Thursday, January 9, 2020

GWPF Newsletter - Fighting Fire With Fire: Lessons From Australia’s Bushfires

There’s Only One Way To Make Bushfires Less Powerful: Take Out The Stuff That Burns

In this newsletter:

1) Australia’s Firestorms Follow Move Away From Cool Burning 
The Australia, 4 January 2020

2) Arsonists Fuelling Australia’s Bushfire Crisis As Arrest Toll Hits 183
The Australian, 8 January 2018

3) Jennifer Marohasy: Tragic Yes, But Unprecedented? Not Yet
The Spectator-Australia, 6 January 2020

4) Jamie Blackett: The Green Agenda Is Exacerbating Australia's Wildfire Problem 
The Daily Telegraph, 4 January 2020

5) Patrick Michaels & Myron Ebell: Australian Bushfires Made Worse By Bad Green Policies
Washington Examiner, 8 January 2020

6) Rod Keenan: There’s Only One Way To Make Bushfires Less Powerful: Take Out The Stuff That Burns
The Conversation, 6 January 2020

7) Natural Resilience: Photos Show The Australian Bush Coming Back To Life Just Weeks After Being Decimated By Fires 
Daily Mail, 8 January 2020

8) Vijay Jayaraj: Record Heat and Cold Expose Climate Alarmists’ Bias
The Patriot Post, 4 January 2020

9) And Finally: Russia Unveils Plan To 'Use The Advantages' Of Climate Change 
Deutsche Welle, 6 January 2020

Full details:


1) Australia’s Firestorms Follow Move Away From Cool Burning 
The Australia, 4 January 2020

Graham Lloyd

Christine Finlay has been sounding the alarm on bushfires in Australia for more than a decade after tracking the relationship ­between reduced cool burning and the frequency of firestorms. And the Queensland-based fire ­researcher, who charted a century of archival bushfire records for her PhD, has long been screaming danger.

Finlay’s thesis examined problem bushfires between 1881 and 1981. What she found after plotting the historical data on a graph was that there was a marked increase in the size and frequency of fires after 1919.

This was when bushfire-reduction operations increasingly moved away from traditional indigenous practices such as low-­intensity cool burning.

Finlay says this ­detailed correlation between the accumulation of catastrophic fuel loads and the frequency of extreme bushfires made it possible to forecast the dramatic increase in firestorms we have seen in the 21st century.

“For years, I energetically sent this predictive model to government agencies, in particular bushfire services, the media, coronial and parliamentary inquiries and so on,” she says. “Horribly ­ignored, it proved horribly accurate.”

Finlay has the support of forester Vic Jurskis, who has written a book on fire stick ecology and how indigenous Australians managed the landscape with fire.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, premiers, chief ministers and opposition leaders in November, Jurskis said this season’s ­bushfire situation was neither ­unprecedented nor unexpected.

“This latest holocaust is a direct consequence of unprecedented accumulation of 3D continuous fuels as a result of green influence on politics,” Jurskis says. “It’s all about fuel, not climate.”

Half a century ago, Athol Hodgson, who later became chief fire officer of Victoria, explained the simple physics: doubling the available fuel usually doubles the rate of spread of the fire and ­increases its intensity fourfold.

Jurskis says control burning over large areas cheaply and effectively reduces the incidence of high-intensity wildfires and minimises damage.

When this year’s fire season ­finally ends, Finlay’s research and Jurskis’s theories no doubt will be offered to a federal government review already proposed by Scott Morrison. All sides will have a big stake in any investigation: fire command, volunteer services, state government agencies and anyone who lives near the bush.

Green groups are ready to battle demands that national parks be opened up to logging to reduce fuel loads. Politically, the Greens insist their environment policies adopted in November 2017 do not prohibit cool burns.

Their policy puts climate change front and centre but says “scientifically based, ecologically appropriate use of fire is an ­important means to protect bio­diversity and manage habitat ­effectively”. The policy calls for “an effective and sustainable strategy for fuel-reduction management that will protect biodiversity and moderate the effects of wildfire for the protection of people and assets, developed in consultation with experts, custodians and land managers”.

The Greens have called on the Prime Minister to immediately ­declare a royal commission into the bushfire crisis.

Full story ($)

2) Arsonists Fuelling Australia’s Bushfire Crisis As Arrest Toll Hits 183
The Australian, 8 January 2018

More than 180 alleged arsonists have been arrested since the start of the bushfire season, with 29 blazes deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of southeast NSW in just three months.

The Shoalhaven fires were lit between July and September last year, with Kempsey recording 27 deliberately lit fires, NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics and Research data shows.

Police arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in the past few months. NSW police data shows 183 people have been charged or cautioned for bushfire-related offences since November 8, and 24 arrested for deliberately starting bushfires.

Queensland police say 101 people have been picked up for setting fires in the bush, 32 adults and 69 juveniles.

In Tasmania, where fires have sprung up in the north of the state and outside Hobart, five were caught setting fire to vegetation. Victoria reported 43 charged for 2019.

Melbourne University associate professor Janet Stanley said arsonists were typically young males, aged 12 to 24, or older men in their 60s.

“There is no one profile, but generally they seem to have a background of disadvantage, a traumatic upbringing and often have endured neglect and abuse as a child,” Professor Stanley said. “They are often kids not succeeding in school, or they have left school early and are unemployed.

The boundaries between accidentally and purposefully are unclear because many arsonists don’t plan on causing the catastrophe that occurs. Often there is not an intention to cause chaos and the penalties for accidentally lighting a fire are far less than purposefully lighting a fire.”

Swinburne University professor James Ogloff said about 50 per cent of bushfires were lit by firebugs and impending fire seasons excited them.

Full story

3) Jennifer Marohasy: Tragic Yes, But Unprecedented? Not Yet
The Spectator-Australia, 6 January 2020

The historical evidence indicates fires have burnt very large areas before, and it has been hotter before too.

The word unprecedented is applied to almost every bad thing that happens at the moment, as though particular events could not have been predicted, and have never happened before at such a scale or intensity. This is creating so much anxiety, because it follows logically that we are living in an uncertain time: that there really is a climate emergency.

The historical evidence, however, indicates fires have burnt very large areas before, and it has been hotter.
Some of the catastrophe has been compounded by our refusal to prepare appropriately, as is the case with the current bushfire emergency here in Australia.

Expert Dr Christine Finlay explains the importance of properly managing the ever-increasing fire loads in an article in The Weekend Australian. While there is an increase in the area of national park with Eucalyptus forests, there has been a reduction in the area of hazard reduction burning.

The situation is perhaps also made worse by fiddling with the historical temperature record. This will affect the capacity of those modelling bushfire behaviour to obtain an accurate forecast.

We have had a horrific start to the bushfire season, and much is being said about the more than 17 lives lost already, and that smoke has blown as far as New Zealand. Unprecedented has been the claim. But just 10 years ago, on 9 February 2009, 173 lives were lost in the Black Saturday inferno. On January 13, 1939 — Black Friday — two million hectares burnt with ash reportedly falling on New Zealand. That was probably the worst bushfire catastrophe in Australia’s modern recorded history in terms of area burnt and it was 80 years ago next week.

According to the Report of the Royal Commission that followed, it was avoidable.

In terms of total area burnt: figures of over 5 million hectares are often quoted for 1851. The areas now burnt in New South Wales and Victoria are approaching this.

Last summer, and this summer, has been hot in Australia. But the summer of 1938-1939 was probably hotter. In rural Victoria, the summer of 1938-1939 was on average at least two degrees hotter than anything measured with equivalent equipment since, as the table below shows.

The summer of 1938-1939 was probably the hottest ever in recorded history for the states of New South Wales and Victoria. It is difficult to know for sure because the Bureau of Meteorology has since changed how temperatures are measured at many locations and has not provided any indication of how current electronic probes are recording relative to the earlier mercury thermometers.

Full story

4) Jamie Blackett: The Green Agenda Is Exacerbating Australia's Wildfire Problem 
The Daily Telegraph, 4 January 2020

The unfolding tragedy in Australia is being interpreted as an apocalyptic portent of a “climate emergency”: justification for the drastic prescriptions of Extinction Rebellion to “close down the capitalist system”.

Heart-rending tweets from the fire zone convey the raw anger of farmers burnt out of their homes. But their interpretation is strikingly different. Far from begging everybody to embrace the green agenda, many are blaming the greens for exacerbating the fires by meddling in the time- honoured practice of burning off excess vegetation to mitigate wildfires.

All over the world farmers are being prevented by “experts” in government quangos from carrying out controlled burning to manage habitats prone to catching fire. Often the precautionary principle on climate is cited. Yet when Caithness’s Flow Country caught fire recently the fire brigade cited the lack of precautions in allowing moors to become overgrown.

And these wildfires massively increase carbon in the atmosphere because they set the underlying peat alight. While the Caithness fire was burning it was estimated that it doubled Scotland’s carbon emissions for the six days that it burned.

Upland land managers in England are currently in dispute with Defra over plans to restrict controlled burning on deep peat. It started with an RSPB challenge in the European courts based on highly questionable pre-2013 science, and EU habitat directives. This led to a voluntary code whereby farmers could only burn to strict criteria such as restoring habitat health. But a Natural England position paper in 2019 would effectively “nail it down so hard as effectively to stop it” according to the Moorland Association.

The science is hotly disputed but research has shown that so-called “cool burning”, the controlled burning of heather when conditions allow in winter, can – counter-intuitively – increase carbon sequestration by turning excess vegetation into charcoal and stimulating plant growth by regenerating sphagnum moss and moorland grasses that absorb more CO2. Breeding bird surveys have consistently pointed to strong correlations between endangered wading bird numbers and moorland that has been burnt. The golden plover, in particular, prefers to nest on recently burnt patches; their eggs are even camouflaged accordingly.

And speaker after speaker at the 2019 Wildfires Conference in Cardiff spoke of the need to reduce vegetation in vulnerable areas.

Civil servants have so far ignored this research and remain implacably opposed to heather burning, largely, it would seem, because it is a practice carried out to improve grouse moors. It is a classic example of faux science being used to trump empirical evidence from centuries of experience of shepherds and gamekeepers. From the North Pennines to New South Wales the refrain is the same: we have had enough of experts; let farmers exercise their judgment and there will be more biodiversity, fewer wildfires and less greenhouse gas in consequence, for the benefit of us all.

5) Patrick Michaels & Myron Ebell: Australian Bushfires Made Worse By Bad Green Policies
Washington Examiner, 8 January 2020

While greens blame the bushfires of Australia and California on global warming, green policies themselves are helping to fuel the fires.

Alarmists have been quick to blame climate change for the recent, horrific fires in Australia and California. Although human actions do bear a large share of the blame for the scale of this ongoing tragedy, the cause is primarily bad management policies, not dreaded climate change. Governmental decisions, made under pressure from environmental groups, have made what would normally be big fires into hellish conflagrations.

The similarities between Australian and Californian politics, vegetation, and climate have always been striking. Both places are drop-dead beautiful, far-left, and politically green. In both places, people like living around vegetation that every year dries out enough to burn sky high — with or without climate change.

This is thanks to relatively short rainy seasons surrounded by perfect beach weather. It is spectacularly green when it rains and tinder-dry brown when it stops. When rainfall is high, as it was for recent years in Australia, vegetation grows even thicker, only to provide even more fuel for wildfires.

At the same time, our culture of vegetation worship militates against purposefully burning things down. In California, these “prescribed” fires are now largely prohibited (because burning releases dreaded carbon dioxide), ensuring that disaster is always just around the corner. Ditto for Australia, where some burning is allowed but nowhere near enough.

Range managers, as well as the native inhabitants, have long known that unless we burn it on purpose before the vegetation overgrows, it will burn us, our homes, and, tragically, our towns. You can see this in the terrifying video of a family’s escape from the 2018 Camp Fire in California, where the tremendous amount of fuel lying on the ground is painfully obvious.

Australia has been ready to explode for years. David Packham, the former researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, warned in a 2015 article in the Age that fire fuel levels had climbed to their most dangerous levels in thousands of years. He noted this was the result of “misguided green ideology.”

Further, any systematic climate change signal in Australian (and Californian) precipitation will be very hard to detect thanks to huge year-to-year variation. This is obvious in a 120-year record of Australian rainfall depicted in a stunning graphic posted recently by Jim Steele, who used to direct the Sierra Nevada Field Campus of San Francisco State University.

Ditto for California rainfall, all the way back to 1895, where data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows no systematic change whatsoever. There’s one super dry year, 2013. Such a singularity is obviously weather and not climate.

In Australia, there was a huge fire in the province of Western Australia in 1962, which led to a decades-long campaign of intense prescribed burning. At its height, from 1963 to around 1985, very little was burned by wildfires, but as more and more pressure mounted to suppress this practice, more and more of Western Australia was burned over, as shown dramatically in this graphic.

Decades of intentional policies led to the tragic Camp Fire in California and other catastrophes. These policies include drastic reductions of timber harvests in national forests (California is more than 45% federal land), the aforementioned fire suppression policies, and significant reductions of livestock grazing on federal lands. An additional similarity is that California chaparral and Australian eucalyptus forests burn extremely hot due to the aromatic hydrocarbons exuded by both. Hint: If it smells good, it’s going to burn hellishly.

Full post

6) Rod Keenan: There’s Only One Way To Make Bushfires Less Powerful: Take Out The Stuff That Burns
The Conversation, 6 January 2020

As monstrous blazes overwhelm Australia’s south-east, the need for a national bushfire policy has never been more urgent. Active land management such as hazard-reduction burning and forest thinning must lie at the core of any such policy.

Done well, controlled burning limits a bushfire’s spread and makes suppression easier, by reducing the amount of flammable material. Clearing or thinning vegetation on roadsides and other areas also helps maintain fuel breaks, allowing firefighters access to forests in an emergency.

As former fire chiefs recently pointed out, of all factors driving a fire’s severity – temperature, wind speed, topography, fuel moisture and fuel load – fuel load is the only one humans can influence.

The royal commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires identified serious shortcomings in land and fuel management, primarily the domain of the states. Ten years ago I also called for a national approach to bushfires, including vegetation management.

Relatively little has changed since. It is as though Australia suffers collective and institutional amnesia when it comes to bushfire preparedness. But the threat will only escalate. Australia must have a sustained commitment to better land management.

The three pillars of dealing with bushfires

Bushfire management comprises three planks: preparation, response and recovery.

Preparation involves managing fuel loads and vegetation, maintaining access to tracks and fire breaks, planning fire response and ensuring sufficient human capacity and resources to respond to worst-case scenarios.

Response involves deploying aircraft, fire trucks and firefighting personnel, and recovery requires social, financial and institutional support.

The federal government mostly focuses on bushfire response and recovery, which now falls under the Department of Home Affairs and the responsible Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud.

After major fire events in the 2000s, the Commonwealth committed significant resources to response. This included contributing to the cost of more fire-fighting planes and helicopters, and research funding.

But what about fire preparation?

Prescribed burning is considered a key element of bushfire preparation. While there is some debate over its effect on a fire’s impact, the Victorian bushfire royal commission concluded fuel modification at a sufficient scale can reduce the impact of even high-intensity fires.

Other management actions include thinning dense forest areas, reducing the shrub layer mechanically where burning is not possible and maintaining fire breaks. As the climate changes, we may consider changing the tree species mix.

The newly merged Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is the federal agency with most interest in land management. However other agencies such as the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources share some responsibilities.

Federal funding for land management deals with single issues such as weeds, feral animals, threatened species or water quality. Funding is often piecemeal, doled out to government bodies or community groups with little coordination. As federal programs are implemented, states often withdraw funding.

Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins and other experts have warned fuel reduction burning is “constrained by a shortage of resources in some states and territories”, as well as by warmer, drier weather which reduces the number of days burning can be undertaken.

At state level, since the major fires of the 2000s, funding for fire management has increased and coordination between fire response and land management agencies has improved.

However, the focus of the two groups remains divided, which can thwart progress. Fire services prioritise protecting lives and property once fires are going, while forest and land management agencies focus on reducing fire risk, and must consider a wider range of natural and community values.

In a rapidly changing climate, land management requires a long-term adaptive strategy, underpinned by sound analysis and research, supporting laws and policies, with sufficient funding and human resources. Bipartisan political support and leadership continuity is needed to sustain it.

Full post  

7) Natural Resilience: Photos Show The Australian Bush Coming Back To Life Just Weeks After Being Decimated By Fires 
Daily Mail, 8 January 2020

Incredible photos have revealed the resilience of the nation's wildlife as bushfires ravage Australia.

Vibrant green and pink sprouts have been captured pushing through the blackened grounds of bushfire-torn New South Wales, fighting back despite the drought and ongoing fire crisis.

The new life has offered a sense of hope in an otherwise emotional time for many coping with the impacts of the fires.

The images were captured on an outing by two local photographers around the Kulnura area of the New South Wales Central Coast.

One of those was Mary Voorwinde, who shared the images to her Facebook page 'Photography by Mary'.

She accompanied Terrigal Resident Murray Lowe on a visit to several private properties on the fringes of a state forest in Kulnura on January 6.

Ms Voorwinde captioned her post with an emotional message describing the sense of hope she felt after seeing the new life.

'With all that is lost in nature, there is hope of life again.

Voorwinde described the fire grounds as 'eerie but beautiful' after seeing vegetation regrowth in the otherwise burnt-out area of Kulnura on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Full story

8) Vijay Jayaraj: Record Heat and Cold Expose Climate Alarmists’ Bias
The Patriot Post, 4 January 2020

These weather events neither prove nor disprove man-made climate change. But they do expose the bias of climate alarmists who blame them on man-made global warming.

Australia was literally on fire in December. Record heat made headlines in global media. So did the extreme rainfall in east Africa.

You and everybody else on earth can guess what climate alarmists blamed for both: man-made global warming, a.k.a. climate change.

But record cold in northern India at the same time didn’t make headlines in any major media in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Why? Because it didn’t fit expectations.

It’s a perfect example of climate alarmists’ obvious bias that’s seldom brought to light.

In December, east Africa received extremely heavy rainfall, causing widespread floods in Kenya and Djibouti. The floods impacted more than one million people and killed scores already challenged by extreme poverty.

During the same month, Australia recorded all-time highs. Widespread, devastating wildfires made the situation worse.

Climate alarmists predictably claimed these weather events for their propaganda.

Almost all news article about the Australian heat and wildfires ultimately blamed man-made climate change.

But more than four-fifths of Australia’s wildfires were caused by arson, not climate change. And what caused the extreme hot weather was not global warming but a phenomenon called Positive Indian Ocean Dipole (PIOD).

PIOD is a seasonal weather phenomenon that can affect climate in east Africa, south Asia, and Australia all at once.

The same PIOD that caused Australia’s heat (but not its wildfires) caused the year-end floods in east Africa.

It also caused extreme cold in northern India in the same month. Largely underreported in global media, the cold continued right through to the end of December.

Delhi, India’s capital, recorded its second-coldest December in 118 years. Intermittent cold waves gripped Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Delhi.

On December 28, the heart of Delhi recorded a minimum of 1.7˚C (35˚F). The temperature likely reached freezing outside the city’s urban heat island effect. The cold wave impacted everyday life for 29 million people in Delhi.

But neither CNN nor BBC headlines ever mentioned it. It runs contrary to their narrative. Winters are supposed to become warmer. Though the mainstream media do link the PIOD to the Australian heat and the east African floods, they never shy away from blaming man-made climate change and find ways to link both.

Now their new theory is that the PIOD itself has become more intense because of climate change. In other words, weather events are non-existent in their dictionary. Each and every extreme weather event is blamed on man-made climate change.

This is what happens when people read every weather event through the preconceived lenses of climate alarmism.

Full post
9) And Finally: Russia Unveils Plan To 'Use The Advantages' Of Climate Change 
Deutsche Welle, 6 January 2020

Russia has published an action plan to mitigate risks associated with present and future climate change in the country. The report also outlines "positive" effects of changes in the climate.

The 17-page document was published online by Russia's Ministry of Economic Development on Saturday, and outlines measures to mitigate the damage caused by climate change as well as to "use the advantages" of warmer temperatures.

It acknowledges that changes in the climate have had "a prominent and increasing effect" on industry, socioeconomic development and the health and well-being of the population.

The two-year scheme covers the first phase of the country's adaptation to climate change until 2022, with the aim to "lower the losses" of global warming.

Climate threat and opportunity

Climate change, the report says, poses a threat to public health, endangers permafrost, and heightens the likelihood of infections and natural disasters.

Russia will likely see longer and more frequent droughts, extreme precipitation and flooding, increased risk of fire as well as the displacement of different species from their habitats, according to the plan.

Expected positive effects of climate change, the plan says, include the reduction of energy consumption during warm periods, shrinking levels of ice which will foster increased access to navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean, and expanded agricultural areas.

The plan lists 30 economic and social steps designed to minimize the vulnerability of the Russia's population, economy and natural resources to climate change.

These measures include considerations such as the government's calculation of the risk of Russian products becoming unable to compete if they fail to meet new climate-related standards, and preparing new educational materials to teach climate change in schools. The list also suggests dam building and shifting to drought-resistant crops, in addition to crisis-preparation measures like offering emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster.

Full story

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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