Whatever you do, don’t mention climate change: as catastrophic fires devastate Australia, many want to stay in denial

[Source: Daily Telegraph]

New South Wales is in the grip of an extraordinary catastrophe: hundreds of fires are raging across the state devastating homes, communities and vast tracts of forest.

And while fires are not uncommon for this time of year, the scale and intensity of what we are seeing is unprecedented

As the Bureau of Meteorology noted recently, 2013 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record. Over late 2012 and 2013 Australia experienced the “Angry Summer” as fires devastated parts of New South Wales and Tasmania.

Less than year later, fires equal to those of the Angry Summer are upon us again.

For those familiar with the science of climate change this is to be expected. Fire plays an important part in Australia’s landscape, but we’re now seeing the fire season become longer.

We’ve known this, indeed there isn’t a government or relevant agency that hasn’t been told this by experts.

Of course, attributing individual events to climate change can be tricky; however the events in New Wales are clearly indicative of the profound changes to Australia’s climate.

Thus when Adam Bandt, the Green’s member for Melbourne tweeted the following:

…the conservative media erupted in outrage.

Staff writers at the Herald Sun harrumphed Bandt was making “political mileage” of the fires:

PEOPLE’S lives are at risk. Houses have been lost. At latest count there are at least 40 homes burned to the ground. That number will almost certainly rise.

It is a shocking, distressing time right now in eastern New South Wales. The sky above Sydney is thick with smoke. Ash is falling from the sky in many suburbs. A dry southerly change due any minute may only make things worse as the fires change course.

So what does Greens MP Adam Bandt do?

He ignores the unfolding human tragedy and pushes his political barrow on Twitter.

How dare Bandt link unprecedented extreme weather events to climate change!

It’s almost as if climate change was real and having an actual impact on ordinary citizens.

Perish the thought that anyone should make the connection.

Or that we should seek to implement policies that reduce the impact of climate change.

Bandt has stood by his comments (see this ABC interview), and so he should.

But that won’t make those desperately in denial happy: “Shhhhh. The planet is burning. Whatever you do, don’t mention climate change. People just might want to do something about it.”

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67 thoughts on “Whatever you do, don’t mention climate change: as catastrophic fires devastate Australia, many want to stay in denial

  1. […] Whatever you do, don’t mention climate change: as catastrophic fires devastate Australia, many… (watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Tyson Adams says:

    I’ve noticed that there are many incidents that are climate and climate change related that are not having that aspect covered in the media. In WA we have had a string of dry seasons, the start to this season was dry. Climate change predicts more dry years and for the majority of our rainfall loss to be in the May-June period. So we have actually been seeing the impacts of climate change on WA agriculture. But when the season is discussed in the media, by farmers, by industry people, etc, it is always “a dry spell” or “just a few bad years.”

  3. Putting aside the rampant hypocrisy of Abbott politicising the fires by doing photoshoots in pristine firefighting equipment, this episode reminded me of a song that touched on another taboo subject, and that is speaking ill of the dead. For some strange reason, when an arsehole dies, we are supposed to put on rose-coloured glasses and forget that the person was an arsehole. Ignoring the truth if you will. The same applies here. Are we supposed to ignore all the evidence and subsequent advice that AGW will exacerbate fire conditions in south eastern Australia when fires do occur? It is the proverbial elephant in the room and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Anyway, here is the song. Deniers will hate it because it is irreverant, honest and on the evil ABC. Although I enjoy the faux outrage expressed by idiots, I will give a language alert. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtxqohNtLIg

  4. john byatt says:

    Lawyers in QLD said that the anti bikie laws will be abused

    example, this guy will get 15 years under new laws

    “Meanwhile, in Mount Isa, a man wearing a Rebels belt buckle in a local hotel has also been charged under the new anti-bikie laws.

    Police say the 51-year-old was at the hotel and started yelling abuse at officers who were on patrol yesterday afternoon.

    He was charged with being drunk and disorderly and entering and remaining in a licensed premises when wearing a prohibited item.

    He has been refused bail under the new laws and will appear in the local magistrates court tomorrow.”

  5. john byatt says:

    http://www.climatecodered.org/2013/10/is-abbott-government-fiddling-while-nsw.html

    ” …it is precisely during extreme weather events that journalists have the best opportunity to communicate the reality of climate change… As the events increase in number and scale, they will advance so far into the daily lives of Australians that social and psychological issues will emerge — that will touch us so personally and deeply — as to require narrative symbolisation. For even the most tabloid journalism to ignore these issues when people are desperately searching for an explanation will not be possible.”

    By David Holmes, Monash University, via The Conversation

  6. john byatt says:

    The Facts

  7. Rachel says:

    Whenever there’s a blizzard or severe cold weather somewhere, the climate science contrarians go into smug mode and point out that the cold snap means global warming has stopped or is not happening at all. But when the opposite happens and we get a heat wave or something similar, we are told by the same people that it is just weather.

    • They have been taken in by the PR campaign run for the pollutocrats.

      The current so-called debate in the media about climate change is not part of the scientific process but has been manufactured by PR companies who are working for the fossil fuel billionaires (such as the Koch brothers). They set up ‘Think Tanks’ such as the Heritage Foundation and set about their brief to ‘create doubt’.

      This is exactly the same method used to ‘spread doubt’ about the link between smoking and lung cancer.

      • john byatt says:

        We are not smug about it though, we regard it as a warning about the future if we listen to the rubbish from the deniers, and the blizzards etc do not mean global warming has stopped,

        NSW has a liberal government yet the climate retards are still blaming the greens for the fires.

        hypocrites

      • Nick says:

        “And vice versa”…rubbish. Industry directs government, thanks to generations of deregulation and capture of the political class by the charisma of money and post-politics rewards. This is NOT the way to run a planet, and ignores the interests of the people and the environment. Some enlightened insiders know the score J Giddeon, you are a captive.

        • J Giddeon says:

          “and ignores the interests of the people and the environment.”

          Right on comrade. The people will need to taught what their interests are. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your brains.

          ” Industry directs government” Conspiracy ideation?

        • Nick says:

          You’ve already dispensed with a brain, Gids, and you indeed need to be taught how to identify your interests. And you can’t help the simplistic, infantile identification of people who disagree with corporatist policies as ‘comrades’. Grow up, son. Corruption is a real problem,and it is its own ideology. Industry makes every effort to satisfy its perceived interests: why wouldn’t it? Transnational industry bullies elected and unelected government every chance, everywhere. You learn how to do it in industry, economics and law.

          What control do you have over the corporations that run your world, co-opt your resources and infrastructure decisions, and keep you on a diet of sport, sex and booze? Or do every one of their activities and choices just happen to coincide with your own views, in that happy sort of way that makes your utter passive acquiescence look like your active choice?

          You’re the perfect patsy, Gids. They have you thinking that you consented to their activities. I guess the alternative realisation is too confronting.. You’re with them all the way, and you’ll accept what you’re given in the belief that you chose it, chump.

  8. jyyh says:

    looks like you southerners have normal weather again.

  9. Denby Angus says:

    There is a convenient disconnect between the statistical predictions form the IPCC and our BoM for increasingly severe fires in SE Australia and the actual incidence of more severe fires. Perhaps you cannot scientifically connect a particular set of fires with climate change but the long term data record is becoming clearer with each passing year.

    At what point do you say “OK. It’s happening. Now I believe. Let’s do something.”?
    Should we listen to experts or trust our own short term anecdotal observations?
    Should we pay heed to the expert predictions of rising risk of catastrophic change or just ‘hope for the best’?

    I think it will take the increased costs of living engendered by the changing climate to slowly but finally persuade the public that something is going on (rising insurance premiums, flood rezoning of land, raising costs of emergency services). Only then will they and our politicians finally take the issue seriously. Sadly that will be too late.

    • Michael Marriott says:

      Denby, I think you have a valid point.

      Increased societal costs and catastrophic events will shift the perception of the public. The question is will that be too late?

  10. john byatt says:

    staff writers?, anonymous cowards

  11. Adam says:

    So we all end up paying more in insurance premiums that would outweigh any carbon tax.
    People refuse to accept that climate change statistically makes for more extreme environmental events.

    • Michael Marriott says:

      Indeed, the cumulative cost of extreme weather and climate change will easily dwarf the “carbon tax”.

      A little prevention goes a long way…

    • J Giddeon says:

      Now let me get this straight. The cost of the carbon tax would be outweighed by the savings on insurance premiums?

      The cO2 tax aims to reduce Australia’s emissions by 5%. Australia emits approx 1.5% of the world’s emissions. Its just bonkers to think reducing the world’s emissions by 5% of 1,5% (0.075%) is going to make any difference to anything. (Queue protestations that the rest of the world is/will follow blah blah).

      IF, and its a big if, the fires, and the purported insurance rises, were caused by AGW , then the OZ CO2 tax won’t make the slightest difference. So perhaps we ought to save the tax to pay the insurance. Paying both doesn’t make much sense.

      The notion that anything we in OZ do will make the merest difference to the climate is the victory of ideology over reason.

      • “protestations that the rest of the world is/will follow”

        They won’t because of tragedy of the commons.

      • PeterS says:

        “J” ,
        1. My household insurance has gone up by close to 30% and after this lot of fires will keep increasing until climate meltdown is stopped… that is far more than the 100 or so I have to pay for emissions. This will keep going until the process is reversed… Other countries do follow what we do. China is introducing carbon reduction emissions, including a carbon tax. In selling it to the populace they actually quote that Australia, Europe and other countries are do the same. The papers regularly quote the steps in Australia and New Zealand.

        • J Giddeon says:

          China proposes to have 7 regional schemes in place during this 5 yr plan. Of the 7, 1 is running and 2 more might be up by 2014. The rest…who knows. the one running gives all permits away free. the other two will do likewise. I wonder how much that will reduce emissions? The ABC might have told you china is introducing a CO2 tax but…well it is the ABC. So far China has said they might consider a national CO2 tax in the next 5 year plan starting in 2016. But they said that for the last 5 yr plan.
          .
          “1. My household insurance has gone up by close to 30% and after this lot of fires will keep increasing until climate meltdown is stopped… that is far more than the 100 or so I have to pay for emissions.”

          but don’t you see. Its not an either/or situation. The premiums will go up CO2 tax or no CO2 tax because the tax will have NO effect on AGW, even if the fires and the premiums are linked to warming.

      • Nick says:

        Yes, we know you are a proponent of inaction. Thanks.

        • J Giddeon says:

          I’m a proponent of effective action.

          I’m an opponent of the costly, ineffective, warm inner-glow.

        • PeterS says:

          “J”
          I don’t get my information from the ABC about china. I get it first hand from their newspapers, news bulletins , direct contact with policy makers, and what I see happening on the ground. I get sick of people like you who have no comprehension of chinese society and economy making misinformed comment about the country based on fourth hand material. I also have extensive contact with senior policy makers through my professional work.
          China is very clearly aware of the issues at a national and state/ provincial level.
          They are introducing a raft of policies including emissions trading.
          These include;
          1. mandatory use of a compulsory non-carbon based power to be over 30%
          2.they stopped building urban freeways about 2002 and moved to metro style rail systems in all cities over about 2,000,000.
          3. move to electric based cars and vehicles in major cities and the out right banning of private petrol cars in some areas. EG, Shanghai has banned half their cars every other day since the early 2000′s, Xian has an out right ban in the centre of the city since 2008. Beijing has banned half their cars from last week.
          4. installation of solar power for water heating and even in central city high rise flats.
          massive introduction of fast and slow rail programs through out the country and a move away from air travel nationally.
          China has very good reason to move in this area. these include.
          1. massive air pollution in northern china literally killing their inhabitants.
          2.wanting to reduce their dependence on imports of our coal. (yest from Australia, they don’t like paying through the nose for our coal)
          3.the huge climate induced drought in northern china. (that is what they call it in their news papers. (every Chinese person you talk to is aware of this problem.)
          4.Awareness that this is a global issue and want to raise their profile internationally as a global leader (national pride) . it is put in these terms in their papers this way.

        • john byatt says:

          http://www.smh.com.au/environment/super-smog-hits-north-china-city-of-harbin-flights-cancelled-20131022-2vxil.html

          China’s major cities have some of the world’s worst smog. The government was long indifferent to the environment as it pursued economic development, but has begun launching some anti-pollution initiatives after mounting public frustration.

          Last month, China’s Cabinet released an action plan that aims to make a small reduction in the country’s heavy reliance on coal to below 65 percent of total energy usage by 2017. According to Chinese government statistics, coal consumption accounted for 68.4 percent of total energy use in 2011.

          Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/super-smog-hits-north-china-city-of-harbin-flights-cancelled-20131022-2vxil.html#ixzz2iOxCmDU3

        • PeterS says:

          I am not an apologist for the Chinese government.In many ways I ask awkward questions as much as a foreigner can without being locked up. However the Myth that others countries ,including China, are doing nothing about global meltdown, is one point that must be addressed. This is false.
          Secondly China is acting out of self interest , true. Not with standing this they are also aware of what Australia is doing in this area, and factor it into their policy making , even at street level. They are aware of Tony Abbott , his policies in environmental and social areas. The common comment is that if Australia is doing nothing why should we. If we change our policy. I refer you to recent comments in the Jiang Su daily 江苏 日报 and other regional papers.

          Recent policy changes in Australia while not damaging our trade relations with China certainly are factored in when do business. This makes it harder people like me….doing deals.

  12. Yesterdays extreme weather which fanned the fires was associated with a huge plunge in humidity – the consequences were freezing night time temperature of up to -5 in the Southern Tablelands and a very chilli morning here in Sydney.

    How does this relate to carbon dioxide?

    • john byatt says:

      climate change? what climate change?

      • John and all the other “extreme weather event sceptics”:

        One isolated extreme weather event that brings extremely low humidity and severe frosts in the middle of Spring is not example of global climate change due to CO2 emissions – it is an unfortunate event that does happen occasionally. The firestorm that wiped out Canberra’s forests sometime back in the 1950′s or so, wasn’t too different to the firestorm that wiped out Canberra’s forests in 2003. Maybe CO2 emissions made the 2003 summer season 1oC warmer than the 1950 but wasn’t an example of CO2 climate change.

        I also hope you don’t believe that the prolonged droughts of biblical times, or the drought that destroyed the Aztecs http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=tree-rings-reveal-mexican-drought-history, may have also been to CO2 induced climate change.

        Given your choice to assume by default that I am a climate sceptic, I unfortunately feel that the energy you expend in this site is more a terrorising exercise aimed at scaring people and nothing more. I hope your not just breeding mass hysteria and hoping people will blindly and impulsively install wind turbines and solar panels whilst ignoring other important environmental issues. It just so seems that this website is looking like one more propaganda outlet for an industry and nothing more.

        I clearly see no reason to waste my time following this blog site any more.

      • Gregory T says:

        George.. Pray tell, what scientific based, terror and horror are you spreading about wind turbines and solar panels?

        • Blair Donaldson says:

          Believe it or not George is a registered pharmacist but it would seem his studies did not include critical thinking. As such, he tends to believe rubbish from an unregistered GP who has launched into a new career going around the countryside telling lies about wind farms to unsuspecting people and communities. He ignores every bit of credible research demonstrating no link between wind farms and ill-health. Nevertheless he attaches great significance to all sorts of anecdotal evidence that ignores self-interest, alternative explanations and basic credulity. I think he is using the wind turbines as a way to promote his pseudoscience and anti-EMF scams. You will find him all over the Internet posting junk links and making hysterical comments that have a very pro-woo-hysteria-self-interest element about them. His website clearly illustrates this.

    • Nick says:

      How does CO2 relate to low humidity: it doesn’t in any direct way. Why would you think it does? The problem is more indirect.

      The underlying circumstances relate to climate change, George. Record winter and spring monthly warmth and well below average rainfall after a wet first half of the year, enhanced plant growth because of enhanced CO2 levels…these inputs combine to provide the elevated risk. NW wind runs are typical pre-frontal features; combine that with the elevated risk factors and you cannot argue that AGW does not have an input into a spring fire event behaving like a summer one.

    • Blair Donaldson says:

      For those who don’t know George, he has a very tenuous grasp on any science related subject. The evidence for that is here where you can see he tends to believe in and promote very doubtful science to line his own pocket at the expense of gullible and desperate people.

      http://geovital.com.au/geovital_george_papadopoulos_nsw.html

      • Nick says:

        Oh, I see…selective vision on tap.

        • Blair Donaldson says:

          Yes, George does crazy in a whole new way… You’ll be pleased to know that he reckons he can detect the sound from a wind turbine over 30 km away. True dinks. He has even indirectly suggested that “people” have been affected up to 70 km away from the source.

          For this reason you will see him pop up on just about any forum in favour of wind energy or renewables generally. George denies climate change and is skeptical about the positive effects of renewables but he believes in the sort of magic he promotes on his website, without question apparently.

        • Blair Donaldson says:

          George is a kind of Uri Geller of the alt-med world, a moron being oxymoronic. He promotes all sorts of woo but rails against sound science – and the science of sound – when it comes to wind turbines. You only need to read a bit of the garbage under his “services” and “product” tabs on his website to see that no amount of pseudoscience is too crazy for our George. He confuses EMF with infrasound and uses the wind farm issue to promote his dodgy health products.

          If you enjoy doing the equivalent of driving a spike into your brain, do a little homework on the various academies, authorities and products he promotes and you’ll see he is adept at believing in and promoting BS.

          He never answers a straight question when called out, he just changes the subject.

    • Nick says:

      Plants on steroidsdo a useful job in drawing down some ACO2…only for it to go up in smoke as currently.

      • Blair Donaldson says:

        Which makes you wonder about the value of Phoney Habit’s treeplanting programme using the (obviously) wilfully unemployed. Even if new trees are planted, you’d think the effort would be undone on a regular basis courtesy of hotter, drier (climate change inspired) conditions and subsequent fires returning all that sequestered CO2 back to the atmosphere? Crazy Tony doesn’t seem to recognise that it’s better to keep the stuff in the ground in the first place.

        • Nick says:

          Crazy Tony’s knowledge goes no further than what others tell him, and his advisors of choice are coal industry flaks.. You’d think someone who aspired to leadership, and purports to be a student of human progress, would show curiosity about an issue of global social impact!

          Well, it is unlikely he is utterly incurious, but he is handicapped by his economics/law educational limitations and ideological straight jacket. He pretends to be uninterested. This is the political strategy that is gauged as appropriate for his constituency: don’t mention it, and if pushed,dismiss it or point to ‘Direct Action’ and change the subject. Any tree planting will be advantaged by enhanced CO2, but yes it is vulnerable to the usual mix of arsonists, lazy butt tossers and weather, with a growing CC kicker.

          AGW is a perfect issue to test a leaders abilities. It involves complex systems science, long time frames and social, social equity and industrial issues. You have to be a clever person to be able to digest it and present coherent strategy based around it. It is clearly too much for many of our leaders at the moment.

    • “a huge plunge in humidity – the consequences were freezing night time temperature

      How does this relate to carbon dioxide?”

      The carbon dioxide stops it from getting even colder at night.

  13. Steve says:

    If more fires were predicted as a result of climate change (which they were), pointing out the accuracy of the prediction and making a further one seems to be legitimate.

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