I've Separated Climate Change Fact From Fiction. Here's Why The Skeptics Are Wrong.
It is only November and already New South Wales and Queensland are suffering from catastrophic bushfires, which fire and emergency services personnel themselves are describing as unprecedented.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has already declared a state of emergency, while 55 fires continue to burn in NSW and 67 fires are still alight in Queensland.
Meanwhile, our political leaders continue to duck and weave around questions linking climate change and bushfires, content to point the finger of blame elsewhere.
The problem is, while evading questions and slinging mud at opponents may draw a headline or two, it does nothing to help address the raging bushfires or address climate change.
So, let’s sort rhetoric from fact.
CLAIM: Only "woke inner-city greenies" connect climate change to bushfires.
FACT: Most Australians link bushfires to climate change, even outside of the inner city.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, claimed only “woke inner-city greenies” would connect climate change to bushfires right now. This was at odds with Bridget McKenzie, Deputy Leader of the Nationals, who on the same day told Parliament, "we know that climate change is causing heatwaves, fire weather and drought, and for [those] to become more frequent and intense... and that’s why we’ve got a raft of measures across government to actually deal with this."
In fact, more than three in four Australians are concerned that climate change is causing more bushfires, according to the Australia Institute’s latest Climate of the Nation Report.
CLAIM: People are overly concerned -- Australia is a bushfire-prone country.
FACT: The fires and conditions we're seeing now are potentially the worst ever recorded, and it's only getting worse.
This season’s fires have already burned one million hectares in NSW -- almost as much as what was burned the previous three fire seasons combined -- and it’s only just started.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest State of the Climate, there's been a long-term increase in both extreme fire weather and the length of Australia’s fire season. Climate change is contributing to this, and projections indicate the increasing trend will continue.
CLAIM: The bushfires are somehow the Greens' fault.
FACT: They're not.
For former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to blame the Greens for the severity of bushfires is preposterous. The Greens aren’t in government at the Federal or State level (except in power-sharing arrangement in the ACT) and it’s not even their policy -- the Greens actually support hazard reduction burning.
Political disputes aside, the NSW agency responsible for hazard reduction burning recently exceeded its target for hazard reduction burning.
Research shows that hazard reduction burns will play a role, but as the weather gets worse, its effectiveness diminishes, while the window for conducting hazard reduction burns is also narrowing, as winters become hotter and drier.
CLAIM: Climate change only recently came into the conversation surrounding bushfires.
FACT: The link between climate change and bushfires has been long known
There is overwhelming consensus between climate scientists that climate change is human-caused. Similarly, the link between climate change and extreme bushfire conditions is long established.
In fact, the link between climate change and worsening bushfires was established by Australian scientists at the CSIRO four decades ago. Even The Australia Institute first wrote about the risk of more severe bushfire seasons and climate change back in 2006.
CLAIM: The cost of acting on climate change is huge.
FACT: The cost of climate inaction is much bigger.
While opponents of climate action use dodgy modelling claims to create scare campaigns about the cost of climate action, the cost of inaction on climate change is enormous but often ignored.
We know for a fact that climate action won’t make the sky fall in, as has been suggested, because we’ve done it before. Between 2012 and 2014, when Australia had a carbon price, not only did emissions decline but GDP and employment grew.
Meanwhile on conservative estimates, inaction on climate change will cost the Australian economy $131 billion per year. How? In areas like lost agricultural productivity, temperature effects on labour productivity and human health. And that’s before we even factor in the cost of things like disaster recovery from the more frequent and intense bushfires and floods Australia will experience, while there is a very real risk that we see situations where cities, or entire coastlines in Australia become too disaster-prone and are uninsurable.
CLAIM: Conservatives are beholden to fossil fuel industry interests
FACT: Whether they're beholden or not, 90 percent of Climate change denial "research" originates from conservative think tanks
Profit is a powerful incentive, and the fossil fuel industry has been forcefully protecting theirs for decades. As far back as the 1970s, they poured millions into discrediting climate science, successfully sowing doubt and delay.
Globally, the link between fossil fuel lobbyists and the conservative movement is well established. In fact, almost all (90 percent) of climate change denying “research” papers in the US originate from these efforts. Lobbyists created a denial machine and successfully muddied the waters of debate.
Climate scientist Dr Tom Beer, author of the original CSIRO research on climate-change fueled bushfires, blames powerful lobbying groups for a lack of action. In the US, the fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion between 2000 and 2016 on lobbying to prevent action on climate change.
Fossil fuel lobbying in Australia has been especially effective. The Minerals Council took credit for abolishing the carbon price and mining tax after extensive lobbying. In 2017 and 2018, fossil fuel companies donated nearly $1.3 million to the Coalition and the ALP. Asked about such donations at the 2017 Origin Energy AGM, its Chairman Gordon Cairns took credit for the state of Australia’s energy policy saying it was “money well spent”.
Mayor Of Bushfire-Ravaged Town Slams Morrison's 'Unbelievable' Climate Answer
A mayor whose home was severely damaged in a northern NSW bushfire has slammed Scott Morrison as "unbelievable" after he sidestepped a question on whether climate change was linked to the state's unprecedented blazes.
While there are those who are content to sit on their hands as Australia suffers from unprecedented bushfires, deeming it 'inappropriate' to discuss climate change as the cause of Australia’s increasingly catastrophic bushfire conditions, it is an unavoidable conversation that needs to be had.
Unfortunately, getting the facts right is not enough, and "thoughts and prayers" belong in the pulpit, not the Parliament. We know for a fact climate change make bushfires worse, yet Australia’s emissions continue to rise rather than fall. What Australia needs is climate action -- at the very least let’s start the conversation there.