Flat White

Climate is a cop-out. Political pissants are to blame for our bushfire crisis

30 December 2019

5:00 AM

30 December 2019

5:00 AM

Matt Kean, the New South Wales Minister for the Environment, recently blamed climate change for the current bushfires in Australia.  He said we have to reduce our ‘carbon’ emissions. He means, of course, our  CO2 emissions. And whatever he is talking about, reducing them won’t extinguish one fire.

Even if the increasingly challenged and discredited theory that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing serious global warming is actually true, Australia can do nothing to change the temperature. Our emissions make up only 1.3 per cent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions. Further, only three per cent of the world’s CO2 is man-made. CO2, a vital plant food,  makes up only 0.04 per cent of the world’s atmosphere.

China increases its emissions by an amount equivalent to the total amount of our CO2 emissions every year. So even if we turned everything off — stoves, air-conditioning and all machinery, even if we stopped using cars, buses and all transport, stopping our 1.3 per cent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions would not change the climate by an infinitesimal part of one degree.  The fact is our politicians are ruining this country to achieve nothing, even if they actually believe in this discredited theory which, I suspect, few do.  

Kean’s critics point out that that he does not come to this issue with clean hands. As Minister, he is in charge of NSW national parks and they are loaded with fuel from years of neglect. Kean’s fuel load has only made the current bush fires worse, indeed significantly worse. Keane and the other politicians didn’t start the bushfires. But the clear fact is they have made them significantly worse.

Then there is the former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner, Greg Mullins, who heads a group called Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. They’re also calling for action against― you guessed it — climate change. This group is funded by Tim Flannery’s Climate Council.  Flannery is well known for predicting that Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane would run out of water, that Arctic sea ice would disappear, and similar “The end of the world is nigh” predictions.

Roger Underwood is chairman of the Perth-based Bushfire Front. He’s has had 60 years’ experience in bushfire management. Writing in The Australian on December 19, he pointed out what should be obvious to the politicians. This is that if fuel is allowed to build up in long unburnt eucalyptus bushland,  the eventual fire will be of much greater intensity.

Blaming climate change for the current speed of bushfires, he says,  ignores the fact that they’re almost impossible to control once they get going. This is because they are burning the dangerous levels of fuel which have been allowed to build up in the nation’s bushlands.

A good start, he says, would be for governments and bureaucrats to acknowledge the three great truths about bushfires in this country. First, Australia is naturally bushfire prone .

This is because of our hot dry summers, periodic droughts, flammable vegetation and abundant sources of ignition. He could have included the activities of arsonists which,according to the Productivity Commission, cause up to about 50 per cent of fires .  This is surely compounded by our criminal justice system which seems more concerned about the criminal than the victim.

The second great truth, according to Underwood, is that bushfires cannot be prevented.  The third great truth, he says, is the severity of and damage from bushfires can be minimised, but this requires effective management.  

The trouble, he says, is the nation does not understand or agree on these key points. There is confusion about priorities.  Thus, we have “fire chiefs” focusing on climate change.  environmentalists on protecting biodiversity, with the aviation industry, backed by the media, pushing for more and bigger water bombers.  Meanwhile, he says,  politicians are scrambling to please everyone but are pleasing nobody.

This leadership vacuum, Underwood says,  is devastating. To his reasons for the present disaster, we must add the absence of water harvesting since the time of the Hawke government. Getting the massive amount of water which goes out to sea and moving it to where it is needed is crucial. But the politicians will not admit this. They are too terrified of or they are under the influence of the Greens.

Peter Manuel, the head of FLAG Australia, the Food Producers Landowners Action Group,  tells of one brigade going to a dam shown on the map and finding out it was filled in. Or the South Australian government, with money from  Canberra, subsidising the installation on dams of low-water bypasses which strictly limit the amount of water a damn can accumulate.

Water harvesting is crucial to fighting fires. That and managing fuel loads would have saved so many properties.

The problem is not the climate or climate change or non-existent global warming. It’s the politicians. While the politicians do not start the bushfires, they have made them significantly worse and made it far too difficult to fight them.

It is time to make the politicians accountable.

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