Facebook Google Menu Linkedin lock Pinterest Search Twitter

Advertisement

Politics

Feb 9, 2009

Bushfires: Don’t mention the c word

Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events? Asks Clive Hamilton.

Share

Climate scientists have been predicting more frequent and severe bushfires due to climate change for some years. A 2007 report for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire CRC concluded that we could expect a two to four-fold increase in the number of extreme fire danger days by 2050 under a high global warming scenario, the path we are now on. It identified northern Victoria, the site of the most deadly fires over the weekend, as one of the areas most prone to catastrophic fires.

The bushfires and the extreme heatwave, whose death toll when tallied will probably be in the hundreds and exceed that of the fires, are global warming made manifest in the daily lives of ordinary people. Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events?

The climate change debate is usually carried out at a high level of abstraction, which makes it easier for ordinary people and political leaders to treat it as a vague and distant threat. The heatwave and the fires should turn abstraction into reality, just as 9/11 did for the threat of Islamic terrorism.

If we were rational beings the events of the last 10 days would cause a massive reassessment of our whole approach to climate change. Yet it is a safe bet that over the next days and weeks the link between the bushfires and global warming will be avoided and downplayed.

It is almost as if it is bad taste or callousness to raise the spectre of climate change at the time when the terrible forecasts become a reality. But by the time the coronial inquest eventually reports the words of the experts will have lost much of their force.

Certainly, the major political parties will not want to acknowledge the association between global warming and the fires because they will immediately be asked to explain why they are not doing more about it, why Australia will go to Copenhagen with a five per cent target when the scientists say it must be at least 25 per cent.

The Prime Minister has not hesitated to accuse the Opposition of harbouring climate change denialists. But there is more than one form of denialism, including pretending to take warming more seriously than you do and claiming that the science must be “balanced” against the claims of fossil fuel lobbyists.

In all likelihood his media advisers are today urging on him a third form: “Don’t talk about the warming”.

For weeks the political system has been consumed by the global financial crisis and bickering over how best to respond to it. Yet serious as the economic slowdown is, no one has died from it.

Clive Hamilton is the author of Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change (Black Inc.)

Climate scientists have been predicting more frequent and severe bushfires due to climate change for some years. A 2007 report for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire CRC concluded that we could expect a two to four-fold increase in the number of extreme fire danger days by 2050 under a high global warming scenario, the path we are now on. It identified northern Victoria, the site of the most deadly fires over the weekend, as one of the areas most prone to catastrophic fires.

The bushfires and the extreme heatwave, whose death toll when tallied will probably be in the hundreds and exceed that of the fires, are global warming made manifest in the daily lives of ordinary people. Over the last ten days we have seen the future. The question is: will we face up to it or pretend they are one-off events?

The climate change debate is usually carried out at a high level of abstraction, which makes it easier for ordinary people and political leaders to treat it as a vague and distant threat. The heatwave and the fires should turn abstraction into reality, just as 9/11 did for the threat of Islamic terrorism.

If we were rational beings the events of the last 10 days would cause a massive reassessment of our whole approach to climate change. Yet it is a safe bet that over the next days and weeks the link between the bushfires and global warming will be avoided and downplayed.

It is almost as if it is bad taste or callousness to raise the spectre of climate change at the time when the terrible forecasts become a reality. But by the time the coronial inquest eventually reports the words of the experts will have lost much of their force.

Certainly, the major political parties will not want to acknowledge the association between global warming and the fires because they will immediately be asked to explain why they are not doing more about it, why Australia will go to Copenhagen with a five per cent target when the scientists say it must be at least 25 per cent.

The Prime Minister has not hesitated to accuse the Opposition of harbouring climate change denialists. But there is more than one form of denialism, including pretending to take warming more seriously than you do and claiming that the science must be “balanced” against the claims of fossil fuel lobbyists.

In all likelihood his media advisers are today urging on him a third form: “Don’t talk about the warming”.

For weeks the political system has been consumed by the global financial crisis and bickering over how best to respond to it. Yet serious as the economic slowdown is, no one has died from it.

Clive Hamilton is the author of Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change (Black Inc.)

Advertisement

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

63 comments

Leave a comment

63 thoughts on “Bushfires: Don’t mention the c word

  1. Daniel

    JamesK is Crikey’s resident expert on predictability 🙂

  2. Cathy

    If you ask the aged (80 years and over) was the weather ever as bad as this they’ll tell you OH, YES!!! “Mum used to hang wet sheets across the doors and we all had to stay inside for days” – they lived at Huntleys Point in Sydney. “We were always sent home from school or work when the temperature hit 100 degrees and many times we had to get off the tram when the rails buckled in the heat”. So maybe climate change is about weather patterns alternating over 60 or more years along with the impact of industry and habitation. Another point well made was “our houses weren’t made of flimsy materials – we had double-brick walls and tiled roofs and the house was the coolest place to be”. How many homes are like that these days?

  3. Venise Alstergren

    David Sanderson: re JK, I did wonder.

    Now I’ve calmed down a bit I have a question which no-one will bother to give me. I’m too much of an odd-ball! Why oh why does none among you arrive at the obvious conclusion that less people =less climate change? Here we have Oz, the major part of which is rightly referred to as the driest continent on earth. Here are our politicians who pay money to women for breeding. These same ppoliticians invite hundreds upon thousands of people to come and live here. Climate Change is caused by the activities of the descendant of apes, called man. Man has bred like rabbits, and continents like Africa and Asia, large parts of Latin America are unable to sustain this population explosion.
    But it’s OK to blame Climate Change. Not OK to suggest that man should modify its breeding! Such is the idealogical mind-set of the ape species called man.

  4. Johnny B

    Harold – 9 February 2009 4:25:54 PM

    “….but let’s not fool ourselves that India or China will be inflenced….”

    You raise a valid point and you may be interested that President Obama has already approached China on a joint approach to tackling climate change and so far the response has been positive:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/united-on-climate-change-obamas-chinese-revolution-1604027.html

    I believe we need to move much faster on CC than anyone realises – as fast as we would were the country being invaded by foreign forces. Think about it.

  5. Bernard Keane

    If you want schadenfreude Brendan look no further than Wilson Tuckey, who has used the fires to attack political parties pursuing Green preferences – just as he did after the Canberra bushfires, which had nothing to do with forest management and everything to do with rank incompetence.

    Contemptible, even by Tuckey’s bottom-of-the-barrel standards. He also insisted on passing notes around during Gillard’s condolence motion in Parliament.

  6. Andrew

    As always, those who are still fighting the arguments of the 1990s will point to an event and say that, because it was not completely unprecedented in human history, it can’t be climate change. Clearly we have had bad fires before. But I can’t see how an unprecedented drought and record breaking heatwaves can be ignored as contributing factors to the severity of these fires. A change in severity, or in frequency of events is change in the climate and having one of these fires every few years is a lot different than once every few decades.

  7. Johnny B

    CSIRO’s 2007 report into climate change on Australia indicated that under a low emissions scenario warming of 1ºC to 2.5ºC is likely by around 2070; under a high emissions scenario the estimates are between 2.2ºC and 5ºC.

    The report also makes clear that in any event there will be “substantially more days over 35ºC…,droughts are likely to become more frequent…, evaporation rates are likely to increase…, high fire-danger weather is likely to increase in the southeast….., tropical cyclones are likely to become more intense and sea levels will continue to rise”.

    Despite these warnings Australian politicians are committed to policies that will further increase greenhouse gas generating coal-fired power stations with continued approval of new coal mines and extensive expansion of rail and shipping facilities.

    This whole process has a horrible similarity with the asbestos and tobacco sagas, which continued for many decades after knowledge of their deadly impacts was available.

    At the very least we should have some projections of the numbers of Australians who can be expected to die as a result of bushfires between now and 2070 in the low and high emissions scenarios so we can include those in a sensible power generation strategy. Or maybe the deaths of people in bushfires are just “colateral damage” inevitable when supporting the coal mining industry.

  8. scott

    To answer Clive Hamilton’s first question, will we face up to [the future] or pretend [bush-fires] are one-off events, I suggest the answer is the latter. I am only thirty-five and this is the second time in my lifetime that Victoria has been devastated in this way. Yet the sandwich-board outside my news agency advertised the Australian with the banner “Worst fires in generations”. I feel a cynical helplessness watching the television news. Streets of houses overshadowed by the trees that incinerated them. Villages pressed up against forest with no visible open space to act a fire-breaks. These villages must have been very beautiful when the rains were good and the weather cool. But to live this close to nature, these small communities ought to have natural disaster plans and practice them regularly. School children practice their fire-drill every term. When the gale is blowing, the temperature is above 40C and the sky is dark with smoke and embers, it is too late to decide in which direction one may safely retreat.

    How is it these communities do not have the collective memory to learn from the past?

  9. Mark Duffett

    Just beat me to it, Clive, but gee I wish you’d presented Barry Brook’s very lucid (and, heavens be praised, numerate) bravenewclimate piece up front in your original article. You really led with the chin there. Take the hint, anyone who’s interested in serious climate change discussion rather than cheap point scoring – head over to what is, for mine, the world’s premier climate blog.

  10. Venise Alstergren

    As someone who saw her partner’s property at Gembrook, around the corner from the place the truck load of firefighters were incinerated at Emerald: and as a conservationist-an active one. I am appalled at the facile argument amongst the dimmer mentalities which crowd these pages; that Climate Change equals bushfires. I am more than appalled. I am outraged. I wish all of the armchair theorists could have the unmitigated joy of seeing whole forests, farms, native and domestic, and human lives, VAPORIZED.
    Every lunatic, chair-bound hypothesist should be subjected to the brutality of frying meat on dying animals. Native animals-surely some of the people here are hypothetical conservationists-are barbequed with equal facility. Trees don’t just become black. They cease to have any form at all. Vaporized is the only word I can think of. Nothing, bloody nothing, escapes the quixotic path of a raging bushfire.
    To say this one is the worst is being cited solely on the numbers of people who have died, or the poor bastards doomed for hideous burn pain in our hospitals is codswallop. Our population since the 1929 fires has exploded. Of course the deaths will be in higher numbers. The deaths of animals and humans in future fires will be greater than each preceding one. Yet, while the legal and the medical fraternity continue to ‘understand’ the mental anguish (?) of arsonists, so long will we be at their mercy. Climate Change exists but it takes undiluted human numbers to 1) Cause it, 2)to offer up the numbers of potential victims.
    To reduced the who bloody, bloody thing to an exercise of personal politics is obscene. There are times when I am revolted by the things said by the Clive Hamilton’s of this world. Clive, you make Andrew Bolt sound like a human being.

  11. JamesK

    The Royal Commission was the appropriate step by Brumby and much of what Dave Liberts suggests should happen, will in that forum.

    Otherwise even calling this article merely “a cheap shot” is to give it a notability that it does not deserve.
    It says more about the author than the point he was trying to pile drive.

    Bernard Keane makes the point that in a period of global warming bushfires may become more frequent. That may be true. However, firstly the period of global warming of the past 30 years may already have ended. Secondly, if it has not, there are many who do not accept that atmospheric CO2 rises are the dominant cause.AGW is a scientific theory that has been politicised. If it is correct, and that is hotly debated, Australia is clearly playing its part in managing it. Unfortunately, never enough for the extremists.

    it may be appropriate to plan for increased frequency of bushfires as a result of global warming (whether man-made are not). Day one after the fires with corpses still being dragged from the burnt remains of communities is not the time to fly a political belief in the hope that it might garner support.
    Nor is it the time to be blaming politicians or anyone else for that matter.

    I haven’t heard Wilson Tuckey yesterday but I am familiar with his fervent belief that native forests are mismanaged. Many in the bush and forestry specialists agree with him.

  12. Russell

    I was wondering who would be first to start political point scoring, Nats blaming Greens over hazard reduction, Libs pointing to the ALP over the lack of warning…
    Both of them have had the decency to resist. But not Clive Hamilton. Not a nice look, not al all…

  13. Venise Alstergren

    If the mosquito-coil theory is correct it helps to understand why the police appear to have little interest in following such a long track, with little chance of catching the arsonists. Plus the fact our medical and legal institutions are so busy ‘understanding’ them if they are caught. What should be understood is these arsonists love fire. They are the first people to offer their services to the CFA. The first people to arrive at the scene to help put it out and the first people to light them.
    Then there are the just plain stupid members of the community who undo gates, drive into the nearest picnic spot and leave the fire going. The one they started to fry their sausages. On a day of total fire-ban. Naturally.

  14. Noel Courtis

    I found it interesting that the experts found that Victoria was in line for bad fires – surely they just had to know their history.

  15. Ausearth

    I wont mention The C word. I’m totally mystified. I’m going to play the national pokies and get drunk like everyone else & forget these issues. Thanks Rudd

  16. Stuart

    Warming induced by natural climatic variability may have a net outcome of increased fire potential. However, please do not DARE suggest or imply that CO2 (be it man made or otherwise) has anything to do with it if you wish to maintain any credibility. I thought we were supposed to relish the burning habit of our indigenous brothers and the resultant vegetation, animal, and geomorphological changes over time.

  17. MichaelT

    Before rushing to proclaim victory for the AGW hypothesis, should we not mention that:

    * current global surface temp is 0.4 degrees C below the peak even according to Goddard Institute
    * Northern Europe is experiencing an exceptionally severe winter for the second year running?

    It is hard to to look beyond our local (both in terms of regional location and in time) experience to the big picture.

  18. Jeff

    JamesK – I struggle to see how anyone who responds to a tragedy by suggesting means of preventing similar deaths in future is failing to display “innate humanitarianism”.

    I would rather see Clive do as he has and open the debate than have us try and pretend that this past weekend never happened.

  19. Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    There is always dirty politics available to any subject.
    There is also always dirty science or science abused available to big subjects like this.
    This is a really serious tragedy and advantage taking by anybody ain’t nice especially as there is no evidence in science to say that this couldn’t have happened even if there was NO climate change in the wind.
    Psychologically getting ones head around a person lighting these fires deliberately will test the best of us. They will claim it wasn’t meant to get so bad and that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone so it was like an accident (murderous albeit) and we have all practiced extending understanding of horrible murderous actions when confronted by the execution of a skinny 15 year old boy by a barrage of multiple close range gun shots because 4 well trained adult policepersons freak out when a kid waves a couple of knives at them cause one of them might get a little cut if they were careless.
    The psychology of death depends on who dies unfortunately. The victims tragedies of these fires are going to disturb most of us seriously and significantly.

  20. mirek

    Ok then, Clive, it`s really the threat ofI islamic terrorists that`s the REAL cause: if they can do the 9/11 out of a cave, they can do ANYTHING!

  21. sean bedlam

    Here comes the white noise from the deniers. What a bunch of absolute tools. Climate change isn’t a hobby, you rascals! I’ve tried to understand what you’re going on about, but it really always boils down to, “Blah, blah, blah, I hate hippies, blah, blah, the sound of my own voice, blah, I’ve got attitude problems and frankly my head feels nice and snug up my arse.”

    We saw the same kind of brain-dead rubbish after 9/11, when it was “tasteless and offensive” to publicly discuss reasons why things had happened. Frankly, it seems very convenient that deniers play this card now. Could it be the crushing weight of evidence Victoria’s just been delivered has hurt their feelings in some way? Well, get over it losers, because your point of view loses, you are wrong, and you’re not going to win now by trying to intimidate people who are only reading the writing on the wall.

    Christ, this gets so boring! You’re at a barbie, and you’ve gotta hear some cottonhead waffle on about long weather cycles and- well, I can’t remember because it always puts my brain to sleep. I suppose it’d be funny to say the greatest crime these turkeys commit is the creation of soul-deadening boredom in the public space, but really, fuck them, they’re Nazis of some sort. It’s hard to work out exactly what is their great motivation for being such enemies of any attempt to save the world. It kind of takes the usual common or garden deathwish to a level most of us have some trouble experiencing.

    One day, when we’re all underwater, the coral is bleached white, and we have to live in submarines for half the year because the air gets so hot humans shrivel in under five minutes, we’ll look back and thank the climate change deniers for being such a great help in keeping the hysteria at bay. In fact, I’d like to thank-you right now, gang, because your type of knotty thinking has gotten us into a situation where fires like the Dresden bombing are our future. Thanks for keeping it real, guys!

  22. Andrew Glikson

    The biosphere depends on a sensitive ballance of climate forcings which govern the temperature of the atmosphere and oceans. Past rises in the level of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O) are known to have triggered mass extinction of species.

    Originally climate scientists and those who wish to protect nature and species, not least the human species, were criticised as “scaremongers”. Now that, alas, their projections and warnings are turning correct, where the Arctic Sea ice almost disappearing, west Antarctic ice shelves are collapsing, Atlantic hurricanes intensfying, the Gulf Stream is slowing, climate zones are migrating, methane is released from permafrost and extreme weather events are becoming more common and intensifying, including floods and fires, environmentalists are being accused for being “responsible”, among other by those who continue to promote the use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon gases.

    Who said “the bigger the lie, the more people will believe in it”?

  23. Mal

    So a few days of exceptionally hot weather in south-eastern Australia is more evidence of the advancing global warming catastrophe. What about the weeks and weeks of record cold and snow which has been encircling the globe in the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere? Is that global warming too? Maybe you should stay out of science matters Clive, that you seem not to understand and apply a little more of the ‘ethics’ which is supposedly your area of expertise.

  24. David Sanderson

    Jonathon Green also pointed out to JamesK hat he was “boring”. I don’t suppose JamesK liked that either but the evidence for it is spilled all over the place, unfortunately.

  25. Venise Alstergren

    My rant was based on my experiences during the Ash Wednesday fires. A point which, in my fury, I failed to mention.

  26. Peterc

    Wilson Tuckey has weighed in. He says it’s been caused by politicians pandering to green votes.
    Tuckey, a former federal forestry minister, said government policies, which locked up forests, created excessive fuel loads.

    This is a load of arrant nonsense, given the fires affected land that was not forest, and logged forests, and fuel reduction burned forests.

    The logging industry trots this out after evey bushfire; sickening politics and misinformation about a great tragedy.

    As Clive has noted, this scenario was predicted by the CSIRO as a result of the effects of climate change. Tragically, it has now happened.

  27. Dave Liberts

    JamesK has succeeded (yet again, why do I let this happen) in winding me up. James, like yourself, I have views about the environment and politics, but these have bugger-all to do with my original comment. I’d suggest you read the report of the Bushfire CRC linked from this comment. The article by Lionel Elmore in this edition of Crikey is also excellent. Clive Hamilton’s article does little more than draw attention to the conclusions reached by some intelligent and independent researchers. I’m satisfied with my own humanitarianism – it is precisely this which leads to my personal belief that the mourning of lives tragically lost counts for nothing if lessons are not learned and actions are not implemented. A Royal Commission is a good idea, especially if it’s not a blamefest. Let’s look at bushland management practices, resident fire action plans and the reality that the weather conditions which produced firestorms over the weekend will occur more frequently in coming decades. Sticking our heads in the sand is not only dumb, it is insulting to those who lost their lives or their homes over the weekend.

  28. Louise Crossley

    Right on Clive. And of course both the economic and climate crises are part of the same syndrome of over consumption and resouce exploitation. Returning to buisiness as usual is not an option. How much more warning do we need?

  29. Dave Liberts

    Those criticising the article need to read it again. Of course this land has always been prone to bushfires. The point of the article is not that fires are new, but that the weather conditions which often promote bushfires are striking increasingly frequently. We naturally measure the catastrophe of fires in terms of lives lost (and thus the huge fires from earlier this decade are easily forgotten), however when we consider how many hectares have been burnt by fires in Victoria in the last decade and compare this with previous decades I think we’d see a clearer pattern. It is tragic that lives have been lost, but the tragedy will have been for nothing if we can’t work to reduce the likelihood of these events into the future. Good article Clive.

  30. Venise Alstergren

    Malcolm: I think I’ve just fainted.

    Cheers

    V.

  31. Marilyn

    Why should the truth wait for a few days? The problem is that it has been waiting for 20 years and the heatwaves and fires are the result of that waiting.

    Adelaide has turned into a desert weather and climate pattern instead of Mediterranean and it is ugly.

  32. Stuart

    It’s hard to comprehend that climate change is still perceived as politically controversial. However, given that it is so, there seems to be a need for balance here, between being proactive (re. climate change) and sensitive (re. the victims).

    Bob Brown has already suffered the wrath of Andrew Bolt in this regard – of course, he doesn’t see any problem blaming environmentalists for the previous lot of heat-related deaths: http://www.grods.com/post/5284/

  33. David Sanderson

    Noel, it is not that hard. Climate change creates the conditions – more extreme temperatures and dryness, a generally more unstable weather – which arsonists can then exploit (with more devastating results) for their pathological gratification.

  34. Kevin Jones

    The sad reality is that climate change will not get a look-in as soon as there is a confirmation of deliberately-lit fires. At that point the community will dismiss the climate change issues to focus on the cruelty of arson. Ash Wednesday developed the same fire-bug focus and, I believe, the arsonist is still to be caught for that one.

  35. absolute

    It was 51c in Ivanhoe 1939, and the temperature was in the mid to late 40s for weeks. A lot of people died in a vastly smaller population then too. Climate change? A large congregate assembled for the response to global cooling in the 1960s. An equally large number came together for the depletion of the ozone layer in the 1980s. Call me a crazy but I am already looking at 2020s….

  36. Tony Jones

    I know I sound a climate skeptic, but I guess I am (a bit). How do we know that this is not a statistical bleep – the heatwave generated bush fires. We measure climate change over hundreds of years but perhaps if we look over tens of thousands of years then we are just seeing a statistical anomalie. And anyway, all things change. Climate changes as well. We will adapt. It is not catastrophe. What makes me think this is [1] I remember back in the 70s it was said the oil was running out and would be all gone by the 90s, and [2] remember also the chaos that was supposed to impact on computers when we changed over to the year 2000. Again, that predication was wrong. Could this be wrong as well?

  37. Venise Alstergren

    A Royal Commission! Isn’t that a whole waste of taxpayers’ money? Huge legal fees to come out of OUR money.
    There was a famous crook in Melbourne, way back when, called John Wren. He said that ‘Royal Commissions were held to clear the guilty’. And I’m not talking small-time crook. I’m talking about a man who would have made the late Joh Bjelke-Petersen of QLD look like a tadpole.

  38. Michael Harvey

    China’s massive quakes due to damming – Australia’s worst bushfires. The climate change skeptics and their fossil fuel minders lose. Bob Brown and the greens are unfortunately correct – to not act is the murderous position, and those that deliberately continue to pollute and change the climate have these murders on their hands as much as the stooge arsonists. Time for class action.

  39. Bernard Keane

    It’s legitimate, as Bob Brown did, to note that the events of the weekend will be, under most projections associated with global warming, more frequent.

    To leap in and make the link between these events themselves and climate change, without any evidentiary basis, looks a lot like exploiting a tragedy.

  40. JamesK

    John Brumby the Premier of Victoria has announced that there will be a Royal Commission.
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25028873-26103,00.html

    Perhaps zealot fomenters like Hamilton and f-ckwits like Sanderson will be able to coax the Commissioner into a finding that AGW sceptics, rather than arsonists are culpable?

  41. Andrew

    @Johhny B
    There is a parallel with the tobacco evidence, which took decades to filter through into effective policy because vested interests kept an artificial debate alive. The major difference is that some of the most informative evidence for this risk came from people who quit early (doctors and nurses) compared to those who didn’t. Policy would be very different if we could compare planet sustainable with planet Earth on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, this time, we have to convince the “you can’t prove my lung cancer is due to smoking” crowd before we can get anything much done.

  42. Clive Hamilton

    The evidentiary basis for claiming there is in all likelihood a link between global warming and recent extreme weather is provided by Barry Brook here
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/02/03/is-there-a-link-between-adelaides-heatwave-and-global-warming/
    Barry Brook is Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, and one of the country’s foremost climate scientists.

  43. Rob

    The worst fires weren’t in northern Victoria but near Melbourne – Marysville and Kinglake – as well as Bendigo and Gippsland. The models for climate change look at efects around midcentury and beyond, not now. Victoria has seen this before, and so has Queensland with its floods. This is nothing to do with denying climate change, just to point out that the IPCC is looking at long term effects, not changes today.

  44. Noel Courtis

    Could someone please explain how you factor arson into climate change and fires?

  45. Harold

    Encouraging to see how few fantasists have joined with the useless moralsings of Hamilton. There is nothing Australia can do to affect the climate changes which may harm Australia. Let us spend up on research and adaptation but let’s not fool ourselves that India or China will be inflenced by what the government of a nationwith about the same population as Shanghai or Mumbai does or says. But the earth has been warming for a long time and even a half degree average rise in temperature, as over thelast 50 years, will inevitably lead to more very hot days and therefore more bad bushfires (absent any major preventive measures). That is as predictable as the likelihood that five igma eventswill reflect the higher average which is more or less central to a normal stattistical distributiion. (Does anyone doubt that the temperaturesfor each day of the year are more or less normally distributed, i.e. a Gaussian distribution,?)

  46. Venise Alstergren

    Now that this post has become so full of political point-scorers I, in MHO, might as well say who the real villain is. Generations of corrupt state governments who allow the homestead mentality to reign supreme are the guilty parties. If it was legally forbidden to allow people to extend a city’s outward growth until all the present sites have a minimum, two-story buildings on them. Preferably more.
    To allow people to embrace the last vestiges of nature whilst building hard-up-against forest reserves, is nothing short of criminal. The people who go to live in those areas don’t bring much money into the state government coffers. What does it matter what happens to them? Whereas developers have all the money in the world to jam into the politicians hands. Hence the area greater than the outer reaches of Buenos Aires, which is present-day Melbourne.
    Doesn’t anyone understand that John Brumby has to be the stupidest politician in the world-or the most bent? He forces the state to have a foreign-owned, hopelessly inefficient, alarmingly polluting desalination plant on a once pristine coastline. He has set out to force all of our suburban shopping strips into becoming freeways and he has done nothing for the environment. Worse, he has created the problem. On these counts alone he and his fellow toads should be crucified. Add to this list the shocking deaths of humans and animals of last Saturday’s fires: to say they should be flayed alive is not an overstatement.
    This calling for a Royal Commission, as I said in an earlier post, these commissions are set up to clear the guilty. (see post with John Wren’s name in it). Who are the guilty? The state government is guilty. But aren’t they clever? They’ve got themselves off the hook before the first legal salvo has been fired.
    Dear Mr Brumby you have been a brilliant pupil of the late Henry Bolte. He couldn’t have done a better job himself

  47. Jim McNamara

    As usual Clive is worth paying attention to. Forget the point scoring. Can we skip to solutions?
    1) If we want to survive longterm in tall Eucalypt forest dig, (take a lesson from the wombats).
    2) Why not take this opportunity to wisper in Kevin Rudd’s ear, ‘tackle both big problems together and now – throw some of those $42 billion at renewable energy, energy saving, carbon sinks etc, that will stimulate the economy, too.’

  48. Jack

    Talk about operating at a “high level of abstraction” – shame on the bloke that wrote this.

  49. RJG

    Premier Brumby said of the fire this year, he hoped he never saw anything like this again in his lifetime. Only a man who just doesn’t believe that climate change is an issue would say such a thing. It is like hoping that gravity doesn’t exist when you jump from a high cliff. That is why their policies on climate change are so poor. As Keating would say all tip but no iceburg. They just don’t really believe that climate change is real.

    In the last three years we have been thretened by the summer fires and so far we have been lucky. I am expecting more of the same next year.

  50. Andrew Glikson

    THE LINK BETWEEN CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS:

    It has been projected for over 20 years that global warming will progress through the accentuation of temperature and energy contrasts between, and within, land masses and oceans, and thereby the intensity of weather fronts would increase.

    For example, this winter’s deep freeze in Europe is associated with warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean (Hansen, 2008).

    Warming raises the energy level of the oceans, hence the increased intensity of hurricanes and cyclones in the Carribeans, SE USA, NE Qld and NW WA. Land warming is non-uniform, resulting in intense local warm air plumes associated with strong winds.

    Whereas no single weather event signifies climate change, decade-long trends are now evident (see charts by BOM and CSIRO).

  51. dermot

    kevin the culprit in the SA ash wednesday fires was the power company and the highways department not arson at all.

    sorry but I agree with Spammy Clive your timing is apalling.

  52. David Sanderson

    Climate change has to become a physical reality before most people will accept that real, urgent and extensive change must occur. The appalling and heart-rending tragedy in Victoria will historically stand, in part, as an awful monument to denialism. To argue that the worst fire conditions ever, and their tragic results, are just bad luck is to treat the public as wishful-thinking fools.

    One of the best ways we can remember and memorialise the death and suffering is to use it as a spur to get serious about acting on climate change both in Australia and in the wider world. It is only right and fair that these terrible losses spur us to act with increasing urgency to minimise the frequency of such events n the future.

  53. JamesK

    Because it was Dave Liberts who suggested it, I forced myself to read Clive Hamilton’s article once more.
    My previous comment stands.

    Unfortunately for Clive Hamilton, he did not have a reasonable editor who might have saved him from himself.
    He had the vile Jonathan Green

    Dave Liberts should re-examine his own conscience. Perhaps his political and environmental sympathies have waylayed Innate humanitarianism?

  54. Brendan

    The victims of this disaster haven’t been fully accounted for and the fires are still burning, yet Clive Hamilton sees no reason to miss an opportunity for schadenfreude and point-scoring.
    You have to ask what he’s trying to save the planet for, because it doesn’t seem to be for the human beings living on it…

  55. David Sanderson

    In the unlikely event that anyone cares why JamesK abuses Jonathon Green it is because Green had the temerity to remove vicious, slanderous and idiotic remarks that JamesK made late last year.

    Pity the editor who needs to deal with such Jamesian rubbish.

  56. noddy

    2009, 1983, 1967, 1939…..climate change has been with us for a while!

  57. Malcolm

    These events are nothing but tragic. They have nought to do with climate change, global warming or any other politically motivated rant. They have everything to do with mindless, demented dickheads who seek some satisfaction – to sit back and watch the result of their devastating handywork. They will increase in frequency because the population is increasing and there is far more to lose each time. The community cannot afford to be represented any longer by a lenient judiciary who, day in and day out, show that no matter what crime you commit, you can expect to be dealt with compassionately. Spare a thought for those who have lost everything and in some cases everyone !! Lives changed forever. (and Venise, for once I actually agree with what you have to say).

  58. Johaan

    Not only is this a foretaste of the future… but it is a reflection on Johnny Howard’s & George Bush’s War on Terror. For every Islamic fundementalist there is an equal or greater number of home grown Australian Arsonists who have never been brought under control. In this great brown land… generations have looked the other way at how they have treated the environment and also looked away when Arsonists have had their way.
    We know that the the original Australians used fire to regenerate their land but they did this with thousands of years of knowledge. Today we have disaffected people putting our whole continemt at risk and what is sad is that this has been going on for tens of years and our court system has reacted to it as if it was a sort of petty shop lifting.

  59. expiscor

    “It’s legitimate, as Bob Brown did, to note that the events of the weekend will be, under most projections associated with global warming, more frequent.

    To leap in and make the link between these events themselves and climate change, without any evidentiary basis, looks a lot like exploiting a tragedy.”

    Um, if Cause A leads to an increased frequency of Outcome B, why is it legitimate to point that out (noting that projections are not necessarily evidence) B will occur more often due to A, but not legitimate to say that an occurrence of B has resulted from A. For someone whose logic often appeals to me, thats weird logic, dude.

  60. Andrew P

    The stance taken by those who feel they are protecting a time of national mourning from the grubby political point scoring of lefty-greeny-CO2 hating-warmofascists is nauseating. There is nothing as radical at the moment as a commitment to the status quo. Trying to prevent a link being made between these fires and a scientific theory which may cast light on why they happened is as political as it gets.

  61. Claire

    Surely the only way to truly respect those who have died, and their families, is to acknowledge what has caused their deaths and to take measures to prevent it happening again. If an individual dies as a result of equipment malfunction then the first thing you will hear are calls for newer and safer equipment and operating procedures. In this case it is simply a long-term climate malfunction and the only way to update our climate is to make immediate emissions reductions.

    It is not only in Victoria that climate change is being seen, what about in far north Queensland where it is extreme, long-lasting, flooding? Or in Sydney where there is also a heat wave.

    If climate change is the cause of these weather patterns, then I believe it is the victims who will be crying loudest for the government to take definitive action.

  62. davo davos

    Hamilton argues that the desire to avoid thinking about climate change has lulled us into inaction, such as may have contributed to the death toll of the current fires, and possibly future ones.

    To call this ‘political point scoring’ seems to suggest that we should take an essentially passive approach to our lives, just let whatevr happens happens

    You have a heart attack. Your doctor says ‘with your cholesterol i warned you this would happen and it will happen again unless there’s change’. ‘How dare you talk to me like that’ you say ‘can’t you see i’m sick!’ – that seems to be the essence of the ‘no politics’ approach

  63. John Winter

    What rubbish. Was 1939 climate change too, Clive?

    If you read up more thoroughly on the history of bushfires you would realise that this isn’t without precedent. The loss of life may be, but the fires have been similar to this before. Go back to the days of early settlement – especially around the turn of the previous century with the fires that led to the creation of the first volunteer bush fire services.

    Australia has always been a land of extreme temperature variations and is regarded as historically enduring the worst bushfires in the world. To be able to slap a climate change label on this is not only appallingly lacking in scientific merit, it also disregards history

    Climate change may be a significant and genuine issue, but pursuing this line of argument even as property remains under threat is obscene. I was just as disgusted with Senator Bob Brown’s attempts to already turn this into a environmental political too.

Leave a comment

Advertisement

https://www.crikey.com.au/2009/02/09/bushfires-dont-mention-the-c-word/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

Show popup

Telling you what the others don't. FREE for 21 days.

Free Trial form on Pop Up

Free Trial form on Pop Up
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.