Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

What firefighters say about climate change

You do not find many climate change sceptics on the end of [fire] hoses anymore… They are dealing with increasing numbers of fires, increasing rainfall events, increasing storm events. – A senior Victorian…

Firefighters have plenty of ideas about disaster management - so why don’t we listen? AAP/Dan Himbrechts

You do not find many climate change sceptics on the end of [fire] hoses anymore… They are dealing with increasing numbers of fires, increasing rainfall events, increasing storm events. – A senior Victorian fire officer, interviewed in 2012 for a recent National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility report.

There have been fierce arguments this week about whether it’s opportunistic to discuss climate change in connection to the devastating New South Wales fires. Amid all the bluster, it’s surprising that we’ve heard so little from one group of experts: frontline emergency service workers, including the firefighters risking their lives for the rest of us.

Yet if you do ask for their opinion - as we did for a study released in June this year - many, like the senior fire officer quoted above, are not reluctant to talk about climate change. In fact, quite a few of the emergency workers and planners we interviewed said we should be talking about it more, if our communities are to be better prepared for disasters like the one unfolding in NSW right now.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

In 2012-13, I led a joint research team from Griffith and RMIT to prepare a report for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) on disaster risk management and climate change.

To do so, we compared the emergency responses to Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the 2011 Perth hills bushfires, and the 2011 Brisbane floods.

We started by comparing the official inquiry reports into these events to the relevant research on disaster risk management. This was followed up by interviews with 22 experts from Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, including nine fire officers, five emergency services workers, and eight assorted planners or policy officers. The proposals that emerged were then reviewed at a set of workshops.

One of the most interesting things we found in talking to the emergency service workers was an overwhelming acceptance and concern that climate change was already affecting Australia, based on their personal experiences with disasters.

As a Western Australian fire officer told our research team, we need to “get the scientists, who have a lot to share about climate change and climate change adaptation, talking to the operational people” - a suggestion backed by many of our interviewees.

Preventing future emergencies

Our report was not the first time that firefighters and other emergency workers have spoken out about climate change.

For instance, earlier this year it was reported that the United Firefighters Union released research by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research that found almost 2 million Australians were relying largely on volunteer fire brigades to protect them and A$500 billion in assets.

The same article referred to research from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, a collaboration between the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, on how the fire season across much of south-eastern Australia appeared to be going on for longer.

Australian emergency services workers explain why they joined Run for a Safe Climate.

In November 2009, 25 firefighters, paramedics, police, military and emergency services workers spent nearly a month running 6000 kilometres from Cooktown in Queensland to Adelaide and back to Melbourne, speaking to communities along the way about their concerns about climate change. Many of them had worked in the Black Saturday firestorm, in which 173 people died, as well as the record-breaking heatwave beforehand that health experts estimated killed more than twice as many people as the fires.

In the same year, the United Firefighters Union’s national secretary wrote to then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:

On behalf of more than 13,000 firefighters and support staff in Australia, I write this open letter to request a review of Australia’s fire risk… As we battle blazes here in Victoria, firefighters are busy rescuing people from floods in Queensland. Without a massive turnaround in policies, aside from the tragic loss of life and property, we will be asking firefighters to put themselves at an unacceptable risk.

Firefighters know that it is better to prevent an emergency than to have to rescue people from it, and we urge state and federal governments to follow scientific advice and keep firefighters and the community safe by halving the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Lessons to be learnt

So what can we learn from listening to firefighters and other emergency services workers about how to be better prepared for future disasters?

Our study’s main aim was to come up with a set of practical changes based on those expert views on how to better integrate climate change adaptation into disaster management programs.

One suggestion was to set up a permanent fund, based on the success of Landcare. Anyone from government or the community might form a group and bid for money to tackle a particular issue, such as replanting local wetlands to reduce the impacts of flooding.

Another proposal was to set aside some local government funding to set up community resilience grants. Residents would be able to apply to their local council to fund projects, such as creating a network of people ready to assist elderly neighbours in times of bushfires or floods. Locals could even vote in town hall meetings on which proposals their council should fund.

Whatever we do, if we want to handle disasters better in the future, our frontline emergency workers have plenty of ideas to offer - if we’re ready to listen to what they say.

Articles also by This Author

Sign in to Favourite

Join the conversation

161 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    It was said that 50% of fires are deliberately lit, only 6% natural causes and the rest accidental or unknown.

    50% deliberate plus the unknown ones account for events or fires that have nothing to do with global warming

    So if 6% are natural causes, which of course would include lightning, how much can you contribute to global warming?

    report
    1. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Rene,

      There have always been arsonists, idiots starting fires have never been associated with climate. How the conflagration then builds is very much related to both climate, along with the steps previously and subsequently taken to control it.

      Those who object to sane fire control measures are also culpable.

      report
    2. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Rene,

      I didn't make that clear, the effects of fully 100% of fires can be influenced by how the climate has changed. That they were set by arsonists is of no relevance.

      In fact, the Australian landscape has been shaped for 40,000 years of constant management by cheerful pyromaniacs.

      report
    3. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Craig Read

      I'm sorry Craig, but there have been worse bushfires in Australia in terms of impact on the environment pre-dating the industrialised human impact on the climate. Not in terms of lives lost as the population was so small and we didn't have mass concentrations of the public living in more high risk areas of bush, but in terms of area, nothing compares to what's happened in the past:

      6th of February, 1851 - "Black Thursday"

      The largest Australian bushfire in European recorded history that burnt…

      Read more
    4. Liz Minchin
      Liz Minchin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Craig Read

      Craig can you repost that without the "delusional fool" last line? The rest is fine, but as soon as we go down the path of "you're an idiot", "no, you are", the whole tone of the conversation goes downhill.

      Our Community Standards are here https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards & they're not hard to follow. Having most people respect them makes a big difference to not turning this site - like so many others - into a place where slanging matches drown out good argument.

      Thanks very much, all the best - Liz

      report
    5. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      All very interesting Martin - what's your point?

      Can you see anywhere in the article where it claims that disasterous fires have not occured in the past? Just because something has occurred in the past under entirely different circumstances does not negate the influences on the current fires. Or are you trying to convince us that there couldn't possibly be any climate signal in the causes of the current fires because (possibly) worse fires happened in the past?

      To quote a famous former politician - please explain.

      I would also be interested in your views about the possibility that past fires burned more area because there was more bush around 160 years ago and it would have been better connected, or that fire fighting techniques and equipment may not have been as well developed.

      report
    6. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Thanks Liz. This is the whole problem with any discourse in Australia right now.

      Nobody can have any rationale, calm, informed discussion around anything any more, whether that is politics, climate change, NBN, disability, health, education or anything else without being abused or raged at!

      Just one other example:

      If people complained about how Labor was handling it's roll out of the NBN and the method of the roll out, they're instantly called names, raged at, or called right wing nuts…

      Read more
    7. Michael Bartlett

      PhD Candidate at ANU

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      I believe the idea is not that climate change causes fires, but that it causes more of the extreme weather conditions which make the difference between a bad fire and a catastrophic fire.

      report
    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      That's right Martin - the abuse only comes from one side, doesn't it...funny how it's not 'your' side...

      report
    9. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin, you're right that the 2009 fires didn't burn as much as some fires in the past. I'd put that down to where they occurred (relatively accessible locations for fire fighters) and the use of modern equipment. But then the accessibility was partly due to them being closer to populated areas (resulting in more deaths) in contrast to the much larger Great Divides fire 1 Dec 2006 - March 2007 which occurred in much less accessible terrain.

      But neither reflect the point I was making about the…

      Read more
    10. Ronald Ostrowski

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      The real issue is timing (Spring as opposed to the usual Summer) and the ever increasing frequency of high danger fire conditions. When viewed in that context how these fires start becomes a moot point. Rising sea temperatures, due to the greenhouse effect, cause the extreme wheather conditions for droughts, fires, floods, and hurricanes,

      I congratulate Adam Bandt for pointing this out and making this a wake-up call for everyone, because the denialist industry is far too loud these days, and the planet can no longer afford complacency based on ignorance or wilful fact-distortion. This is a crime against humanity and life on this planet, and it is time to turn the public conversation to future prosecutions those negligent industrialists and politicians, and those who promulgate distorted information as wheather conditions gradually worsen. The science cannot be clearer.

      report
    11. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Your posts raise (raze?) an interesting issue Martin - namely how we we determine the severity of fires?

      Area burned is not adequate since I have just again today returned from the largest hazard reduction burn I've ever seen - just north of Newcastle in the Hunter Valley. Big area but in essence this was a very fast and rather cool grass fire - serious potential but brilliantly controlled by the RFS. Access was no problem, settlement was sparse and defensible. We got off light. Glad it happened…

      Read more
    12. Jeff Haddrick

      field manager

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Thank you Liz
      As some one who gets the like to theconversation in their email each day, I find it very frustrating when I come home after work and go the various articles that interest me, then find that comments are already closed. But I can see why that happens. So often there are a huge amount of comments, BUT so many of them seem to be part of an inflammatory point scoring spiral.

      Although there are some facts entwined in those spirals, it doesn't seem to me to be worth the combative aura. I reckon just ban the head butters.

      Thanks again, this forum is an oasis of good info.

      report
    13. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin, South Australia holds the record for the largest fire in recorded history. Nth west of the state, 16,000,000 hectares. 1975-1976.
      I also think that it is a good idea to listen to fire fighters. A common theme, discussed by fire fighters in both Australia and North America, when they get together, is that they are increasingly seeing fire behaviour they have not seen before. It is disrespectful not to listen to these men and women, when they come to a logical conclusion, that extra heat and drier soil has a direct impact on fire behaviour, however small. Yes there has been big fires before. But the fact that there has been fires before is unlikely to be any consolation to fire fighters looking ahead to this summer when temperatures start to reach 45 degrees, given that the soils are much drier coming into this summer than they were 80 years ago, for much of southern Australia.

      report
    14. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Martin, It's October. There is no record of a fire of this magnitude in October in the BM previously. Fire fighters have also pointed to this factor.

      report
    15. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Rene - how they are lit is irrelevant. It is the strength and ferocity of the fore because of the changed climate conditions.

      report
    16. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Hear hear Liz. Perhaps some of the deniers might like to submit articles?

      report
    17. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Ouch Peter, that sounds bad, and very risky for those fighting a fire, you can get caught in the middle rather fast if a fire ignites in front of you as you fight the one coming, right? Would be interesting to see a piece written by you guys, describing what you find changing in more detail, although I will admit you have done a good job of it already :)

      Do a piece here on the Conversation about it.

      report
    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Thanks for that, Mr Walsh.

      6th of February, 1851 - "Black Thursday"
      27th of February 1865 - "Black Monday"
      1st of February 1898 - "Red Tuesday"
      Early 1900s
      February - March 1926 - "Black Sunday"
      1932
      13 January 1939 - "Black Friday"

      So what were the Rural Fire Service doing on each of these occasions? Playing cards?

      report
  2. Paul Richards

    integral operating system

    Appreciate the article, solutions are evidence of understanding risk needs to be managed. A heightened awareness that is lacking in some of our community.
    Michael Howes wrote; "One suggestion was to set up a permanent fund, based on the success of Landcare." All the Landcare solutions have been of benefit in our communities. So broadening there their ideas and concepts by provided greater resources is smart thinking. Hopefully this will be done without any outsourcing. Using profit based corporations in drives for efficiency and austerity under the cover of social capital generation.

    report
  3. Martin Walsh

    logged in via Twitter

    I'm sorry but these 'articles' and The Greens Parties are really starting to piss me off. They only tell half the truth and then ignore everything else.

    Yes, we need more action on Climate Change and yes it will cause more and more vegetation to dry out, but Australia has ALWAYS had bushfires.

    Facts:

    - Bushfires are a part of the Australian landscape. They have been around for an estimated 60 million years and they are a REGULAR cycle in our climate.
    - Much of Australia's vegetation has…

    Read more
    1. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Hey raging troll,

      I specifically outlined that this is about having a full and proper debate and not hysterics. The causality of bushfires is human;

      1. Starting them either deliberately or accidently
      2. More people living in areas of bush which have always been high risk areas for bushfires

      Less humans in the bush equals less bushfires. As I outlined above with other examples of worse bushfires earlier on in Australia's history, we've had worse in terms of damage to the environment. There…

      Read more
    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      You said you were outraged at the greens party because they are only telling half the storey, then you emphasied that we have always had fire

      What are you refferring to? who is denying that we have always had fire?

      I understand you are outraged at the green party - my question is why? what have the green party done?

      report
    3. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin,

      I am not sure why you are expressing your outrage in posts on this particular article? This article is clearly about "What firefighters say about climate change" and this is because it is an article about research which the author was involved in.

      There are articles here that address the other factors that are involved

      https://theconversation.com/bushfire-hazard-reduction-the-sword-or-the-shield-19393

      https://theconversation.com/we-know-what-starts-fires-are-we-brave-enough-to-prevent-them-19323

      However, the impact of climate change on bushfires is also very important to understand

      https://theconversation.com/fire-and-climate-change-dont-expect-a-smooth-ride-19391

      report
    4. John Vacey

      Sciolist

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Hmm. Interested in hearing the stats behind some of your claims - eg"Green groups are largely to blame for blocking strategic burn off's". In fact given the article is reporting the views of professional fire fighters, I'd be interested in seeing something of your qualifications / expertise. Ooops, my mistake - just googled you.....

      report
    5. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      ".....Hey raging troll....I specifically outlined that this is about having a full and proper debate and not hysterics...."

      So you open your demand that this be a full and proper debate and not about hysterics with a hysterical ad hom. Nice one!

      "...The causality of bushfires is human...."

      To a large degree, yes. So?

      '.....As I outlined above with other examples of worse bushfires earlier on in Australia's history, we've had worse in terms of damage to the environment...."

      Bushfires…

      Read more
    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      We always had everything, Martin. In order to understand whether any of those things are changing you engage in scientific reasearch and conduct proper statistical analysis. This has been done extensively and repeatedly and, funnily enough, it supports the position of 'Greens Parties' and 'green groups' rather than yours - no matter how pissed off you may feel, I'm afraid that doesn't change the factual evidence.

      You are the one who, slightly sanctimoniously, called for rational debate above…

      Read more
    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike, there you go again, trying to insert annoying facts into a good, manly bigoted rant!

      report
    8. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Ironically, the only 'bigots' on here seem to be people like Felix and the Mike's.

      Where on Earth did I deny climate change impact on bush fires?
      Where have I denied or disputed climate change?

      I have no idea why you are debating my comments where I clearly state that I believe we must do MORE about climate change and that it is impacting the amount of fuel around for bush fires.

      People like you are part of the problem. If people don't exactly, word for word 'toe the line' of your preaching…

      Read more
    9. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin,

      Just to clarify, which of your following statements do you believe is the case?

      Do you agree with the scientists that climate change has an impact on bushfires as you indicate in the following - "Where on Earth did I deny climate change impact on bush fires?"

      Or do you disagree with the scientists as you indicate in the following - "The point is, climate change is a correlating factor, not a causation but this is getting twisted in the politicisation of the discourse."

      report
    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      I'm 'debating your comments' because they were false or irrelevant. That is my problem with your comments.

      Nobody ever anywhere claimed that climate change 'started fires' (mainly because we understand enough basic physics to realise that you need an ignition source, such as lightning or a match, to start a fire) merely that, once they had started, it tended to exacerbate the outcome.

      I have not accused you of denying climate change or required you to 'toe the line'. Nor have I abused you…

      Read more
    11. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Wow, someone calling another person a 'liar' in an online debate. I'm totally shocked (not)

      report
    12. Martin Walsh

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,

      Which of the comments are false and irrelevant?

      You can't discuss bushfires and climate change without discussing, understanding and addressing ALL of the issues.

      Show me one piece of reputable evidence or study which says that bushfires today are increasing in size / destructive power because of climate change? I'm not talking about opinions whether professional or from the general public.

      I agree, as I have said all along that in the future the intensity of bushfires will increase…

      Read more
    13. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Wow. Someone repeating the lies from the shockjocks that the Greens are "blocking strategic burnoffs" but when challenged unable to provide any evidence.

      I'm totally shocked (not).

      I see you are now doubling down with "As to your statement 'nobody ever anywhere claimed that climate change 'started fires' then you haven't been listening to social media over the last week all being spurred on by hard core green's supporters."

      I call nonsense again. It sounds like you spend a lot of time listening to Alan Jones or one of the other shock jocks.

      Are you suggesting that Green's supporters are claiming the climate change "starts" fires as opposed to the scientific view which is that climate change exacerbates them? Exactly what mechanism were these "people" proposing? Global warming fire lighters?

      You are certainly entitled to your own opinion. But do not complain when people push back after you start assigning views to people that they do not hold.

      report
    14. John Vacey

      Sciolist

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      "As to your statement 'nobody ever anywhere claimed that climate change 'started fires' then you haven't been listening to social media over the last week all being spurred on by hard core green's supporters."

      No. There are lunatics on both sides of the so-called debate on social media. Presumably that's where you got the view that green groups are responsible for blocking strategic fuel reductions burns.

      Out of interest, can you point me towards any evidence that there was more "strategic…

      Read more
    15. John Vacey

      Sciolist

      In reply to John Vacey

      Sorry, I only highlight Kenthurst cause I grew up there (1950-1975) and know something of the local bushfire / fire management history. Long term fuel management stats for any area / region would be very interesting.

      report
    16. David Rennie

      IT Consultant

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin ,
      You are confusing cause and effect. We can do a great deal to reduce the cause of bushfires, but the effect, once a fire has started, is a consequence of the climatic conditions.
      Simply reducing the causes is fantastic, but we also need to reduce the effect by reducing climate change.
      According to the Liberal govt in NSW strategic burning has significantly increased since they took office but it hasn't removed the effect of these fires. The real cause of reduced hazard reduction is increased fire risk caused by climate change not political activism.

      report
    17. Paul Felix

      Builder

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Are firefighters hysterical, are scientist hysterical are disaster experts hysterical are insurance companies hysterical?
      Are they not allowed to be part of full and proper debate?
      Accept you can't stand the Greens (although they are mainly correct about environmental issues) but what problem do you have with the above.
      Surly a full and proper debate would mean reading this article and wondering why pretty well all experts agree about something you deny, and not reflecting on that.

      report
    18. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      Martin, this article is not about your opinion. It is about the opinion of Firefighters. Are you willing to sit in a room with a group of senior firefighters and tell them they are wrong. I would think they are well aware of previous large fires. But these are the people who are reporting repeatedly with consecutive large fire events, they risk their lives in, (starting with Ash Wed), that they see fire behaviour, they have not seen before. for some this means 50 years of direct experience. If these people say we need to talk about this, are you seriously willing to say no, its your imagination we've always had big fire etc. Frankly, I'd rather listen to firefighters and climate scientists, because they observe directly.

      report
    19. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Martin Walsh

      It's pointless replying really - I have already twice made clear why I argue that most of your points were irrelevant and merely strawman arguments. To repeat, for one final time, the fact that we have always had fires in this country is not relevant to the question of whether they are getting more severe. There's simply no way I can make this any clearer.

      I did not just make general statements but provided reasons why I considered most of your comments to be irrelevant. I've just repeated that…

      Read more
    20. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Well, considering Peter writing about houses igniting by them self?

      "Subsequent fires around Sydney's fringes have also shown a dramatic increase in both speed and heat with video evidence of houses igniting from radiant heat alone. That is unheard of."

      Maybe there is a point to referring it to a climate change? Like ones local weather suddenly enabling something that people don't remember from before?

      report
  4. Roger Jones

    Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University

    Great article. Direct experience of events is being increasingly recognized as a big factor in the acceptance of the scientific understanding of those events. A lesson for the armchair critics.

    report
  5. Comment removed by moderator.

  6. Liz Minchin
    Liz Minchin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Queensland Editor at The Conversation

    A short reminder of our Community Standards https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards if you haven't read them before.

    Please keep your comments civil and on topic. If you see a post that you believe goes too far, you can report it by clicking on the Report link under the comment. But we'd much rather leave everyone's comments up. Just worth mentioning it now, before anything gets too heated...

    report
  7. Craig Myatt

    Industrial Designer / R&D

    Seems to be a strong correlation between climate change and increased risk of bushfires. It would be great if Tony Abbott read and understood this article, and it was widely reported...

    report
  8. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    This article is absurd.
    The climate change that has occured to date must have had some effect on fires - temperatures increased between the mid-70s and the begining of this century and a megadrought in SE Aus ended only three years ago (whatever caused any of it). But the effects would be swamped from first order effects of natural, seasonal variations, spread of housing into bushland (very big), changes in fire fighting plans and so on and on. If the firefighters are noticing any effect due to climate change, its because they have been told repeatedly that there is an effect by the many academics paid to talk about climate change.

    report
    1. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      So the views of the experts who fight fires are absurd because a senior journalist at the AFR knows more about fires than those that fight them and those that research them? Not only do you claim to know more about climate change than the overwhelming majority of climate scientists now you also claim to know more about bushfires than the relevant experts as well!

      report
    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      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…

      Read more
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, would you be able to provide any evidence for your libellous final sentence, or are you content just to sling around any insult that comes to mind without bothering about evidence?

      report
    4. Liz Minchin
      Liz Minchin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, we're trying to be consistent about how we moderate and other readers have been in touch to ask why your comment hasn't been removed, particularly the implication (which you haven't backed up) that academics like Michael are just doing climate research because they're paid to do it.

      There's a whole thread of comments that are now following on from yours that'd also be deleted if this one goes too, so it's tricky...

      Can you please make your points without casting aspersions on people's motives? I'd be saying the same thing if other people hinted darkly (also without evidence) that as a journo you only wrote stories for money, rather than because you were genuinely doing your work. You're a regular on here, so you know we're trying to keep comments more civil than many other sites, regardless of people's opinions. Here's the link (again!) to our Community Standards: https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards

      Basically, play the ball and not the man.

      report
    5. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark

      I am going to agree with you on one point but disagree on others.

      I think you are correct that firefighters blame climate change because that is what they are told to think. Firefighters may (or may not) have noticed changes in fire regimes, but they are nor qualified in any way to link those changes to climate change. They haven't done the research, so they cannot make the correlation or causation linkages.

      However, for you to claim that the effect of climate change on fire regimes "would be swamped from first order effects......etc" is equally lacking in evidentiary support. You simply cannot claim that something is true then you need the evidence - and you don't have any.

      report
    6. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Just to clarify, I am not suggested mark is being paid to spread mis-information.

      He does this as a hobby, I do not think he is being insidious, however he has been corrected many many times and provided ample evidence - yet continues to make the same debunked assertions over and over again.

      If Mark is allowed to continouslly and intentionally spread mis-information, then their will be others who continually and intentionally correct him, demonstrate that he has a horrible track record in terms of factual accuracy and highlight that he has been corrected before, many many times before

      It seems fair, no name calling, no one yet on this article has implied he is paid to lie as you said

      report
    7. In reply to Mark Lawson

      Comment removed by moderator.

    8. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "I think you are correct that firefighters blame climate change because that is what they are told to think."

      So you have not met any firefighters Michael? Are you suggesting they cannot read? A very sad comment.

      report
    9. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      I thought Mark Lawson was referring to the Climate Commission. They certainly were paid to talk about climate change. And handsomely too.

      report
    10. Liz Minchin
      Liz Minchin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Hi Michael - funnily enough, just as I was replying to you, someone did post asking how much Mark had earned!

      But before then, no, no one had said that, you're right. And no I didn't think you'd been saying that! I was actually trying to explain to Mark that if other people impugned his motives for doing his work, it'd be unfair, and that it's better if everyone can stick to the issues, not speculating about motivations. ie. play the ball, not the man.

      But perhaps I didn't express it clearly enough, if it's caused any confusion... The dangers of moderating in between phone calls, commissioning, editing etc.

      Hope that's clearer, say if not.

      report
    11. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Yeah I noticed that too, almost immediately after I posted my comment....sigh*

      Thanks for the response, you are doing an outstanding job

      report
    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      '....So you have not met any firefighters Michael? Are you suggesting they cannot read? A very sad comment...."

      Well my son is a volunteer rural firefighter in NSW, as are my former neighbours. And I certified as a rural firefighter as part of my Parks an Wildlife degree. So yes, I have met a few. Have you?

      Am I suggesting they can't read? What a ridiculous comment! Can you see anywhere where I asserted that? What I did say - very clearly I thought - was that they had not done the research to provide the causative linkage between anthropogenic climate change and a change in Australian fire regimes. And whilst there might be one or two scientists who have done the research and who also volunteer as firefighters and can therefore can make that claim, I stand by my statement that 99% of them haven't and are therefore unqualified to comment. But perhaps you have evidence that I am wrong. I would love to see it.

      So I am not sad at all Mike - I am quite happy.

      report
    13. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike. Stop digging. Are you a physicist? Do you accept that CO2 is a GHG? Have you personally done the research? How did you find out about it? Did you read it? So why can't firefighters read climate science? I am not a firey but I have some in the family. And yes they are quite intelligent and capable of understanding science. Like farmers who I have in the family in abundance, they do not need to be told what to think. They are capable of noticing what is happening around them.

      report
    14. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Digging?

      Far from digging Mike - you just proved my case for me. My acceptance that CO2 is a GHG is based on what I read / was told. You're correct, I didn't do the resarch - so therefore I am not qualified to comment. I can only repeat what I was told.

      You know - just like I said about firefighters.

      Anyone - you, me, firefighters - can read climate science. But that's all they are doing isn't it? Reading. You know - being told something by someone else.

      So thanks for shooting yourself in the foot. It makes my job a lot easier when the person I am discussing an issue with proves my point for me.

      report
    15. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      LIz - sorry but the comment was a quite fair general one - go back and look at it - and I'm horrified that there should be a suggestion that the point be suppressed. The point is that the firefighters are responding to all the talk about climate change, not the change itself.

      Please also bear in mind that there are a number of activists on the site who cite me only because they are not interested in alternate voice on any matter. I never cite, although I am very frequently abused.

      report
    16. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Actually Mike you almost make a fair point - its true that there has been no work on the point of just how the factors would affect fire issues but then the climate changes to date have been slight, and the changes in development and techniques have been substantial.. but you are right that very little work has been done on this..

      report
    17. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Liz - thank you for that.. but actually comments from certain individuals I don't read at all and the salary point I would have ignored, had I seen it. Re my earlier post if academics are sensitive about such matters then I certainly shall be more careful in the future.. .

      report
    18. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad - I note something of an edge to your comments. I would urge you to retain perspective. I never claimed to know more than anyone. I simply refer to common sense.
      To expect the people on the ground to discern all the different factors involved, seems a bit far fetched don't you think? And they are just human and open to suggestion - of which there has been an enormous amount of late. Perhaps you should move onto other targets.

      report
    19. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Too right Ms Liz. Let's have more mea culpas - repent!!!

      Here we have a senior journalist - I'll say that again in case you missed it - a senior journalist - lifting the tone of our gossipy chat room by his very presence and he has to contend with comments and corrections from far lesser scribes ... folks who have even less than his BSC with which he has overturned the work of the IPCC, the BoM, the oceanographers and ice drillers and all the other incompetents, losers and gravy train passengers…

      Read more
    20. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      Do you think that the relevant experts would not have thought about the impact of the other factors you mentioned (seasonal variations, spread of housing into bushland (very big), changes in fire fighting plans and so on and on)?

      Maybe you don't explicitly claim to know more than the relevant experts but this is implicit in your assertions (without supporting evidence) that the scientists (and anyone like firefighters who listens to them) that are telling us that climate change is having…

      Read more
    21. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Strewth Brad - are you a senior journalist??? Have you got a BSc? Do you actually read Jo Nova??? So what the hell would you know about it? God almighty talk about hubris.

      report
    22. Adam Gilbert

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Mark doesn't need to know more than the relevant experts -- as he said he just refers to "common sense". That's actually how most of the great advancements in our scientific understanding of things were achieved. People just went with their gut. It's "common sense" that anthropogenic climate change isn't real. It's "common sense" that biological evolution is impossible. It's "common sense" that vaccination is risky and ineffective. Let's not allow these scientists with all their fancy data and peer-reviewed research tell us any different...

      report
    23. Georgina Byrne

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Crickey Mike..."because that's what they're told to think?" That sounds awfully elitist to me...how about co spidering that some people who are not academic types are actually interested in science and believe what they read rather than are "told"?

      I think it's an excellent article by the way and congratulate the author...and really wish that the various denier people who seem to be called Mark or Gerald, would just go and bother people somewhere else, on some other topic.

      report
    24. Georgina Byrne

      Farmer

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      My iPad has gone nuts again...it simply hates Crikey...and I meant considering rather than co spidering.

      report
    25. David Rennie

      IT Consultant

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,
      Do you have ANY evidence to support this claim or are you just inventing assertions to support your prejudices.
      Its easy to justify your prejudices by inventing motives for other people, however the fact that firefighters accept the science, doesn't justify your claim that they are somehow being mislead by the evidence. and those who state the evidence.
      If you can not justify your claim it is you who is fabricating evidence.

      report
    26. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Dear Liz, re: " Mark, we're trying to be consistent about how we moderate ..." With respect, I have 'reported' your comment here as being 'off-topic' as per TC comm standards. Specifically '... if you post something unrelated to the original topic ("off-topic") then it may be removed to keep the thread on track. This also applies to queries or comments about moderation, which should not be posted as comments." re: Mark and your and other comments I again refer to the comm standards: "We acknowledge…

      Read more
    27. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      @MarkLawson re: "This article is absurd." Which reminds me of what my granny taught me long long ago" "When you point your finger at others, know that there are always three fingers pointing straight back at you!" eg http://goo.gl/NtPOfd & http://goo.gl/YXVjvu & http://goo.gl/d5TZ2b I'm all for Mark staying around. Why? The same reason as Keating so eloquently retorted to Hewson: "The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological…

      Read more
    28. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      @PeterO re' Woolibuddha Men's Shed Institute for Intuitive Science' ... oh my, rotflmao! re:'a dusty BSc' a correction in his own words it's a "Rather Sorry BSc", quoting "Mark's original training was in science at Melbourne University from which, after reading material on almost every subject EXCEPT those pertaining to his COURSE, he emerged with a rather sorry BSc in 1977." http://goo.gl/YXVjvu
      Melbourne University BSc, Physics/Maths/Computer Science 1974 – 1977 Societies: Melbourne University…

      Read more
    29. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      @MarkLawson re: "The point is that the firefighters are responding to all the talk about climate change, not the change itself." That's not a point, it's a presumptuous opinionated thought bubble based on nothing. re: "horrified" = Histrionic! and "I never cite, although I am very frequently abused." Diddams, tell your mother, no one here is required to love you. I cite, maybe you could try it one day and back up your ABSURD waffle with some SCIENCE for once? Ref IPCC AR5/WGI 2013 - 6.4.8.1 Changes…

      Read more
    30. Mike Jubow

      forestry nurseryman

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      Co spidering is a far more descriptive use of our colloquialisms. It gives a bit more punch to your writing Georgina. It doesn't have to mean anything, it just has to sound good. Wish I had thought that one up.

      report
    31. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Georgina Byrne

      I'm disappointed Georgina.

      I was hoping that 'co spidering' wasn't an auto correct or a typo, and you were suggesting that I share arachnids with the firefighters.

      report
    32. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, at least I don't attempt bad mind-reading. Can you please provide some even vaguely tangible evidence that I, for example, am 'citing you' (whatever that means) because I am 'not interested in an alternative voice on any matter' rather than because I think you are incorrect?

      report
    33. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "megadrought in SE Aus ended only three years ago". Err, I think you'll find that the drought has continued in inland parts, away from the eastern ranges.

      For the most part, the exceptional rain on east coast and east ranges hasn't been due to a resumption of "normal" climate, but because more and more NQ cyclones are tracking along down the east coast, rather than out to New Caledonia where they would"normally" go.

      This changed climate pattern is itself evidence of climate change - slowing progression of mid-latitude weather systems from west to east around the hemisphere.

      Result: in a warming climate, we get exceptional wet weather in eastern bushlands - great for vegetation growth, followed by long, intensely hot dry spells - great for turning that lush vegetation to fuel.

      Consequence: fire-fighters are experiencing climate change.

      report
    34. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "The point is that the firefighters are responding to all the talk about climate change, not the change itself." Incorrect; fire fighters aren't responding to talk of climate change, they are responding to fires of ever-increasing intensity.

      It is the intensity of those fires that is a consequence of climate change - I set out a mechanism in another response to you.

      report
    35. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      So, you have a B.Sc Mark? Excellent, you'll undertand what you read at the American Chemical Society's Climate Science Toolkit: http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/climatescience.html

      You'll also understand Spencer Weart's "Discovery of Global Warming - a History" available as a book or as a set of hyperlinked essays at the website of the American Institute of Physics. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

      Finally, you'll understand this:

      Observation 1. Sun irradiates earth with short-wave…

      Read more
  9. john davies
    john davies is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired engineer

    This morning our macho fire-fighting PM advised us that the UN expert who commented on the link between climate change and bush fires is "talking through her hat."
    Obviously that advice must also apply to all others who make the link between these two issues, including the experienced fire-fighters referred to in this article.
    Australians should be so thankful that we are able to be guided by such wisdom.

    report
    1. Georgina Byrne

      Farmer

      In reply to john davies

      Wow, brilliant that! Good on yer Mr Madrabbit for telling it like it is...and you'd all better listen too, because there won't be any pinko journos allowed to interview him to question those absolute truths!

      report
    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to john davies

      John, I have observed this behaviour before, no names mentioned or needed, just "her". Needn't be regarded at all. "She", may have insight into repeated warnings directed at the risk for Australia, and fire. But we don't have to worry about OH&S or risk or lives cos we've allus had em. "She" was impertinent, how dare her.

      report
  10. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Just keeping it brief "keep firefighters and the community safe" - make us immune - same thing.

      report
    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Yeah :) those completely different words are the same thing mark

      Back Pedal Back Pedal Back Pedal Back Pedal

      report
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Still doesn't change the fact that you misattributed and falsely quoted in you now-deleted original post and, anyway, it simply isn't the same thing. The same thing would have been 'in order to keep firefighters and the community completely safe.' - if one followed your false reasoning then things like seat-belts could not be described as safety features in a car, simply because they fail to save every life every time - it is perfectly standard every day English to use a phrase like 'keep...safe' in order to indicate the main reason for a recommendation and describe something that increases or improves the named benefit - it doesn't have to create 100% safety.

      report
    4. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I had no intention of misquoting the author. Your seat-belt analogy is lame. We know seat belts will work and we can measure their effectiveness. Halving Australia’s CO2 emissions won’t do anything at all to the global climate and will not make anyone “safer”.

      report
    5. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      To quote Felix from below -

      "My favourite response to this canard was from someone (sorry, I can't remember who) who reminded us that any individual firefighter could just as easily argue that her individual effort wouldn't be critical in fighting the fire so she might just as well do nothing..."

      report
    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      If you 'had no intention of misquoting the author' then why did you insert a phrase of your own into the quotation marks? Was that automatic writing beyond your control?

      My seat belt analogy is sound. We know that emissions reduction will reduce the extent of climate change.

      We've been over that 'the action of a single nation won't fix the problem' so many times, and you have completely failed to respond to the points provided by people like Brad and me, and merely repeated your assertion. But, for the record, would you also like to confirm that, for example, the actions of a single fire fighter will not make anyone safer and that, therefore, they might as well take no action?

      report
    7. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I put the final quotation mark in the wrong place. Big deal!

      report
    8. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Sure it will do something, although it's in a way getting spread over a whole earth, in the time of weeks. So yes, if everyone took it seriously and started to look around thinking what they could do in their immediate community to reduce that man made CO2 it would have and even better impact. But as I think, it should get spread around, and you won't see any immediate results any way as the CO2 already up in the atmosphere has a 'life cycle' around ?? Fifty to ?? years, (the figures differ there and 50 y is a very positive attitude to it, believe it or not.) before it assimilates into the 'sinks' earth use to capture CO2, as oceans.

      But I can promise it will make a very real difference, even though it also will take time before we will notice it.

      report
  11. Liz Minchin
    Liz Minchin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Queensland Editor at The Conversation

    Mark Pollock - in case it wasn't clear, the part in italics beginning "On behalf of more than 13,000 firefighters and support staff in Australia," was a quote from a firefighters union letter to the PM. It's an odd style quirk that it didn't have "..." around it (I'd rather it did but apparently when it's done as a breakout quote like that, the preferred style is not " marks). But it is a direct quote from that letter, as you'll see if you follow the hyperlink.

    So your comment about the author calling for a halving of emissions etc wasn't accurate, as a number of other readers pointed out.

    For the sake of not seeing more and more replies asking you to correct the inaccuracy, and the discussion get bogged down on that, your comment and the replies in the thread have been removed.

    report
    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      OK, let’s clear this up.
      I have no problem preparing for future disasters or even taking action to prevent disasters. However, the author quotes and gives authority to a statement that state and federal governments should “follow scientific advice and keep firefighters and the community safe by halving the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020”.
      We could reduce our paltry GHG emissions to zero and it would have no measurable effect on the Australian climate.

      report
    2. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,

      Again you try to sidestep our ethical responsibilities to these firefighters and everyone else now and in the future.

      As parents we know that we should lead by example rather than engaging in ‘do as I say not as I do’ behaviour. Given our relative wealth and high historical emissions we have an ethical responsibility to be leading the way by doing our fair share to prevent dangerous climate change including the impact this will have on bushfires. How can we ever expect other nations (almost all of whom are poorer than us) to do their fair share if we are not doing ours?

      report
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Nothing any individual person, individual nation or even group of nations (think, say, the EU) can, on its own, have very much effect. This does not remove the requirement for each individual person, nation, etc. to take action.

      And, even though we ultimately need virtually everyone to act, we don't have to wait for a completely internationally-coordinated process before we commence action. History sugests that these kinds of things generally follow the old momentum sequence of pioneers, early…

      Read more
    4. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      You must have a particularly religious sort of ethic. It's in line with the apocalyptic nature of true believer millenialists. A sort of widow's mite thing. In the 21st century it's more like buying a bumper sticker to proclaim that one thinks corrects thoughts.

      Me, I think it's unethical to waste vast resources on a solution to a non problem. There are so many better things we could do with the time, energy and cash.

      The author mentioned some of them in the context of normal, natural disasters. Some cash would help to facilitate them. But we have to make a choice. Money for community resources and back burning or billions on desalination plants that we will probably never need.

      That's billions that we can't spend on teachers and and nurses and water bombing planes. All wasted. I think this is unethical and if there was any justice the people who gave in to their moral vanity and squandered all of this other people' smokey should be held to account.

      report
    5. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      People should be held to account?

      The last time that anyone denied science on the scale that climate science is being denied today was when the tobacco companies tried denying the health effects of smoking. They eventually settled for in the USA for $206 billion over 25 years although their liability is not limited. More importantly, the settlement also meant that the think tanks that had been setup by the tobacco companies to promote the denial were closed down.

      No individuals were sued but that was pre internet so clearly it was difficult to identify them.

      Given that there is not a single significant scientific academy in the world that does not support the science behind global warming, it is interesting to speculate if climate science deniers could be held to account in the courts.

      Would you like to leave your name and address - no doubt there will eventually be an enterprising law firm that launches a test case.

      report
    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike,
      Mark Pollock is not disputing the science so much as disputing the responses to the threats as being, in his opinion, ineffective.
      I think in due course people will understand the wilful ignorance of Abbott and his company, and their deliberate failure to do anything / sabotage sensible initiatives..
      Your analogy with the tobacco company murderers is very apt. The same sort of denial of the results of management actions / inactions surfaced in the asbestos industry. The lethal consequences of mining and using blue asbestos had been known for many years..
      As you say, the Internet and Google make it increasingly difficult for those in authority / pulling strings behind the scenes to hide. Google Maurice Newman to see the advice being given to Abbott
      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/tony-abbotts-business-advisor-attacks-myth-climate-change-53017

      report
  12. Geoff Henley

    Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

    Good science is not based on anecdotal evidence.

    Firefighters are in no position to make any meaningless assessment of the link between human carbon emissions and the link to fire risk.

    report
    1. Brad Farrant

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

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Agreed but as the final sentence of the article says - "if we want to handle disasters better in the future, our frontline emergency workers have plenty of ideas to offer - if we’re ready to listen to what they say."

      report
    2. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Correction: Firefighters are in no position to make any meaningful assessment of the link between human carbon emissions and fire risk.

      report
    3. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      So the fact that the UN has said the same thing as the Fire Fighters here.....that's not at all intereting to you?

      report
    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      No you're dead right Geoff firefighters are in no position whatsoever to make meaningless assessments - one needs to be safe and comfy in front of a screen to be capable of truly meaningless assessments.

      report
    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Nah Michael - they're all dills and morons - the weak. Haven't you read Atlas Shrugged? Don't you see that altruism is a weakness and that as volunteers we should dismiss anything these weaklings might splatter on about.

      And as for the UN and the IPCC and the BoM and all those other left wing acronyms we all know that they are all russian agents spreading lies and falsehoods - a grand plan to redistribute our hard earned wealth to the world's poor and weak.

      Sane learned people know that the weather is controlled by God and he uses it to punish the wicked. If the ACT had abandoned its dalliance with Sodom it would have been the wettest coolest October on record.

      Repent - before it's all too late!!!

      report
    6. David Semmens

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Perhaps you would like to share your expertise so that we can all see whether you have more claim to talk about the link between bushfires and climate change than the firefighters? I can't find anyone by the name of Geoff Henley who has written anything on climate change outside of comments on The Conversation (I tried searching for you on Google and for any published papers in Web of Science). If we shouldn't listen to firefighters or the UN because they're not qualified to comment, why should anyone listen to you?

      report
    7. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      No. They keep getting it wrong. Best to ignore them. Since you asked.

      report
    8. Georgina Byrne

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      But they are entitled to report their experiences I the light of almost universally accepted and published scientific opinion.

      report
    9. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to David Semmens

      Firefighters are worth listening too on issues such as backburning and other fire reduction strategies, but when it comes to a link between climate and carbon emissions they are way out of their league.

      Why should anyone listen to me? I don't know. Why should anyone listen to David Holmes or Clive Hamilton or Stephan Lewandowsky or John Cook or Tim Flannery etc etc etc. Afterall, none of them are climate scientists.

      report
    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Depends what you research Geoff ... you might be worth listening to if you've done some research and can quote some science or informed commentary... but so far there's very little to suggest any research beyond the usual blogs and tabloids.

      So if you've done some actual work, let us know.

      report
    11. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      So why don't we listen to a climate scientist.

      "David Jones, head of climate analysis at the Bureau of Meteorology, said climate change will see fire conditions worsen for much of Australia over the longer run.
      While weather patterns vary from year to year, southern Australia is already seeing springs and summer becoming hotter. As a result, there is a "trend towards more severe fire weather conditions across Australia.”
      "We know from about March-April to around June, things have been drying…

      Read more
    12. David Semmens

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "Firefighters are worth listening too on issues such as backburning and other fire reduction strategies, but when it comes to a link between climate and carbon emissions they are way out of their league."
      -So, it seems you're out of your league too. The difference is that they accept what the climate scientists are telling us and you reject it. As Michael Howes' article shows, they also recognise that they aren't experts. They are seeking expert advice on the subject and want to see more experts involved. Pretty reasonable really.

      report
    13. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      @ GeoffH re: "Good science is not based on anecdotal evidence." You might like to go back to the 1800s and tell that to Charles Darwin. It's often anecdotal evidence that prods inquiring minds to do robust scientific research and analysis in the first place. On the ground first person reports eg by fire-fighters or medical doctors in another setting is a CRITICAL part of this scientific process as a whole. Every randomised controlled trials (RCTs) I have heard of relies upon anecdotal feedback from participants incl 'How do you feel using this medication now?' All kinds of 'value judgments' and anecdotal feedbacks are made during all kinds of science based studies. eg " .... the human hallmarks of revolutionary research. These include: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2005/183/11/2005-nobel-prize-physiology-or-medicine

      report
    14. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      @GeoffHenley re: "Firefighters are in no position to make any meaningful assessment of the link between human carbon emissions and fire risk." Agreed. Neither are you. I strongly recommend to instead heed the advice of qualified Climate Scientists engaged in rigorous peer-review scientific papers first hand: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/#.UmgLwPlmh8F 'God/Evolution gave us all two eyes and two ears so we could look and listen twice as much as we speak.' Best not look a gift horse in the mouth! :)

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

      sole parent

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, it may interest you, but they do employ people with science degrees. Some even have several. Do you think that in the twenty first century they are still just bunch of locals. In any case, good decisions are generally made when there is a genuine attempt to consider direct experience, as a part of an informed debate. I would also say that there has in fact been an ongoing sharing of information and experience between upper management from the US and AU, and the conclusion is the same. So it isn't anecdotal.

      report
    16. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "Firefighters are in no position to make any meaningful assessment of the link between human carbon emissions and fire risk." Incorrect.

      1. Human carbon emissions are driving increasing temperatures.

      2. Temperature rise increases rapidity of fuel load accumulation.

      3. Temperature rise exacerbates drying out and hence ignitability and flammability of fuel loads.

      Result: bigger, more intense fires.

      report
  13. Dick Adams

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    I have lost count of how many fires I have fought across QLD and NSW. Fighting bush fires and preparing to do so is my paid employment.

    I am a firm believer in climate change. There is no doubting the science.

    However, the impact of climate Change on Australian fire management, is at best, negligible. One or two degrees on a high fire danger day is irrelevant, so to is minor changes in humidity. The amount of fuel however, will make you shit your pants. I have seen fires that seem impossible…

    Read more
    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dick Adams

      Dick... having just had a close encounter of the cardiac kind, let me assure you that your chances of getting clear straight sense are much much better with the specialist nurses ... they, like experienced fire fighters, know their stuff and more importantly will actually explain that stuff to you ... the surgeons tend to hurtle around like whirling dervishes.

      But you are right - there are some excellent researchers working in this field and they are pretty much all singing the same tune re climate change and their changing nature. But the fellas looking at it on the ground have a unique perspective and it's important to get what information we can from them.

      report
  14. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    The science of climate change is accepted by over 90% of the scientific experts, world-wide, including the latest IPCC reports saying that severe weather and climate events are likely to occur with greater intensity and higher frequency.

    It's perfectly legitimate to interview fire-fighters to ask about their experiences, over time, and the article is to be commended. To denigrate their views as 'non-scientific' seems mean-spirited, particularly in light of these people taking big risks to defend…

    Read more
    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      And let's not forget that it was the LNP who politicized this issue for their own purposes having until only a short time ago achieved a bipartisan agreement with the then labor government.

      report
  15. Paul Felix

    Builder

    This article appears to be about the opinions of those who have to deal with extreme events, to describe the results of studies and interviews about global warming and the reaction of emergency service workers, at all levels of responsibility.
    It does appear that they generally believe global warming contributes to frequency and intensity of both fires and floods.
    It is true they are not scientists but they do deal with consequences.
    So we have the scientific community and emergency workers in…

    Read more
    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Paul Felix

      Fully agree with your view Paul. The message I got was that our admirable fire fighters want to develop and learn new and better ways of fighting what they see as new types of fires and like sensible people wanted dialogue with scientists. It's time the climate change deniers and economic rationalists got out of the way.

      report
  16. Mike Puleston
    Mike Puleston is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Citizen

    Excellent article!

    But what are our admirable fireys putting their lives on the line for? In many cases it's to defend the lifestyle choices of thoughtless people. You do have to wonder why, knowing what we do about the current and growing levels of bushfire risk, anyone would choose to build or buy a property surrounded by dense bush, without even taking precautions to reduce the fire risk to their properties. Even when fire approaches, you see on TV people "defending their homes" dressed in t-shirts, shorts and thongs, holding garden hoses (perhaps powered by electric pumps) that will become useless when services are knocked out.

    And a lot of these properties aren't insured.

    Perhaps the time has come to better protect our fireys. Serve notices to householders in highly dangerous areas that in the event of high fire risk they are on their own. Allocate the fireys to work in more easily defensible areas.

    report
  17. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    International insurance agencies, like fire emergency crews, are impacted directly and significantly by climate change so it is manifestly in their interest to speak up. More to the point, it is not in their corporate interest to be muzzled.

    One would expect a range of other economic sectors, especially the farming community, to also fully take on board climate change, and I think this will happen over time as rural communities' financial fortunes are increasingly harmed by a changing climate…

    Read more
  18. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    It's interesting to hear the opinion of people on the front line.

    I recently spoke to a number of Vietnamese English teachers. They unanimously believed students were becoming more difficult to manage beause divorce is more common. And therefore divorce should be illegal.

    There may be something in that, but there's also belief, rumour and moralising in the mix. It would be the same for any group of professionals.

    report
  19. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    All this shrieking advocacy trying to blame the fires on CO2 emissions and policies to repeal the CO2 tax is ridiculous. There is not connection. IPCC and SREX say so http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/. There is no attribution of CO2 emissions to severe weather events. There is noting unusual about CO2 concentrations nor temperatures http://www.pnas.org/content/99/7/4167.full . ECS is coming down (probably 1.5C to 2C rather than 3 C per 2xCO2). The climate model projections have been hopeless to date.

    The ridiculous advocacy that is going on is killing public confidence in scientists: http://climatechange.carboncapturereport.org/cgi-bin/topic?#activitytimeline

    report
    1. Mike Puleston
      Mike Puleston is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Lang

      The same old lies and distortions from the climate change denying industry. Admit it, mate, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

      The longer denialists like you, Bolt, Abbott, Monckton, Pell etc keep on getting airspace to peddle their tripe, the more people around the globe are being put at risk from fires, floods, storms, rising sea levels etc etc.

      Not to mention the effects on numerous species.

      We need international action on climate change NOW.

      report
  20. Jack Ruffin

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    As a nation we need to seriously address climate change. Our PM may be out there on the fire line but he is missing in action on the political solutions front.
    It appears to me that he has decided that his fire clothes are his new budgie smugglers.
    The fire fighters deserve help from a government that gets it.
    Instead we get the emperor with new clothes that we are not allowed to point at.
    Cometh the time Tony......?

    report
    1. In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Comment removed by moderator.

  21. Roma Guerin

    Pensioner

    (And thanks so much to the editors for actively improving the language culture used in these conversations. This is a great site when lively mature conversations are facilitated.) Thanks Chris Harries too, and a special nod to Peter Ormonde in this regard.

    report
    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Roma Guerin

      Thanks for the special nod Ms G ... most important and precious site this - and having an effect in lifting the public discussion on a range of fronts in the shrinking pond of the thinking media... which of course is why it is attracting the attentions of folks from the IPA/Menzies House anti-thinkers. Very famous name you have there.

      report
    2. Jack Ruffin

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yes it is a wonderful site. We are fortunate to have an opportunity to converse on important issues and read what others think.

      report