Great America

Environmentalists Caused Australia’s Fires, Not ‘Climate Change’

Is this kind of conflagration too convenient to ever try to prevent, insofar as it generates righteous “Thunbergian” green thunder across the world, solving nothing, but further empowering the bureaucrats?

“These greenies and the government don’t want to burn s— off. We’re going to lose all our houses and properties because of you useless pieces of garbage will not burn off when its supposed to, through the winter time like we used to do years ago out in the farms up in the mountains; burn all the undergrowth off so everything was safe. But you p—–, you want to have a really good look at this, look at the state you’ve caused here. You are the biggest bunch of useless loser pieces of garbage God ever had the misfortune to blow life into.”

—An Australian resident of New South Wales, January 7, 2020

Environmental regulations are the reason for this year’s devastating wildfires in Australia. These misguided measures prevented landowners from burning off dry brush. For decades, every year during the Australian winter, across the continent, brushfires were deliberately set to safely burn the undergrowth. Even in pre-colonial times, the aborigines set brushfires to prevent tinder from accumulating.

If you want to watch an authentic, eyewitness account of what really happened—quoted above—you’ll find it 2:56 minutes into “The Truth About the Australian Bushfires,” a January 7 video by the inimitable Paul Joseph Watson. (But watch out. Most of the profanity is edited out of the above transcription.)

Profanity is appropriate, however, given the frustration that levelheaded people must feel when they confront the fanatics who want to micromanage every aspect of our lives in the name of fighting climate change, and the corporate opportunists who stand behind them. In most cases, the political agenda pursued in the name of fighting climate change is an expensive nuisance. But this time, down under, it quite literally has flared into a devastating inferno.

Terrifying Pablum vs. Data and Common Sense

Rather than identify the countless recent examples of the predictable, infantile, Thunbergian, agenda-driven fearmongering propaganda that has been spawned by this latest “climate” disaster in Australia, let’s examine what’s really happening. Thankfully, sources of useful information can still be found online.

A good place to start would be a January 3 article titled, “Smoke And Deception Blanket Australia: NASA GISS Fudges Data, Cooling Turns Into Warming,” at Pierre Gosselin’s skeptic website, NoTricksZone. In the article, the authors present a fascinating set of graphics showing a century of temperature data from field stations across Australia. In every graph, the raw data is shown, then the “homogenized” data is shown. For the uninitiated, homogenization of temperature data is a statistical process used “to remove non-climatic factors so that the temporal variations in the adjusted data reflect only the variations due to climate processes.”

This sounds innocent enough, but have a look at the graphics, before and after homogenization. In every case, what appears to be a flat temperature trend is turned into a rising temperature trend. In every case.

How can this be? Is it urban heat island effects, as cities grew up around the measuring stations? But if so, wouldn’t eliminating that factor cause the homogenized data to show lower temperatures than the raw data? Reading the comments that accompany that article will provide additional insights, but the point here is not to accuse the analysts who homogenize data of introducing bias into their work. The point is that the only data we ever see in official press summaries is the homogenized data, and that this data is often manipulated using methods that rely on arbitrary interpretations of multiple variables.

Another source of insight into what’s really causing Australia’s catastrophic wildfires this year can be found on the website Global Warming, authored by climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer. In his article published January 8, “Are Australia Bushfires Worsening from Human-Caused Climate Change?,” Spencer acknowledges a warming trend in Australia, along with a long-term upward trend in precipitation on the arid Australian continent. He concludes that there is a slight correlation between climate conditions and increased risk of wildfires.

But Spencer, along with everyone else paying honest attention to the disaster, blames the extreme intensity of the fires to “the increasing pressure by the public to reduce prescribed burns, clearing of dead vegetation, and cutting of fire breaks, which the public believes to have short term benefits to beauty and wildlife preservation, but results in long term consequences that are just the opposite and much worse.”

It is important to acknowledge another cause of wildfires in Australia, which is arson. As of January 7, more than 180 arsonists have been arrested since the start of the brushfire season. But arson, just like Pacific Gas and Electric’s faulty transmission lines in California, only starts the fires. It’s the buildup of tinder, thanks to misguided wildland management policies, that makes these fires so devastating.

Environmentalist Rules Prevented Responsible Wildfire Prevention

What’s happening in Australia is preventable. The title of a January 11 article in The Spectator says it all: “Fight fire with fire: controlled burning could have protected Australia.” The author, Australian Tim Blair, writes, “A kind of ecological fundamentalism has taken the place of common sense.”

Blair provides several examples of land owners and utilities in Australia who were fined by the government for clearing “safe space” around their homes and other structures, or for clearing firebreaks, or for setting controlled burns.

The level of extremism has reached the point where, according to Blair, you can’t even remove deadwood and fallen trees. These restrictions, aggressively enforced for over 20 years in Australia, are the reason these wildfires are now “superfires.”

Over the past weeks the debate over controlled burns has intensified, as can be seen by the publishing of stories such as “Prescribed burning: what is it and will more reduce bushfire risks?,” (Sydney Morning Herald, January 7), “Would Controlled Burns Help Australia Manage Massive Wildfire?,” (NPR, January 9), and “Australia fires: Does controlled burning really work?” (BBC, January 9).

At the same time, the spin merchants are out in full force, quoted in articles suggesting that anyone who thinks environmentalist regulations caused tinder in Australia to get out of control are “conspiracy theorists.”

For that perspective, turn to the Guardian’s January 4 article, which argues that “claims of a Greens conspiracy to block hazard reduction have been rejected by bushfire experts.”

One of the more frustrating examples of green spin is a recent opinion column in the New York Times by Australian bureaucrat Cormac Farrell, whose expertise is in “bush fire planning and design.”

Farrell proudly describes the fire shelters he’s helped build along with designing “Asset Protection Zones,” which are areas of thinned and cleared vegetation. He dismisses calls for more large tracts of the landscape to be regularly burned by quoting H.L. Mencken: “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.”

Farrell is probably sincere in his views, and people like him are useful to the propagandists at the New York Times. But his expertise, his informed expressions of the complexity of the problem, are examples of a greater problem, which is the paralysis that ensues when environmentalists micromanage land management.

Imagine the frustration that Australian landowners must have felt over the past few decades, when they wanted to burn off their land, just like their parents and grandparents had done, just like the aborigines had before them, and they had to spend time and money on permit applications, and hire consultants (people like Cormac Farrell) to perform impact studies, and meanwhile the tinder accumulated?

This problem—regulatory excess, and the anonymous faces of the innocent bureaucrats who can’t speed up the “process” (assuming they even want to)—can be extrapolated to every area of government overreach, from burning off brush in rural Australia to getting a building permit in California. But there is a special irony to see it happening in the context of the environment, wildfires, and the climate “crisis.” That irony stings because it is during a crisis that we are admonished to do “whatever it takes, regardless of cost.”

What it takes, in this case, is letting rural landowners clear firebreaks, create defensible space, and set controlled burns during the winter months. Repeal the environmentalist restrictions to what they were, say, 50 years ago, and let the work get done. Mistakes will be made, but conflagrations like the current one would never happen again.

That’s how a rational society survives a genuine crisis. But perhaps this conflagration is too convenient to ever try to prevent, insofar as it generates righteous Thunbergian green thunder across the world, solving nothing, but further empowering the bureaucrats.