experiencing hotter droughts and heavier downpours,” Connor said. “While our Creative Fellow was in Tasmania, a cyclone off the coast of Queensland developed and led to unprecedented rainfall along the east coast, where most Australians live. The stories of loss from affected towns in Queensland and New South Wales compounded those of Tasmanians trying to get back on their feet.”

 

IPCC scientists visiting Australia in January said the country was very vulnerable to climate change. This followed a World Bank report from November warning that unless significant action is taken to cut emissions, the planet is on track to warm by four degrees this century, causing increasingly extreme heat waves, lower crop yields and rising sea levels.

 

“The human stories captured in Creative Fellow Michael Hall’s photos represent the tragic reality of climate extremes and put faces to our research,” Connor said. “The images are a vivid call to action.”


The photos can be viewed at http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/tasmania-bushfires-2013-photo-essay.html . For higher resolution images and options to republish, please contact us. 

For more information

Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute |  02 8239 6299

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