About 60,000 km² of forest area and farmland has been burned to a crisp so far in what are probably the most devastating wildfires in Australia’s recent history. Hundreds of thousands of farm animals have died in the blazes, dozens of people have been killed, many are missing and it’s estimated that a total of nearly half a billion wild animals have died. Entire ecosystems have been razed, even down to the microbes in the soil. It will take many, many years for the forests to recover, assuming they do.
Completely without shame, remorse or self awareness, not to mention ‘evidence’ (Gaia forbid that climate fanatics should ever be required to produce evidence!) Greens and climate activists have leapt upon this human and environmental tragedy to claim that it is a manifestation of the ‘climate crisis’. The Brighton Belle, Lucas the Loony herself, has waded in in typical fashion:
She is very much not alone and it would just be a nauseating, pointless, bile-inducing exercise to provide more examples. The message coming from the Greens and climate activists and their apologists and closet (and not so closet) admirers in the media, in politics and in the scientific community is loud and clear: the catastrophic Australian bushfires are basically down to the climate emergency/climate crisis/climate change. Not arson, not poor land management, not the weather. I intend to look closely at all the factors which may have played a part in these bushfires, but let’s start off with a look at what role (if any) land management policies played in the tragedy. Richard Betts, of the Met Office, when confronted with the suggestion that it was the build up of dried brushwood on the forest floor which contributed to the intensity and spread of the fires, responded by saying that theory was a “popular conspiracy”.
He links to a tweet by Mike Hansen to justify this assertion. Mike Hansen links to a document issued by New South Wales talking about its enhanced bushfire management program where it brags about ‘supporting’ a program of hazard treating 135,000 hectares of bushland on average each year. This, it says, is an ‘increase’, hence the aphorism ‘enhanced’ This is what Richard thinks is a rebuttal of claims that Green policies have resulted in a build up of fuel. The Graun takes up the ‘conspiracy theory’ meme today and proudly explains that NSW have exceeded their targeted hazard treatment in 2018-19:
In the last full fire season of 2018 and 2019, the National Parks and Wildlife Service in NSW told Guardian Australia it carried out hazard reduction activities across more than 139,000 hectares, slightly above its target.
According to the Graun, ‘experts’ have debunked the conspiracy theory that Greens are responsible for the build up of dangerous fuel loads. One of those ‘experts’ is quoted:
Prof David Bowman, the director of the fire centre research hub at the University of Tasmania, said: “It’s ridiculous. To frame this as an issue of hazard reduction in national parks is just lazy political rhetoric.”
Betts links to the Graun also in order to further justify his claim that it’s all a conspiracy theory and another ‘expert’ at the Graun is further quoted:
The claim of a conspiracy by environmentalists to block hazard reduction activities has been roundly rejected by bushfire experts, and experts say it is betrayed by hard data on actual hazard reduction activities in national parks.
Prof Ross Bradstock, the director of the centre for environmental risk management of bushfires at the University of Wollongong, has previously told Guardian Australia: “These are very tired and very old conspiracy theories that get a run after most major fires. They’ve been extensively dealt with in many inquiries.”
So let’s examine the ‘cold hard data’ shall we? NSW claims:
Since the start of the EBMP in 2011:
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has carried out hazard reduction burns covering more than 680,000 hectares on NSW parks and reserves. This is more than double the previous 5-year total.
8 years. That’s an average of 85,000 hectares per year. This falls way short of their claimed target of 135,000 hectares per year. But hey, in 2018-19, they exceed their target of 135,000 by 4000 hectares according to Graun ‘experts’. So basically, NSW have failed miserably to support even their own target as outlined in their ‘enhanced’ bush management program, except in 2018-19.
But what does their actual targeted burn represent? Well, if we consider that NSW has over 7 million hectares of national parks and reserves, more than 5 million hectares of national parks alone, then 135,000 hectares represents 1.9% of the total area, 2.7% of the national park area. Their actual burn rate, averaged since 2011 is only 1.2% of the total area, 1.7% of the national parks area.
Now, in 2015, we were reminded by a former CSIRO scientist, David Packham, of the recommendations of the Royal Commission Black Saturday report into the devastating bushfires of 2009 which killed 173 people:
Forest fuel levels have worsened over the past 30 years because of “misguided green ideology”, vested interests, political failure and mismanagement, creating a massive bushfire threat, a former CSIRO bushfire scientist has warned.
Victoria’s “failed fire management policy” is an increasing threat to human life, water supplies, property and the forest environment, David Packham said in a submission to the state’s Inspector-General for Emergency Management.
And he argued that unless the annual fuel reduction burning target, currently at a minimum of 5 per cent of public land, “is doubled or preferably tripled, a massive bushfire disaster will occur. The forest and alpine environment will decay and be damaged possibly beyond repair and homes and people [will be] incinerated.”
The Royal Commission report was fairly unequivocal in its conclusion about the need to hazard treat areas of bush by controlled burning:
The royal commission examined the role of fuel reduction burning and in its final report recommended a prescribed burning program with “an annual rolling target of a minimum of 5 per cent of public land each year, and that the state be held accountable for meeting this target“.
It also criticised what it described as the state’s “minimalist approach to prescribed burning“, and warned that the state had “allowed the forests to continue accumulating excessive fuel loads”.
The commission investigated fuel reduction burning and the Black Saturday fires. It found that the rate of spread and size of the Beechworth-Mudgeegonga fire, which killed two people, “were significantly moderated by previous prescribed burning“. And it said that in some places the rate of spread of the Kilmore East fire, which killed 119 people, was “appreciably slowed by previous prescribed burning“.
But the commission also heard that no large-scale fuel reduction burns had been conducted in areas where the two most deadly Black Saturday fires, the Kilmore East and Murrindindi bushfires, gathered force in the first hours after they ignited.
So, in the case of New South Wales, where bushfires have raged this summer, the authorities have hazard treated, on average, since 2011, less than a quarter of the total parks and reserves area recommended by the Royal Commission Black Saturday report re. the bushfires which occurred in the neighbouring state of Victoria. Their record of prescribed burns, in the 5 years previous to 2011, by their own admission, is even more piteous. Their ‘enhanced burn’ in 2018-19 was less than half of that recommended by the Royal Commission for the state of Victoria. David Packham even appeared to suggest that the 5% Royal Commission target was way too low. Is it a conspiracy then, in light of the above facts and figures, to suggest that NSW have manifestly failed in their duty to ensure the fire safety of public lands under their jurisdiction?
Lest we be lulled into thinking that the problem lies only with New South Wales, consider Victoria, the state which suffered so grievously from the 2009 bushfires, which tragedy led to the commission of the Black Saturday report itself:
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found that ‘prescribed burning is one of the main tools for fire management on public land,’ however, the DELWP report reveals that the amount of planned burning in bushfire-prone areas such as Cardinia has dropped from 234,614 hectares in 2014-15 to only 64,978 hectares in 2017-18, a reduction of almost 75 per cent under the Andrews Labor Government.
“The 2009 royal commission was unequivocal about the importance of prescribed burning as ‘one of the main tools for fire management on public land,” Mr Battin said.
“That’s why it’s so important for the Andrews Labor Government to be upfront with regional Victorians about the true situation with prescribed burning.
In Queensland, another state which has been devastated by wildfires this summer, we learn of a farmer who was fined nearly a million dollars for simply making his fire-breaks too wide by following the recommendations of the authorities! This is a ludicrous amount. Were the authorities out to make an example of him to others who might similarly be tempted to construct fire-breaks? It seems likely that other farmers will think twice now before clearing forest to protect property and livestock, hence wildfires will spread across the state, unimpeded – and they have. Of course, green apologists will argue that this is merely anecdotal, but there are a hell of a lot more anecdotal tales out there of Greens opposing sensible fire precaution measures.
So it’s looking more like what we have here folks, is that strange phenomenon known as a fact-saturated conspiracy theory.