The scientific community has also praised Science Minister Karen Andrews’ call to end the damaging debate over the reality of climate change, as key institutions come together with government to discuss the new technology and research in response to this summer’s devastating bushfires.
Ms Andrews said after a roundtable meeting of top scientists on Wednesday that bushfire response will focus on the factors contributing to the extent and severity of the fires, as well as new technology and citizen science to aid “medium and longer-term solutions”.
“Satellites high in our skies, to everyday Australians collecting data using their smartphones in the bush, there is a broad role science can play in how we prepare and respond to bushfires,” she said.
Ms Andrews drew widespread praise from the science community on Tuesday when she called for an end to damaging controversy over the facts of global warming.
“Every second we spend discussing if climate change is real is a second we don’t spend addressing these issues. Let’s move on and get over this,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
President of peak representative body Science and Technology Australia, Jeremy Brownlie, said Ms Andrews’ statement was an important step towards improving government action on climate change.
“Implementing research at a policy level has been difficult when small but vocal parts of the community seem to have influenced successive governments efforts to come up with a strategy to respond to the changing climate,” Professor Brownlie said.
Climate controversies hadn’t significantly limited the focus of scope of scientific research, Prof Brownlie said, but politicians were gun-shy over perceived lack of support.
“We have seen in many fields that you need community support before you can implement the science. We need enough people to accept the science and to exert influence so politicians can implement changes.”
The science roundtable heard Geoscience Australia has developed satellite technology that could potentially be used to identify fires within 10 minutes of ignition.
However, it was noted that inaccessible terrain and the impediment of smoke were still challenges to rapid response from both ground and aerial firefighting.
Scientists discussed options to collaborate more with the private sector on emergency response technology like autonomous vehicles and new emergency warning technology.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.