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Fire and climate change: don’t expect a smooth ride

With fires still burning across New South Wales, it’s time to have a look at the role climate change might have played. Are the conditions we’re seeing natural variation, or part of a long term trend…

It really is time to talk about whether climate change is responsible for bushfires. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

With fires still burning across New South Wales, it’s time to have a look at the role climate change might have played. Are the conditions we’re seeing natural variation, or part of a long term trend?

In fact, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Has bushfire risk increased due to climate change?

In research I did with colleagues earlier this year we looked at the Fire Danger Index calculated by the Bureau of Meteorology, and compared how it changed compared to temperature over time in Victoria.

South-east Australia saw a temperature change of about 0.8C when we compared temperatures before 1996 and after 1997. We know that it got drier after 1997 too.

We then compared this data to the Forest Fire Danger Index, to see if it showed the same pattern. We analysed fire data from nine stations in Victoria and did a non-linear analysis.

We found that fire danger in Victoria increased by over a third after 1996, compared to 1972-1996. The current level of fire danger is equivalent to the worst case projected for 2050, from an earlier analysis for the Climate Institute.

While it’s impossible to say categorically that the situation is the same in NSW, we know that these changes are generally applicable across south-east Australia. So it’s likely to be a similar case: fire and climate change are linked.

What is “non-linear” change?

Climate science has been playing with a paradigm that long-term changes are gradual, and that short-term changes are simply natural climate variability. But there’s another hypothesis that climate change and climate variability actually combine.

When you analyse long historical time series of temperature, plus climate change from modelled data, it actually goes up like a staircase. The “El Niño of the century” we saw in 1997-98 was one of these steps in the staircase.

It’s physically impossible for climate change to be entirely gradual, and for natural variability to act independently of that. That’s like saying that some of the heat in the atmosphere is climate change heat, and some is variability heat, and that they behave differently.

This also relates to the so-called hiatus. This hiatus is normal, and what we’d expect from a climate that evolves in a non-linear manner.

The models do predict these steps, even if some people claim they don’t. Model data shows periods up to 20 years when there is little or no increase in warming.

What’s happened to temperature and rainfall in south east Australia?

Temperature can also be analysed through step changes. Before and after 1996, maximum temperatures went up 0.8C. We can actually date the change to October 1996, when the El Niño started.

Minimum temperatures have changed in a couple of periods. The first is the late 1960s early 1970s, then again in 1996-1997. In fact global temperatures went up in that period too, by about 0.3C at the same time.

Rainfall decreased in south-east Australia, and this decrease continued until 2009-2010. Then we got a massive negative Indian Ocean Dipole and La Niña, resulting in record rainfall and flooding. In southern Victoria it’s been quite moist since, but north of the Great Dividing Range it’s dried out very quickly.

These changes in rainfall and temperature are interrelated. It’s a combination of climate change and climate variability. The warming component, which is non-linear, is climate change.

What about the weather?

We can only blame weather conditions on climate change if they are part of a statistically significant pattern. If we see anomalously high temperatures - knowing that there is an anthropogenic component to temperature increases - then there’s definitely an anthropogenic warming component in that.

Because the damages tend to be non-linear as well, it means the risk is magnified. So the anthropogenic component of the temperature increase magnifies the impacts or the severity of the impacts.

Why are we so reluctant to talk about climate change?

This isn’t my line, but someone said on Monday, “there’s never a good time to talk about gun control”.

Of course when people are hurting and in strife you’ve got to be sensitive to their needs. But after these events we have to seriously think about how we’re going to manage them in the future.

We can’t consider severe fires as one-offs that happen every few decades. If they’re becoming a systemic part of our environment we have to consider this really seriously. There will be a financial cost and a human cost, and we will see it repeated, if we don’t plan ahead.

Join the conversation

235 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to John Phillip

      Are you denying there is a link? By the way you are being impolite.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, throughout this long and ongoing debate about the influence and extent of influence on humans on the rqate of climate change, the rational elements from both sides have argued that individual events are NOT evidence. It is only evidence that forms a correlated pattern that does that. Some commentators have accused the Abbott gov of being climate change criminals or failing to protect Australians etc. The same commentators have failed to supply quantitative data to support those assertions. Bandt and Milne have been party to this behaviour and have made no attempt to validate their position - ie what actual difference would their policies make to the bushfires?
      Henry, the comment was directed at Bandt, not Jack and,as such, it no less polite than his insulting moniker for Abbott.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Phillip

      I know right, This Author, Roger whatever is politicising a tradegy for his own gain just like bandt did, arghhhh think about the children.

      The idea that people can talk about things that we don't want to hear about and use tragedy's like this in order to highlight it's importance and get us to listen

      I'm Outraged....OUTRAGED, how dare they talk about things I don't want to hear about

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    4. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Phillip

      I think you hit the nail on the head john

      Everything that the greens do or say or are vagualy associated with is disgusting, sick, pathetic

      Anything that Abbott does is grown up, mature, reasoned

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    5. Steve Larsson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      Stephen, contrary to your assertion "one element that is known to lead to mass shootings - access to deadly weapons" a comprehensive review published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in 2007 affirmed these sorts of anti-gun statements to be totally untrue. The authors stated:

      " In 2004, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. It failed to identify…

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      How much will it increase, Mr Phillip? Well, ultimately it will increase by whatever the "climate sensitivity" parameter reckons.

      By then, however, Arctic sea ice will have disappeared, exposing the darker ocean surface to absorb, rather than reflect, incoming solar energy. In turn, this will cause release of marine methane and CO2, driving further warming.

      Meanwhile, there will be thawing (melting) of terrestrial ice on Greenland and Antarctica, and thawing of Siberian and N American permafrost…

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    7. Steve Larsson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, let me guess - your're anti-gun, right? Your gut instinct is no match for comprehensive, peer reviewed, published literature.

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    8. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      Mr Phillip, while an individual event may still not be "evidence", increasing frequency and severity of such events is evidence. Mr Bandt is correct to raise these issues.

      The quantitative data you demand is expressed in terms of probabilities, that in turn depend on CO2 emission-reducing activities, such as CO2 taxes and RET's. Elsewhere, you assert that my mention of these are nonsense, which is incorrect; thinking these are nonsensical is evidence of non-comprehension.

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    9. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      No, I'm not anti-gun, I don't even understand what that would mean, like are there people that describe themselves as Pro-Shovle? or anti-knife?

      it's a rediculous characterisation

      What I am pointing out that for anyone to suggest that having more guns around doesn't correlate with more accidents is insane.

      Having more cars around will result in more car accidents

      Having more skateboards around will result in more skateboard accidents

      Having more swords around will result in more sword accidents

      Me thinks you are being liberal with the truth

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    10. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      heheheheheh ... Thank you for your support Henry. Comment on blogs and have a thick skin.

      However, I am afraid that Grumpy John only reads Liars Party propaganda while he keeps his head well and truly down in the ground to prevent him seeing the damage inflicted by the proposed Liars Party policies.

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    11. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      "So, lets not hear any more ill-informed, unsubstantiated, biased, anti-gun clap trap, please."

      Yeah. like here in Australia where access to firearms is restricted, we're blowing the kiddies away at rates that puts the US in the shade?

      Or, could it be that the the dudes at Harvard are pretty clueless about other nations?

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    12. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael ... I think it goes deeper than that ... the wholesale application of government policies demonstrably contrary to the Christian principles they allegedly espouse surely makes the personal position of both Toxic RAbbott and Scum Morrison untenable ... or are they following the "do as I say" principle while reaping the personal benefits of parliamentary financial privilege? Anybody for a Travel Allowance refund??

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    13. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Arthur

      Just the very claim that having more guns in a country does not in anyway increase the chance of a gun accident - not a mass shooting but merely an accident

      this is insane, the more you have of anything the greater the risk of an accident, basic maths

      Steve is lying, but lying in a way that when you catch him out he has plausible deniability

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    14. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to David Arthur

      Now David, you must realise that understanding statistical analysis is usually beyond followers of the Liars Party. When in doubt ridicule everything that you don't comprehend ... that makes you a true follower of a political party seeking a 19th century future as a nation of shopkeepers.

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    15. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      I am not sure, my guess would be they suffer from the same problem as the rest of society, which is, on a fundamental level, they don't really care whether or not their beliefs are true.

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    16. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to John Phillip

      John you could always ask your insurance company. They will already be increasing your premiums to cover the added risk they see flowing from climate change-related extreme events.

      Corporations that care about their long term viability, even News Limited, are not pretending that this is non-existent or doesn't matter. They are taking action. We should too.

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    17. Steve Larsson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, no, I'm not being liberal with the truth at all. I'm merely quoting the findings of a comprehensive review of extensive evidence by learned academics published in a highly credible journal. If you can't accept that, and you believe your 'common sense' over the evidence, then you are deluding yourself. I suggest you take the time and actually read the article.

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    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      Not only do I not provide quantitative data, but I explain some of the reasons why such provision is not possible.

      Yet, Mr Phillip, you still fail to understand.

      It's economists who rush in to provide predictions around issues they do not understand (economics, for example).

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    19. Steve Larsson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Arthur

      David, you too are letting emotion blind you to the evidence. A team at the Melbourne Institute made similar conclusions as the Harvard group following analysis of gun-crime following introduction of the National Firearms Agreement and changes to Australian firearm laws in 1997. They concluded: "...the NFA did
      not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates."

      http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/downloads/working_paper_series/wp2008n17.pdf

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    20. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      I see you have changed your tune a bit, moved the goal posts

      What happened to the claim that wide and available access to fire arms won't lead to an increase in fire arm related accidents?

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    21. Steve Larsson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, I don't appreciate being called a liar. I'm not. I'm merely quoting the findings of well conducted research. If you can't handle that then you are deluding yourself.

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    22. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      Steven, I do not appreciate being lied to, I am merely pointing out that you have been lying. If you cannot come to terms with this then you are deluding yourself

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    23. Craig Somerton

      IT Professional

      In reply to John Phillip

      The evidence you're looking for is openly available and overwhelming in both quantity and quality. But there's little point providing it to you because you simply won't read it because it doesn't conform to your ideological bias.

      Don't let facts stand in the way of your ignorance.

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    24. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to John Phillip

      Thank you John Phillip for making a complete fool out of yourself for saying that Bandt is claiming that this event is evidence for climate change when he said nothing of the sort.

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    25. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      Can I suggest Steve, that you avoid characterising people you don't know from a bar of soap.........?

      Forums like these are terrible tools for judging people. I have even been called a Liberal here......! and I have never voted for them in 44 years!

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    26. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      WHY, are we subjected to slanging off over a totally off topic discussion??

      Please go somewhere else.........

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    27. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      @Steve re: "access to deadly weapons" and scholarly studies. The implications of Steve's argument here, taken to it's logical conclusion here in my view (if i have understood him correctly) suggests that open, legally sanctioned and free access to firearms purchases with out any constraints nor any checks made on said purchaser such as either known felons or known mentally ill patients and the like would not in any way INCREASE the prevalence of violent crimes, suicide, or gun accidents nor lead…

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    28. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Steve Larsson

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia lists 36 mass killings. Of these, 12 were massacres of Indigenous Australians by whites, and one was of whites by Indigenes. The last of these was in 1928.

      There are 4 mass killings by arson, the Whiskey Au Gogo (organised crime-related in 1973) and 3 arson convictions since 2000. One of these related to deliberate lighting of a bushfire, one was a nursing home fire, one was a backpacker hostel.

      Apart from a shooting spree by 2 Moslems in 1915, the other 15 shooting massacres (122 deaths, 85 injuries) occurred in the quarter century prior to the Howard gun law reforms.

      Not too sure how the Melbourne institute people did their numbers, or managed to get their results. But, hey, they're economists. You may as well ask a US defence attorney.

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    29. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to David Arthur

      > here in Australia where access to firearms is restricted, we're blowing the kiddies away at rates that puts the US in the shade?>

      Are we?

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    30. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Ms Haskins, the sarcasm of the remark you quote is intended to demonstrate to readers how ridiculous Mr Larsson's argument about firearms (he reckons we're as likely to be shot when there are no firearms as we are when the place is covered in them).

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    31. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      BUT DO guns contribute to bushfires? OR Global Climate Change?

      I know that we had AWFUL problems with the Climate in the 1950s due to all those Atom Bomb Tests. But do we shoot enough guns off to affect the Climate? Although I suppose that the manufacure of guns must significantly contribute to "Climate Change". Should we stop military intervention in other countries so as to save on bullets AND gun manufacturing and ths save our Climate? Sould we stopur Army from playing games to help stop Climate Change (AND stop causing wild-fires!).

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    32. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Phillip

      Your primative tribalism which leads you to hate on anyone who you don't recognise as part of your tribe, be it because they are brown skinned, politically left wing, speak a foreign language, etc

      you demonstrate this over and over again, especially with your constant climate denial - you won't accept facts unless they are delivered to you by someone in your tribe

      it is a well documented phenomenon and you exhibit all the characteristics

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    33. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Arthur

      "reckons we're as likely to be shot when there are no firearms as we are when the place is covered in them" - no but he has a scientific paper that proves this apparently, it's a phact, you just don't agree because your a commiee

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    34. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      While you're at it, Mr Phillip, have a read of Gunnar Luderer et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034033 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034033, "Economic mitigation challenges: how further delay closes the door for achieving climate targets" (http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034033/article). It's open access, hence free.

      Also, when you go to that page, towards the top right you'll see the words "Email alert". If you sign up for Environmental Research Letters (open access) email alert, you'll learn a great deal, which you can bring to these discussions.

      Perhaps I should inform Mark Lawson of this.

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    35. Aguy Inaus

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      Two problems with the gun control analogy:

      1. The amount of access people have to guns is wide and varied across countries. Gun Control in Australia is significantly tighter than NZ or Canada, yet the incidents of Mass Shootings post 1996 is not significantly (or different at all). So although it is on the face of it reasonable to say Less Access to Guns = Less Mass Shootings, the evidence is not there to support that.

      2. Less Guns = Less Gun Related Accidents also faces a lack of evidence…

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    36. Aguy Inaus

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Common Sense that you suggest it will increase the chance of an accident may be true, but when we look at the data on actual number of accidents with guns we do not see this relationship.

      More Guns = More Gun Related Accidents also faces a lack of evidence.

      Gun Ownership in Australia has risen steadily from the drop post 1996 buy back. We are reported to be back at pre 1996 ownership rate. However during that time the level of firearm related accidents has not tracked up with the number of firearms.

      The problem with the argument:
      "More Dangerous things = More Accidents with Dangerous Things"
      is the lack of any correlation in the data.

      If we can not even establish a correlation (negative or positive) to insist on some simple causative relationship is flawed.

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    37. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Aguy Inaus

      It's not "More dangerous things = more dangerous things happening"

      it is "More anything = more accidents related to anything"

      the idea that having 1 person driving a car versus a thousand people driving a car the risk of anyone having an accident is the same ....well that is crazy talk, clearly you are going to have more accidents involving cars the more cars there are

      I don't dispute anything other than the gun accident claim, gun accidents won't be reported unless it results in injury that cannot be denied.

      ie. if you get a fire arms licence and it accidently goes off but doesn't hurt anyone.....why would anyone have a record of this?

      Just because they don't report it, which they shouldn't cause it may affect their licence, doesn't mean it didn't happen

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    38. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Aguy Inaus

      May I refer you to my earlier comment;

      I don't dispute anything other than the gun accident claim, gun accidents won't be reported unless it results in injury that cannot be denied.

      ie. if you get a fire arms licence and it accidently goes off but doesn't hurt anyone.....why would anyone have a record of this?

      Just because they don't report it, which they shouldn't cause it may affect their licence, doesn't mean it didn't happen

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    39. Aguy Inaus

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Arthur

      I repeat my self but its worth noting again:

      Access to Firearms in Canada is almost equivalent to access to guns in the USA. Yet they do not have the same issues as the US.

      Access to Guns in NZ is signficantly more relaxed than access to Guns in Australian yet they have no more "kiddies being blown away" than Australia.

      Less Guns = Less Gun Related Accidents faces a lack of evidence.

      Gun Ownership in Australia has risen steadily from the drop post 1996 buy back

      We are reported to…

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    40. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Aguy Inaus

      Hey angus - why would a gun ownign who requires a licence not report a gun accident......I mean according to you they know all and every gun related accident right? you keep repeating The Data Shows, The Data Shows....

      is it possible, you don't have all the data?

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    1. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Terry Goulden

      I have a copy of a pdf letter from Greg Hunt to a friend of mine (who forwarded it to me). I hope the deniers here take note....

      In part it reads (copy/pasted)

      "The Australian Government accepts the science of climate change and takes its primary advice on climate science from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The Government supports the role of the Intergovernmental Pane (sic) on Climate Change (IPCC) as the leading international body for the assessment of climate change."

      We are keeping this letter on file........ because now they have no bloody excuse for not acting!!

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    2. Mark McGuire

      climate consensus rebel

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      In all fairness Mike, the LNP are acting. They are taking "direct action" which is a pointless exercise unless wasting money is the objective.

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    3. Stephen McDonough

      Business Process Analyst

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      It's not a waste, it's going to some of the biggest corporations in this country, who by virtue of their profits must be the most financially savvy and therefore best people to have the money.

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  1. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    "Why are we so reluctant to talk about climate change?"

    Who is reluctant? On TC it's a constant topic . Same as most of the other media outlets.

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    1. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Conversations about Climate Change are rather fascinating -- IF you enjoyed school debating. Nobody knows anything but they argue whichever point of virew has caught ther fancy.

      Political Statements re whether or not the Government accepts whatever are NOT proof that whatever is true.

      There is a LOT of contradictory research having been done, and different ways of interpretting the results of different measurements which may of may not be related to human activity chausing 'climate change'.

      We have even had some scientific papers written on WHY what was predicted re Global Warming hasn't yet come about!!

      On the other hand it has been pretty well accepted (by THEM, I might add) that the Sahara Desert was formed because of human action.

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    2. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Evelyn,

      You really are intent on spreading untruths here.

      The evidence from multiple lines of research is clear. So much so that research also tells us that, based on the available evidence, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming and that most of the current warming is caused by human activity.

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  2. David Leigh

    logged in via Facebook

    Thank you for a clear, much needed analysis of what is obvious to those who have had an interest in climate science. I find the staircase description fits well with theories I have had over the last few years. (climate Change Generation ISBN: 9780957943650) The impacts of climate change are actually happening faster now than predicted by the IPCC and many of the scientists have broken ranks to report individually, their concerns. Last year, 98% of the Greenland ice sheet turned to slush for a day…

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    1. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to John Phillip

      Mr Abbott's direct action is very simple. Instead of putting a price on the CO2 emissions of polluters, a price which drops as their emissions drop, Mr Abbott and his party are going to take our taxes and pay the polluters to stop polluting.

      I think the answer to your question is – no difference.

      But then I argue that as comforting as it is, a price on carbon in this country makes no difference globally because of the enormous quantities of coal - and therefore CO2 – we export.

      So I guess the real answer is, until all countries decide to gradually taper off their addiction to the cheap energy provided by coal and transition to renewable energy, then - the fires will continue to get worse.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice there's no straw there. We are arguing about policies that may or may not make you feel better about yourself. To claim that they will make ANY difference to global temps or climate change is incorrect. Unless you can quantify that difference -which no-one has to date - you dont haver an argument based on efficacy just one based on 'feelings'.

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    3. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to John Newton

      Except that Peak Oil and the looming return of the GFC will collapse the economy and reduce fossil fuel use to way below what the targets are.....

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Climate is a longer term issue, maybe even beyond the remaining expected life of grumpy old men?

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Christopher Nheu

      It's more than a moral argument, Mr Nheu, there's also a commercial component. Sooner or later, the rest of the world is going to stop buying Australian coal.

      There may be grumpy old men whose entire fortunes are tied up in coal-mining equities, so of course they'll argue and agitate to preserve the value of those assets, at least until they depart this Vale of Tears.

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    6. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Peter Fry

      I agree Peter. There are a whole host of high value petrochemicals that can be extracted from coal. Yet, to my knowledge there is no chemical engineering plant in Australia, or university faculty working in this area.

      Perhaps Newcastle University could establish a Chair for Petrochemical Engineering that could exploit this obvious market segment.

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    7. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike you almost got there. You actually mentioned a number. But you didn't can't quantify the difference that our action will or won't make, can you? Yoiu know that if you did that, people would realise the absolute pointlessness of actions taken by this country. At least one other respondant wa honest enough to admit that it isnt a discussion about how much difference we can make rather it is, in his view, about a 'moral' point.

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to John Newton

      "Mr Abbott's direct action is very simple. Instead of putting a price on the CO2 emissions of polluters, Mr Abbott and his party are going to take our taxes and pay the polluters to stop polluting."

      I think it's likely it will be even simpler than this. Abbott's party will first abolish the Carbon price and then they won't be able to pass any "direct action" legislation in the Senate because of lack of support by any other party. How simple is that?

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    9. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Another thing John, Why don't you quantify what the world should do. How much carbon dioxide should we be worried about?
      1) What level of CO2 in the atmosphere (i.e.. it's now 400 ppm.)
      2) At what level should it reach before we start to reduce it?
      3) How should we reduce CO2, what is the best way, (by we I mean every country )
      Please give detailed scientific papers, peer reviewed, to prove your answers to these questions.

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    10. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, you are the one calling for action. Yet you can't quantify what difference that action will make. You know it is absolutely meaningless with respect to limiting temperature gains. You might feel 'morally superior' or 'good about yourself' but please don't kid yourself that it will make one iota of difference.

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    11. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to John Phillip

      John,

      So are you arguing that it would have no effect if we changed course and started leading by example (which would give us a leg to stand on to argue for greater ambition on emission reduction at the international level) and influenced other nations to then chose to do the right thing by the children of today and tomorrow?

      And, as I have said previously, if Australia was to do its fair share of ghg emission reductions it would have an effect, no matter how small there would be an effect (This is clear from the science). Proposing that we don't do the right thing regarding ghg emissions until everyone else does is to say that, even though we know we are doing harm to others now and in the future, we won't stop doing this harm until everyone else does. I can't think of any other situation where this argument would be acceptable, so why would it be acceptable in this situation?

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    12. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Climate Change Science is meaningless Political jargon. It is a ppular term used in the media. It is about as meaningless as Creation Science :-(

      Think Meteorolgy and Oceanograph. Even think History.

      (I've actually got a real down on people quoting "Scientists" -- there are lots of differernt branches of Science and the BIG Names in science usually know very little except about ther own speciality. Then remember that even withing one speciality there is a lot of discussion and, dare I say, dsagreement.

      Anybody with a basic undertanding of science should be skeptical . And blaming the current bushfires in the Blue Mountains on "Climate Change" is just fiddling while Rome Burns (to coin a phrase).

      (Yeah, Yeah, a 0.8 degree increase in average temperatures is going to make a huge difference!!)

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    13. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to John Phillip

      Let's all thank the old man for expecting that tragedy of the commons will ensue with carbon emissions by humanity.

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    14. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Evelyn,

      Are you seriously arguing that public policy should be based on whatever minority opinion you happen to agree with rather than on what, based on the available evidence, the relevant (climate) scientists are telling us?

      The research tells us that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming and that most of the current warming is caused by human activity.

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    15. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      I'm not sure what science you read, I read IPCC reports. NASA, the CSIRO, BOM, NISDAC, climate change articles etc. Where do you get your information Evelyn?, because everything I read is quantifiable and unanimous. Andrew Glikson sent me some very interesting deep time context and current information. You have some interesting ideas.

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    16. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to John Phillip

      "morally superior", "good about myself", ideas based on" feelings", I reject your sanctimonious personalised statements. I base my opinion on the best scientific advice I read. Believe me it's sober intelligent, thoughtful, science which forms my opinion. Where do you get your scientific advice?

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    17. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to John Phillip

      "people would realise the absolute pointlessness of actions taken by this country"

      just as there is the absolute pointlessness of any person in the world taking any action. Any individual person cannot make any measurable difference to global warming. Therefore no individual should do anything*.

      (* logic brought to us courtesy of "grumpy" old men.)

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    18. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to John Phillip

      Additionally, Brad, what has annoyed me is that Mr bandt has braqnded Mr Abbott a climate criminal aned has said that he will be responsible for more of the types of bushfire we are seeing. Yet he fails to support his assertion with specific facts and relies only upon some general notion that the difference between the LNP's poliy and that of the ALP is significant. It is not.

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    19. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to John Phillip

      John,

      Can you please tell us how you think we can prevent dangerous climate change if a wealthy high polluting country like Australia doesn't lead the way and do its fair share to prevent it?

      Also can you please point to a credible analysis that indicates that the Coalition's Direct Action policy is capable of producing the 5% by 2020 emission reduction that they have unconditionally committed to? Every analysis I have seen says it won't be able to without Billions more in funds (which Tony Abbott has ruled out). This is even before we consider whether it could deliver the scale of reductions that are required for Australia to do its fair share (which other nations will call on us to do sooner or later).

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    20. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to John Phillip

      Here are a few, scientific advice to Parliament in 2009
      http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/372266/09_Glikson.pdf
      An excellent one from the Victorian Govt.
      http://www.ccma.vic.gov.au/soilhealth/climate_change_literature_review/documents/organisations/ago/science-guide.pdf
      Scientists at Stanford
      http://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Consensus-Statement.pdf
      A detailed look at the historic impact of CO2 and climate change, I found the conclusions easier to read ,
      http://arxiv.org/pdf/1211.4846.pdf
      and you could download the latest IPCC science report.
      All of them point to everything I have been saying
      Perhaps you could give some examples yourself. Quantifiable depends on what we do and don't do. The common conclusion is that we have to start reducing CO2.
      What level should CO2 we reach before it is of concern?
      How should we reduce it?
      Please give examples of scientific papers which prove your answers.

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    21. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      0.8 degree increase in average temperatures is going to make a huge difference!!)

      0.04 or 400ppm means you are no longer eligable for driving

      0.8 degree's difference in your body temp means that you are either hypothermic or hyperthermic but either way, your nearing death

      So does 0.8 make a difference? yeah, yes it does, we know 0.04 makes a difference

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    22. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad, I don't think Australia can prevent dangerous climate change. I don't care if the LNP's policy can reach the 5% target or not. Until you can quantify the difference that achieving that 5% will make to ave temperatures (or any other key indicator of climate change) there is no pragmatic reason why I should care. You know that the effect of emission reductions made in this country are statistically insignificant globally - How about you use the number and prove me wrong?

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    23. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to John Phillip

      John,

      Your approach is completely unethical. What you are in effect saying is that you won’t be responsible and do the right and necessary thing unless everyone else does. What sort of twisted morality is this? What message does this send to our kids? We are prepared to continue trashing your futures until everyone else agrees to stop doing so?

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  3. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    This is probably the first article that I have read about the current bushfire outbreaks that has referred to the recent very wet period. The heavy rains that Tim “Waterfront” Flannery assured us would not happen, or if they did happen, would evaporate and not run off or soak in, have contributed to a huge build-up of flammable material. In the absence of sufficient controlled burning it seems that large bush fires are inevitable.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      "The heavy rains that Tim “Waterfront” Flannery assured us would not happen,..."

      Well that is a lie. Pretty sad that your **best** argument is a verballing of Flannery that comes from shock jock Andrew Bolt. Please Mark, having seen your **best** argument can we be spared the rest?

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    2. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      “Although we're getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that's translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That's because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams and our river systems”

      I got it off the ABC - 2007. Seems pretty clear. How is this verballing? And who’s this Andrew Bolt chap?

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    3. David Semmens

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      So what he actually said was dams are less likely to fill, not dams won't fill, as you claim. That's the dictionary definition of a strawman argument.

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    4. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to David Semmens

      I didn't say anything about dams.

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    5. David Semmens

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Sorry.

      So what he actually said was rain and run off is less likely to occur, not rain and run off won't occur, as you claim. That's the dictionary definition of a strawman argument.

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      We've had this discussion previously, Mr Pollock; I've already pointed out to you that the long drought has continued away from the coast and ranges in Qld and NSW - and were due to NQ cyclones that had to track south because of climate change-induced slowing of atmospheric Rossby Waves.

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    7. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Uhm ... who is 'Andrew Bolt'?? The self styled know it all for the mining industry? Hardly a recommendation that he is discovered in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a Murdoch owned MSM outlet for right wing rantings.

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    8. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      It's an interesting hobby you have there, intentionally lying and spreading mis-information.

      I prefer to play indoor soccer, but your hobby seems like fun too

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    9. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to David Arthur

      We are having a 'drouhgt' here at the moment but only a few years ago we had unprecendent poblems with floods!

      (And becuase this is nt uncommon is why they stopped calling if "Global Warming and started referring to "Climate Change".

      But as for me.
      I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain rages and droughts and flooding rains."

      Dorothea Mackellar, 1902

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      "The heavy rains that Tim “Waterfront” Flannery assured us would not happen, or if they did happen, would evaporate and not run off or soak in"

      You mean Flannery's correct prediction that Melbourne's water storages would not fill, even after two years in a row of La Nina:

      http://www.melbournewater.com.au/waterdata/waterstorages/Pages/Storages-over-the-years.aspx

      Thank heavens there are people like Flannery who don't deny reality.

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    11. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      If Dorothea were alive today I doubt she would be amused at the politicised use of her poetry. She would be a green / environmentalist Evelyn. She would not rely on the murdoch empire for scientific advice, and would care about climate change and its impact on Australia.

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  4. Ben Marshall
    Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Writer

    Thank you Roger Jones. Your article and writing is clear, unencumbered by jargon, and helps define some of the relationships between weather, climate and bushfires.

    Sadly, the usual trolls will soon infest this comments section with sly caveats and thinly disguised climate science denial, bogging down deeper discussion. On the wider stage this has been an effective means of shutting down effective action on climate change, so it's ingenuous of Mark Pollock to blithely dismiss frustration with the level of media and political debate. He, himself is active on TC with passive-aggressive negativity toward the realities of climate change.

    I hope this article will be read by politicians of all stripes, because it helps comprehend what has become a politically-charged intersection of weather, climate and fire. It might even help us take a step up above the trolls.

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      More rain, more undergrowth build-up, bigger and more widespread fires when the bush eventually burns. Especially in the absence of controlled burning. Of course, the fires are more dangerous because of restrictions on land clearing in fire prone areas. There might be some tiny climate change signal in all this but it’s probably far too small to worry about.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Cyclones tracking south along Qld and NSW coasts and ranges rather than south-east to New Caledonia and NZ.

      Petoukhov, V., Rahmstorf, S., Petri, S., Schellnhuber, H. J. "Quasi-resonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222000110

      They're studying the Northern Hemisphere, but I'd be surprised if the results aren't also applicable in the Southern Hemisphere.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Do you even understand what climate change means for us?

      like if we don't reduce our emmissions to zero by about 2040-2050 - self reinforcing climate change will kick in and the earth will continue to warm past 10 degree's - which means humans are wiped out

      why are you wasting your time trying to intentionally spread mis-information, it seems like the worst kind of evil

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    4. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Which of the IPCC's RCPs have a temperature increase of 10 degrees by 2040? That's crazy stuff.

      The worst kind of evil is spreading this rot around. People used to take it seriously and then we waste all our resources on nonsense like desalination plants and dopy windmills.

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    5. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Ohhh sure, if you delete what I wrote and instead insert what you think I wrote - it is crazy

      Allow me to quote myself;

      "like if we don't reduce our emmissions to zero by about 2040-2050 - self reinforcing climate change will kick in "

      This is well documented

      "the earth will continue to warm past 10 degree's" - this is the result of the self reinforcing changes

      That is, once we heat up past 4 degree's we start to release huge amounts of methane from the ocean and the permafrost

      This methane will make the temp jump past 10 degree's

      once we have started to release the methane - it is pretty much game over, out of our hands

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    6. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      You seem very certain about this. Don’t you think the 10 degrees stuff is, how can I put this politely, just a tad on the alarmist side?

      I am curious how one manages this certainty. Given that there isn’t a snowball’s chance that we will reduce emissions to zero, how does one cope with the impending doom of the planet? Doesn't it make you feel a bit blue all the time?

      Assuming of course that you are being serious.

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    7. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Knowledge is power, arm yourself. Just google "PETM Methane"

      "Don’t you think the 10 degrees stuff is, how can I put this politely, just a tad on the alarmist side? "

      It is an alarming fact I agree, the fact that it is alarming doesn't impinge on it's credibility

      Just Google "PETM Methane"

      "I am curious how one manages this certainty" - you listen to scientists who study this for a living

      Just Google "PETM Methane"

      "how does one cope with the impending doom of the planet? Doesn't it make you feel a bit blue all the time? " - The arc of history bends towards justice, also, no one said life was going to be nice, just because reality is uncomfortable doesn't mean it's not true

      Just Google "PETM Methane"

      The fact that the release of this methane under the permafrost will send our planets climate beyond our control is well documented and largely comes from knowledge of the PETM

      Just Google "PETM Methane"

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    8. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "Maybe more people producing less hot air would help the climate?" that's not really the problem.

      if you are speaking about respiration then I suggest you look up the causes of climate change as this is not a major factor.

      If you are being asinine, well then back at cha

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  5. Murray Webster

    Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

    The biggest impact we can have on decreasing the impact of severe fire is to implement prescribed burning. This will reduce damage to the whole range of environmental concerns eg, threatened species habitat, erosion, sedimentation, life and property damage. Dr Phil Cheney Ex CSIRO fire research chief re-stated this just a few minutes ago on ABC Radio Sydney and I guess will say it again on Wednesday (23/10/2013) on ABC FM at 12 noon. He has been saying this for the last few decades without having…

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    1. James Whitmore

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Hang in there Murray, we'll be taking a good look at fuel reduction in the next couple of days.

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    2. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Yes I did read that one:

      And also from that article

      "This means the current rate of bushfire in forests could be halved from about 5% to 2.5% annually by treating about 7% annually."

      Halving the rate of intense wildfire seems like a good thing to me. Does that mean the lives lost, properties burnt, erosion, sedimentation, habitat destruction, CO2 release from intense wildfire would also be halved?

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    3. Christopher Nheu

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Fantastic. Can't disagree with this. I love TC, they're obviously trying to maximise exposure for providing insight into the effects of climate change. But this form of "direct action" (dare I say it) for fire strategies should take priority in practical terms.

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    4. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Murray Webster

      The ultimate protection would be to create a 1km desert around each of our cities and towns

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  6. David Michael

    Manager

    The latest estimate on Tuesday is that around 120,000 ha have been burned in the Sydney bushfires. By way of contrast in the 'Black Thursday' Victorian fires of 1851 an estimated 5 million ha were burnt (and 12 lives lost), about 25% of the State. Then again on 'Black Friday', 13 January 1939, almost 5 million ha were again burned in Victoria (71 lives lost) (refer to 'Events that Shaped Australia, (Lewis, Balderstone and Bowan). There are many other large bushfires in Australia's recent history and even more before that.

    Natural climate change and extreme weather events probably played a major part in these mega-bushfires. Improved bushfire management practices and today's infrastructure and technologies would most likely contain a repeat of such events today.

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  7. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    What a disgusting human being Tony Abbott is. I heard he spent 14 hours of his own time with his local volunteer fire brigade.

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    1. Christopher Nheu

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Crest

      i don't think any of the fire fighters were getting paid PM's wages to do what they do.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to John Crest

      What bull manure!! Toxic RAbbott is leading a political party dedicated to perpetuating the present situation that increases the risk of wildfires, property loss and unnecessary deaths. The only beneficiaries are the insurance industry that will claim they have to increase premiums to recover the cost of fire claims.

      A better solution would be to stop the pollution at source and so avoid the problem.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Crest

      LOL, what a trooper he is, fighting fires whilst only being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars

      such charity

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  8. Mark McGuire

    climate consensus rebel

    NCCARF is Australia’s peak national body on climate change adaptation and has produced more than 200 major publications on the topic in the last four years. http://ht.ly/oe6hw . Greetings Mr Jones. Do any of those 200 papers consider adaption to any other climactic event other than man made global warming? http://cdn.zmescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/holocene.jpg , or the consequences of a "hold', or hiatus in man made global warming? http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130828/why-has-global-warming-paused-pacific-oceans-engine-room-running-cool. And, only an ignorant fool would "consider severe fires as one-offs that happen every few decades." Australia Is a land that evolved from fires. Our flora & fauna rely & depend on it. The indigenous folk knew this and managed the land accordingly. The Greens ignore this at our peril.The fires ARE NOT unprecedented: http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/firesnsw.html

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      "NCCARF is Australia’s peak national body on climate change adaptation ... Do any of those 200 papers consider adaption to any other climactic event other than man made global warming?"

      Err, care to suggest what other climate change is of comparable magnitude or rapidity as man-made climate change?

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    1. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      Nice link. This is the part that should be "readily understood by anyone with the willingness and wit to accept the science."

      “The science says we have physically entered a period of great change, a synchronized, related crash of the economy and the ecosystem, with food shortages, climate catastrophes, massive economic change and global political instability. It has been forecast for decades, and the moment has now arrived…”

      Society is collapsing. The perfect sound track may be "Year Zero" by Nine Inch Nails, which starts with ...

      We think we've come so far
      On all our lies we depend
      We face our consequence
      This is the beginning of the end

      and finishes with ...

      Shame on us
      Doomed from the start
      May god have mercy
      On our dirty little hearts
      Shame on us
      For all we've done
      And all we ever were
      Just zeros and ones

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  9. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    I'm a little surprised this sentence was allowed in the article..

    "South-east Australia saw a temperature change of about 0.8C when we compared temperatures before 1996 and after 1997. We know that it got drier after 1997 too."

    Its confusing. Sorry, what? I think the author means temperatures increased by 0.8 degrees between the mid 70s and the end of the century, and have since not moved.. the dry part is also confusing.. there was a megadrought of some years up until 2009 which has since broken.. this is the first dry year after the drought I believe, hence all the fuel to burn.. you can then claim that the overall trend is towards drying.. but it would not have hurt the author to be more specific.

    As it is, it is quite difficult to work out what the author is comparing to what. Some more explanation please..

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Is mark really offering an unbiased or even truthful opinion here or is he intentionally spreading mis-information?

      lets look at his track record

      http://www.afr.com/tags_authors?aut=Mark%20Lawson

      IPCC report is unconvincing
      Are CDM credits the icing on the capitalist cake?
      Climate change: what all the fuss is about
      Climate scepticism – the pay’s bad, the abuse worse
      It’s time to blow away green energy targets
      SAM stays south for the winter
      No pain, no gain for Doha

      I don't…

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Err, you've already answered you own question there.

      How come you never answer any of the questions I put to you?

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    3. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to David Arthur

      David - you mean I guessed at what the article says. That its comparing the period between 2008 or whatever (over how many decades?), and the period after that.. sure but it would be nice to have it confirmed.. the article is difficult to understand.. um, you asked questions previously? Perhaps I thought they were rhetorical questions and you just wanted to make a point, but I don't recall.. sorry..

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    4. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Is mark really offering an unbiased or even truthful opinion here or is he intentionally spreading mis-information?

      lets look at his track record

      http://www.afr.com/tags_authors?aut=Mark%20Lawson

      IPCC report is unconvincing
      Are CDM credits the icing on the capitalist cake?
      Climate change: what all the fuss is about
      Climate scepticism – the pay’s bad, the abuse worse
      It’s time to blow away green energy targets
      SAM stays south for the winter
      No pain, no gain for Doha

      I don't…

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    5. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, you should read the *whole* article. The answer to your question is a few paragraphs down:

      'When you analyse long historical time series of temperature, plus climate change from modelled data, it actually goes up like a staircase. The “El Niño of the century” we saw in 1997-98 was one of these steps in the staircase.'

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mr Lawson, in response to your remark in response to Suzanne Benn & Andrew Martin's 5 Sept 2013 "Dollar signs of the times: how our politicians are costing the Earth" (https://theconversation.com/dollar-signs-of-the-times-how-our-politicians-are-costing-the-earth-17728) you remarked that it would cost Australia too much to act to increase the cost of CO2 emissions in the absence of corresponding acts overseas.

      I asked you "Mr Lawson, what's all this talk about "the cost" of "taking action now…

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    7. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      While you're at it, Mr Lawson, have a read of Gunnar Luderer et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034033 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034033, "Economic mitigation challenges: how further delay closes the door for achieving climate targets" (http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034033/article). It's open access, hence free.

      Also, when you go to that page, towards the top right you'll see the words "Email alert". If you sign up for Environmental Research Letters (open access) email alert, you'll learn a great deal, which you can bring to these discussions.

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  10. Craig Myatt

    Industrial Designer / R&D

    One of the best articles I have read on the conversation...

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  11. Sarah Glass
    Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired scientist/technologist

    This is not a political issue. It matters not for whom you voted when the flames are at your door, or your house is under water. This is an issue on which both parties generally agreed during the Howard and early Rudd governments. It is only recently it has been politicised in this country, for the benefit of some parties, but not for the benefit of the people.

    It is a matter of humanity and ethics, to take care of our planet and our fellow creatures and fellow humans. Not doing so when the evidence is clear and the means and information available is the Mother of All Crimes Against Humanity, nothing more or less.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      Yes, this is the first time bush fires or any accident has been politicised by politicians....

      don't act suprised at politicians politicising topics - this is exactly what they do for a living and all of them do it, abbott, rudd, gillard, howard, bandt, brown, roxon

      This is what politicians have done for thousands of years

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    2. Sarah Glass
      Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Indeed so Michael, but this issue is way too serious for us all, no matter who we support at the ballot box.

      Action must happen for all our sakes, and we must make it so, no matter which side of politics we are on. We can't allow politicians to play games with the future of the species. And I think we need to make that clear to them. If they do not act in our interests on this matter, they need to understand that they will not be reelected, and they will be held to account.

      I am starting to feel that governments, not just ours, are becoming unable to act on big issues, maybe because of short times in between elections, maybe because of the media, maybe because of the vested interests of large companies. Politicians around the western world seem to lack the vision and courage to act on these very big issues.

      So it comes down to people power.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      There are 2 main issue's affecting western democracies across the world.

      1) Money in politics
      2) At a fundamental level, society encourages people not to care whether or not their beliefs are true.

      both of these leads to unenlightened self interest and the tradgedy of the commons

      If you allow money to have an influence in your government - this leads to a fundamental corruption of the system, where the government is not reliant on the people and the people alone to get elected, they also…

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    4. Sarah Glass
      Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Many good points Michael.

      I feel that regardless of governments, we must take this into our hands now. We are after all, citizens of the planet and have a right to protect our environment for ourselves and those that come after us. If the elected governments both here and elsewhere are unable to do this for whatever reason, then we have to either force them to, or do it ourselves.

      There are, of course many ways to go forward with this, and we may need to undertake several types of action…

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    5. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      I tend to agree, the arc of history bends towards justice.

      The money in politics and the belief issues, I believe are the cause of many of our problems.

      Look at all the commenters here who post that there is no link between CO2 and warming.

      anyway, unfortunately I think you are spot on that we the people, especially in the west, are in the belly of the beast and if we don't act or can't act....no one will.

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    6. Sarah Glass
      Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael,

      The Money in Politics is a huge problem, you are right. How can any government ethically look after the people when it is in the pay of a small minority? It is not reasonable to believe that those that finance and support political parties don't expect some sort of reward to so doing....

      Now as for the belief issue. Philosophically, I understand very well that people (all of us in fact) are very good at defending and justifying those things that enhance our ego. Those things that…

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  12. Lyndal Breen

    logged in via Facebook

    While there must be a link between the hotter, dryer and windier weather we are experiencing across the state and climate change, I would like people to also think about the range of possible ignition causes.
    One that I noticed, driving past the Balmoral fire was the vast amount of broken glass glinting in the sunlight, which was exposed by the burning process. We used to light fires by lining up a piece of curved glass to concentrate heat from the sun, with dry grass and leaves and I see no reason why this is not happening 'naturally'. It could be another cause of some fires and could seen as a consequence of human disregard for the bush.

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  13. David Leigh

    logged in via Facebook

    The problem with recent political actions is that they have been aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. In order to survive catastrophic climate change, we have to actually reverse the process and put carbon back into the soil at a greater rate than we emit. If we stop emitting right now we still have to face rises of 2-degrees or more over the next few decades. To slow the trend down will likely mean a 4-degree rise and that is really unknown territory. Rapid sea level rises from a 2-degree rise will…

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  14. Roni Taylor

    logged in via Twitter

    "Of course when people are hurting and in strife you’ve got to be sensitive to their needs. But after these events we have to seriously think about how we’re going to manage them in the future."

    Thank you for a Climate Change article that doesn't attempt to justify Adam Bandt's blatant insensitivity. It's a shame more of the left don't get it.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Roni Taylor

      Yes, like Abbott would never politicise people drowning at sea.....oh wait a minute

      this is just an excuse for you to hate on others that you already hated, so hate away but don't act like your being reasonable about it

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  15. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist: The Con is a bad Monty Python sketch, for climate sense see: http://www.thegwpf.org/

    Roger how far back did you look? The current fires do not appear unprecedented. Here's a list of SMH reports for fires from October in 1951, 1948 and 1928 that are of a similar scale due to similar weather conditions (particularly 1951 and 1928). The further spread of housing into the bush fringe increases our vulnerability to events of this nature. Given there has been some changes in climate it appears we are yet to break out of the historical pattern.

    October fires around Sydney and New…

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  16. John Nicol

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    This article makes unsubstantiated claims regarding the likely extent to which global warming might influence the weather conditions which increase the risk from fires. Since the cause of fires is known to be. Lightening strikes, children playing with matches, adult arsonists, careless smokers, etc, the incidence of fire is hardly likely to depend on 'climate change" Roger Jones does not make this point clear.

    Again, the strength of a fire is dependent on the fuel load (it is well known that…

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    1. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to John Nicol

      It's absolutely not the case that fuel reduction burning has been restricted recently by policy in the Blue Mountains. We had plenty of fuel reductions in February and March when it was wet, including one burn which resulted in the thickest and most unpleasant smog I've experienced in my life -- I felt like I was in Beijing, not Springwood.

      However there was no burning off through the very warm, dry winter, and a good thing too. There was some in September, but at least one such burn got out of control. It's simply too dangerous to attempt "controlled burns" in such conditions. Fire control policy will have look to new techniques.

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    2. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathon Maddox

      Thanks for that reply to my comments. I stand corrected in a sense. However, comments from the fire people recently seemed to indicate that there had beena big build up of biomass and no removal while no one had indicated that this would have been dangerous under the conditions through winter.

      I still cannot understand why local authorities give planning permission for people to build so close to dangerous, volatile trees as these appear to be with inflammable oil.

      In some…

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Well they may disagree, but I have yet to see the reason for their claims and I believe their explanations depend on very generalised arguments which avoid specific scientific processes to demonstrate the case. As I pointed out before, there seems no logic in the assumption that a change in the climate can be so specific as to bring together, such a sequence of conditions which are clearly shown to be required to amke for the more severe fires.

      Can you provide me with some answers to the question as to how this can be the case, or show that the incidence of fires has significantly increased since the aboriginals were burning off for their many reasons before the arrival of the white man.?

      I thought Roger Jones migt have answered my question but I notice now that he is an economist, not a scientist.
      John Nicol

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    4. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Nicol

      Ohh you suspect do you? hmm you know you don't need to guess about these things, I mean lets see what Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has to say;

      "Figueres added that the world needed to take “vigorous action” to help avoid the “doom and gloom” scenario illustrated by the NSW bushfires, insisting that there needed to be zero net emissions by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change."

      "“We are already paying price of carbon,” she told CNN. “We are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts, we are paying the price with all sorts disturbances to the hydrological cycle.

      “What we need to do is put a price on carbon so we don’t pay the price of carbon.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/22/un-climate-chief-says-direct-action-a-lot-more-expensive-than-pricing-carbon

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    5. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Nicol

      Why is it that the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change disagree's with you?

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  17. Geoff Henley

    Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

    Once again, CAGW advocates are opportunistically using the NSW bushfires to push their own idealogical stance.

    They fail to provide any evidence that a carbon tax or ETS will make any noticeable difference to the climate globally or locally.

    They describe current conditions as unprecedented, yet how can they know that similar conditions did not occur five hundred or thousand or any number of years ago.

    They fail to acknowledge that recent good rains in NSW in recent years (the ones Tim Flannery said wouldn't happen) have led to more undergrowth thereby increasing fire risk.

    Fire risk is due to a myriad of factors. CAGW advocates have failed to account for all of these factors simply using tragedy to push their brand of ideology.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Yes and Abbott never politicised people dying at sea for his own.....oh shoot he did

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    2. Lolu Lolu

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, agree 100%, well said.

      It appears that if from childhood kids would listen to ideological stuff like climate change causes fires, their brain would not think otherwise in future. If in future someone would tell them that fires are caused by something else, their brainwashed brains would not comprehend it.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Lolu Lolu

      No one is suggesting that climate change causes bush fires

      for you to get this so wrong demonstrates a form of brainwashing

      ie. no matter how much evidence we show you that no one is suggesting climate change causes fire - you won't correct your beliefs

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  18. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    Terrific work. A shame I have only chanced upon this article so late into the discourse.

    Interesting that those who do not wish to entertain the possibility that the inexorable change in climate could impact, exacerbate local conditions - do not want to talk about it.

    Now is not the time. It is not insensitive to those who are currently coping with the unseasonal fire storms racing through the NSW ranges and hinterland.

    When IS the right time?

    As someone who lived through the 2009 bush…

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, Someone I knew was incinerated on a fire truck in the Adelaide Hills during ash wed. It came within a kilometre close to me, and I did not need to be that close to see hell. Unprecedented behaviour in cumulative large fires makes no difference to deniers. Peter Ormonde some time ago told me that not even the whole BMs going up (my suggestion) would make a difference to idiots. How true. This fire started on my birthday, irrelevant maybe, but all I'm left with is deep sadness that there is such a small but loud bunch of ....... impeding us from rational change.

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    2. Sarah Glass
      Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, I feel the time has come to ignore them and move on. There will be a national day of action on 17th November in every capital city and some regional ones. Any of us who understand the problem and want action can attend one of these.

      I must stress again that this is not political. It is about the survival of our and many other species. I am not interested what people vote, I am interested in all our futures.

      The events are being run by GetUp, but many organisations are attending. https://www.getup.org.au. Both you and I contacted them a week or so ago. We need to keep this up, and sooner or later action will begin.

      I must also say that I have done a great deal of research in the area of organisations and groups undertaking environmental and climate action one way or another, and there are hundreds doing fantastic work. We need to unite them.

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      I am sorry to hear of someone close to you suffering such a frightening demise. Time does not lessen the reality that since Ash Wednesday 1983 bush fires are occurring more frequently with a ferocity that used to only distinguish the "once in a decade" fires as Ash Wednesday.

      http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/firesum.html

      Apologies for link being mostly Victoria-centric - however the pattern revealed is similar to that experienced across the South-Eastern states. And there are many interesting graphs showing the history of bush fires since 1851 to 2009.

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    4. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      Sarah and Alice,

      There are a number of organisations which are running other actions/campaigns that we can get involved in trying to hold the resource sector, banking and investment sectors and public institutions to account

      http://www.carbontracker.org/wastedcapital

      http://www.marketforces.org.au/banks.html

      http://www.areyouthevitalfew.org/

      Divestment by individuals and public institutions can also be very powerful. http://gofossilfree.org/australia/

      "The disinvestment campaign... is credited[2] as pressuring the South African Government to embark on negotiations ultimately leading to the dismantling of the apartheid system."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disinvestment_from_South_Africa

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  19. Brian Westlake

    Common Sage

    From the IPCC:

    We are 95% sure that man is responsible for heating the planet since 1950.....but we dont have a f*^king clue what caused the heating from 1900-1950 !!!

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  20. Fred Moore

    Builder

    There's insufficient data to make conclusions about CO2 induced warming.
    Particularly when the scientists involved yap endlessly about their great grandchildrens' futures when its that very urge to procreate endlessly that is at the heart of HUMAN CAUSED global warming.
    It's like a mad woman rushing to pick up litter in the middle of the M4 freeway because she thinks litter causes climate change.
    Additionally it takes climate change out of the realm of 100 year, after scientists are dead forecasts…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Fred Moore

      "There's insufficient data to make conclusions about CO2 induced warming"

      Really? come on man, this science dates back to the 1820's

      There are free University Lecture's online about this that you could check out anytime

      maybe you should find out whether your beliefs are true or not?

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  21. Ken Swanson

    Geologist

    Two arsonists have been arrested in connection with the NSW fires.

    The high level of undergrowth not cleared in the colder months through back burning has been attributed as the main reason for the severity of the fire. This is from bushfire scientists not climate rent seekers looking to kick their self serving can down the road.

    The head of the IPCC herself said there is no research connecting wildfires to climate change

    Green lobby groups, the Greens Party and climate academic rent seekers oppose the back burning of forest undergrowth as a preventative measure

    Massive fire produces lots of man made CO2. I would be interested to now how much in proportion to what is normally produced in a year

    And yet after all this, the fires are Tony Abbott's fault.

    You gotta love em..thank God their influence on public policy is now restricted to marginal blogs like this one

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      I hear this claim a lot, that the greens or more generally anyone on the left, is opposed to back burning and this is the cause of the fire.

      Any evidence of the green party being against back burning?

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  22. Evelyn Haskins

    retired

    We must distinguish between "the weather' and "climate change".

    Sure in hot, dry and windy weather, more bushfires and worse bushfires will occur.

    But a decade of warmer and drier weather a "climate change doth not make".

    So let's be sensible and talk about the weather and how Australians should learn to cope with the hot dry decades.

    How subdiving in fire prone areas for residential peurposes, and how having srubby dry vegetation up near the house increase the risks faced when fires…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      So your suggestion is to ignore reality?

      don't talk about climate change because you don't want to

      seems reasonable

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    2. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Evelyn,

      Each of the last several decades has been warmer than the one before. Yet you seriously believe that the climate is not changing? And are you seriously arguing that we should not consider the implications of climate change for bushfires?

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    3. David Semmens

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      But a decade of warmer and drier weather a "climate change doth not make".

      Yes, it does. Climate is the long term average of weather conditions.

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  23. Lolu Lolu

    logged in via Facebook

    Fires and so called climate change are not linked at all.

    First, aboriginies implemented planned fires a while ago to successfully deal with fires in this country. Their experience was forgotten due to Greens who are trying to brainswash people about so called climate change. This country would never be successful with fires linking them to climate change...

    Climate science is abosolutely not settled and it is not possible to prove anything in here. Climatologists cannot figure out what the…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Lolu Lolu

      I love how you keep repeating that "The Greens are Brainwashing people, The Greens are Brainwashing people, The Greens are Brainwashing people"

      it is almost like you are trying to brainwash people into believing the greens are brainwashing people? has someone brainwashed you?

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  24. Evelyn Haskins

    retired

    It might aso help to stop the slanging nmatch nd name calling.

    Calling someone a "climate change denier" proves NOTHING about the person, only about the speaker/writer who shows themselves to think in catch phrases and enjoy bandwagons.

    It will contribute nothing to anyone's understanding of the real problems.

    Let's face it all fair and square -- if we are serious rabout ony one of these issues -- 'climate change', pollution, loss of habitat for non-human animals, the evils of eating meat, overpopualtion, loss of human property through bush fires -- then we'd all go out and kill ourselves and let the world get on without our messing things up.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "Calling someone a "climate change denier" proves NOTHING about the person"

      Well actually it highlights an inability to apportion belief to the evidence - which is a very dangerous thing

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    2. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Evelyn,

      Not sure about you but I don't think I will, as you suggest, "go out and kill ourselves and let the world get on without our messing things up."

      Instead, how about we get responsible and stop damaging the planet on which we depend? How about, in the context of this article, we get responsible for our own ghg emissions and stand up and demand that our politicians adopt emission reduction targets that see Australia do its share to prevent dangerous climate change and then put pressure on other international leaders to do the same?

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    3. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      In the context of this article, how will demanding that “our politicians adopt emissions targets ..and put pressure” on other to do the same have any effect on bushfire prevalence?
      If Australia went to zero CO2 tomorrow the bush would still grow just as fast. Fuel would still build up in forests, schoolboys would still light fires, the lightening would still strike. And how about, while we are waiting for, say, the Indian and the Chinese governments to commit economic suicide and condemn their people to endless poverty, we allow householders to clear 100 metres around their property? How about instead of giving 100s of millions to green perpetual motion schemes, we spend the money on proven fire hazard reduction projects?

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    4. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,

      Focussing all our effort and the money on "proven fire hazard reduction projects" might have been a rational response if the only impact of unmitigated climate change was on bushfires, but alas there are many other negative impacts heading our way.

      Your other argument that "while we are waiting for, say, the Indian and the Chinese governments to commit economic suicide and condemn their people to endless poverty" is a false dichotomy and a total strawman. We can walk and chew gum at the…

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  25. Matt Stevens

    Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

    It would have been good to have some references and graphs (links will suffice) to support the articles thrust. Not denying, simply looking for the science, as someone who has limited time to do so. I would also use the term monotonic increase, rather than non-linear increase. Monotonic more closely matches the stepped increases we are seeing. Non-linear mostly implies an ever increasing or decreasing trend. Not quite sure what "damages tend to be non-linear" means? But I would still say that it is incorrect to talk about single events and climate change, as it provides fodder for those wanting to argue the reality. Talk about trends, and you are on much safer footing. Don't dumb it down so much, and you will be able to support your arguments in a more forceful way. Not wanting to enter the discussion, but making some points for those wishing to contribute to educating people on climate change. What policies to implement...that is for another time...

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