(Bloomberg) -- Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers highlighted the soaring cost of disaster management in his nation ahead of a potentially disastrous wildfire season in the coming summer, fueled by El Nino.
Government funding for disaster recovery has blown out by 433% over the past three years, Chalmers said in excerpts of a speech to be delivered Tuesday in the northern city of Rockhampton. The costs stood at A$2.5 billion ($1.6 billion) in the year ended June 30.
“The pressure of a changing climate and more frequent natural disasters is constant, cascading, and cumulative,” Chalmers said.
Australia has experienced several years of devastating natural disasters, from the Black Summer bushfires during the 2019-20 summer to heavy rainfall and flooding across the country’s east in 2021 and 2022.
Authorities are warning of a growing risk of severe bushfires over the coming months due to an El Nino weather system over the Pacific Ocean causing high temperatures and low rainfall.
Australia is at the forefront of climate change impact, yet has faced criticism for lagging behind in addressing the risk, particularly under the previous center-right government that ruled from 2013 through to May last year. The nation is one of the biggest per capita carbon emitters and among the largest exporters of coal.
Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said on Sunday that Australia was better prepared for the upcoming bushfire season than it was in 2019, saying government funding for aerial fire-fighting had doubled since then.
But Chalmers will say the economic damage from climate change is only just beginning to be understood, with the Black Summer bushfires and floods in October 2022 each costing the Australian economy about A$1.5 billion.
“If further action isn’t taken, Australian crop yields could be 4% lower by 2063, costing us about A$1.8 billion in GDP in today’s dollars,” he said.
--With assistance from Swati Pandey.
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