Australia fires: NSW inquiry to probe climate change impact

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A Rural Fire Service firefighter looks at smoke in New South Wales in January 2020.Image source, Getty Images
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Fires in NSW have killed 25 people and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has announced an independent inquiry into the ongoing bushfires, promising to "leave no stone unturned".

The six-month inquiry will examine the causes of the fires, as well as how the state prepared and responded to them.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the inquiry would consider how climate change, human activity and other factors had contributed to the blazes.

Bushfires have killed 25 people in NSW and damaged thousands of homes.

Ms Berejiklian said she hoped the inquiry would allow the state "to learn from this season and the catastrophic conditions we've faced, and apply these learnings for the future".

"NSW is incredibly proud of the efforts of all our emergency services personnel and volunteers throughout this ongoing bushfire season, but the scale of these fires has been unprecedented and we must leave no stone unturned," she said.

The inquiry, headed by former NSW Police deputy commissioner Dave Owens and former NSW chief scientist Professor Mary O'Kane, is set to begin in the coming days.

The inclusion of climate change in the probe comes amid debate over the issue in Australia, with critics accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of inaction.

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Australia fires: 'I can't explain Morrison actions'

Australia is one of the highest emitters of carbon pollution per capita, largely because it is still heavily reliant on coal-fired power.

Mr Morrison has insisted that Australia is meeting the challenge "better than most countries" and fulfilling international targets.

While climate change is not the direct cause of the bushfires, scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia's fires becoming more frequent and more intense.