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Fed: Victorian blazes were 'fires of climate change' - institute

By Cathy Alexander
19 Feb 2009 6:00 PM
EDS: Embargoed until 1800 AEDT Thursday, Feb 19

CANBERRA, Feb 19 AAP - The devastating Victorian bushfires were the "fires of climate change," a conservation group has warned.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said he didn't want to point the finger earlier out of respect for victims and survivors.

But with a royal commission now underway, Mr Connor said it was time to speak out.

"In our view what we have seen in Victoria, with such devastating ferocity, are the fires of climate change," he told a Melbourne audience on Thursday evening.

"Climate change costs, and climate change kills.

"The reality for firefighters and rural communities is that the rules that applied in the past to fighting and surviving bushfires have changed forever because of our warming planet."

Victorian Premier John Brumby has already pointed to climate change as a factor in the fires, saying the climate is becoming more extreme.

But most experts and conservation groups have been more circumspect, saying climate change will cause more bushfires but it had not necessarily caused the Victorian blazes.

Mr Connor called for Australia to slash its greenhouse gas emissions to help avoid future bushfires.