Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fuel Loads Not Climate Change Are Making Bushfires More Severe

Dr David Evans

The bibles of mainstream climate change are the Assessment Reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) every six years or so. The latest was issued recently, in September 2013. Significantly, it backs away from the link between climate change and specific extreme weather events.

The IPCC says that connections of warming to extreme weather have not been found. “There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses [that is, adjusted for exposure and wealth of the increasing populations] have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” The IPCC claim only to have “low confidence” in their ability to project “changes in frequency and duration of megadroughts.”

The official report does say that “drought, coupled with extreme heat and low humidity, can increase the risk of wildfire”, but there is no drought in southeast Australia at the moment.

They also say “there is evidence that future climate change could lead to increases in the occurrence of wildfires because of changes in fuel availability, readiness of the fuel to burn and ignition sources.” Carbon dioxide is a potent plant fertilizer. According to NASA satellites there is more living plant matter today, with a 6% increase in the twenty years to 2000. So there is more to burn.

Some academic papers conclude that climate change might be a contributing factor (Cai, Nicholls), others say it is not (Crompton, Pielke).

If there was any specific evidence that linked climate change to bushfires or extreme weather events, we know they would be trumpeting it loudly. That they don’t, speaks volumes.

There has been a hiatus in the rise of average global air temperatures for the last fifteen years or more. Basically the world hasn’t warmed for the last decade and a half. While this does not rule out warming in some regions, climate cannot have been much of a contributor to the worsening bushfire situation over the last fifteen years.

People have been burning off to keep fuel loads low in Australia for thousands of years.

Current fuel loads are now typically 30 tonnes per hectare in the forests of southeast Australia, compared to maybe 8 tonnes per hectare in the recent and ancient pasts. So fires burn hotter and longer. (The figures are hard to obtain, which is scandalous considering their central importance. There is also confusion over whether to include all material dropped by the trees, or just the material less than 6mm thick–it is mainly the finer material that contributes to the flame front.)

The old advice to either fight or flee when a bushfire approached, and to defend property, only made sense when fuel loads were light. The fire wasn’t too hot, it was over in a few minutes, and we could survive. With the high fuel loads of today, fighting the fire is too dangerous in most cases.

Eucalypts love fire, because it gives them an advantage over competing tree species. Eucalypts regenerate very quickly after a fire, much faster than other trees, so periodic fires ensure the dominance of eucalypts in the forest. Eucalypts have evolved to encourage fires, dropping copious amounts of easily flammable litter. Stringy bark trees are the worst, dangling flammable strings of bark that catch alight and detach from the tree to spread the fire a kilometer or two downwind.

Picture lighting a fire in an outside fireplace. The more newspaper and twigs you pack in, the hotter and faster the fire will burn. Extra heat ignites thicker denser wood, which fuels the fire for so much longer. Now imagine being an ant living in or around that fireplace, and wondering whether to fight or flee. The forests of southeast Australia are our fireplace, and the eucalypts are piling up the easily flammable material around us.

Bill Gammage wrote an excellent book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia, which was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012. The first Europeans in Australia noted over and over that Australia looked like a country estate in England, like a park with open woodlands, extensive grassy patches, and abundant wildlife. Where Europeans prevented aborigines from tending their land it became overgrown, and the inevitable fires became dangerous and uncontrollable.

Particularly memorable is the account of driving a horse and carriage from Hobart to Launceston in the early 1800’s, before there were any roads, simply by driving along the grassy park underneath the tree canopies. Try doing that today.

People will die and property losses will be high until we relearn these lessons and reduce fuel loads again. [By off-seasaon burning]


Why greenies only make me see red

Miranda Devine

BILL Leak, acclaimed cartoonist, lives in one of the loveliest places in Australia: Killcare, on the Central Coast.  But one of the consequences of living in the middle of the Australian bush is fire.

And in pretty seachange and treechange communities, you’re likely to find yourself in a greenie council dominated by refugees from the city who haven’t a clue about the real dangers of living among trees.

So it is that at the start of a dangerous bushfire season, Leak finds himself with a backyard full of trees and flammable material that he is forbidden to clear by Gosford Council on threat of fines as high as $1.1 million.

“Here I am, living on the edge of bushland that could burst into flame at any time, and I’m not allowed to clear the land in my own backyard of trees that, in the event of a fire, will bring the fire straight into my home,” he says.

Council flora preservation policies warn that the removal of any native tree over 3m can attract hefty fines.

This “puts homes like mine in grave danger: the refusal of local councils to allow home owners to remove trees that can extend the bushland right up to our own back doors,” Leak says.

“The only possible explanation for this is the council is hell-bent on securing Green votes. I’ll accept, albeit unwillingly, the indulgence of Greens fantasies up to a point but if and when they cost me my house I think I’ll have to say, ‘A line has been crossed’.”

Yes indeed.

How many warnings do councils need before they understand that tea trees and eucalypts and other lovely natives, not to mention shrubs and organic litter on the ground, are lethal near homes in fireprone areas.

It’s bad enough that properties are being burned out by unstoppable infernos that erupt out of neglected national parks. But to actively stop people from protecting their homes by forbidding them to remove fire fuel on their own land is insanity.

Gosford Council is not alone, or even the worst.

Wyong Council has recently sent residents in Lake Munmorah warning letters about clearing bush adjoining their properties where dead lantana poses a serious bushfire hazard.

It’s the same all over the country wherever green sensibilities have overwhelmed sensible decision making.

Who could forget Liam Sheahan, who was fined $50,000 by his local council for clearing trees around his house, only to find that his property was the only one in a 2km area which survived the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009. Yet we still haven’t learned the lesson.

In 2009 Blue Mountains residents signed a petition condemning the state government for failing to carry out enough burn-offs as experienced firefighters warned the area was a “time bomb”.

Where 10 tonnes of ground fuel per hectare is regarded as hazardous, one veteran firefighter estimates there was 40 tonnes in areas that have been burned out in the past week. That’s despite a significant improvement in national parks and firetrails management in recent years.

But greenies are brilliant at warping the narrative, so instead what most people are hearing is that the bushfires have been caused by climate change, a claim not even the IPCC has made.

The ABC has allowed itself to shill for climate alarmists, claiming that the bushfire season has never started so early, when a simple record check shows raging October bushfires near Sydney on several occasions in the last century.

But Monday night’s 7.30 took the cake.  “Scientists told 7.30 the science is in, the link between global warming and bushfires has been established and it’s time for action,” it said.

But not a single scientist was produced to say such a thing. Just the usual fear-mongering greenies such as John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, and Don Henry of the Australian Conversation Foundation, whose grave faces and confident pronouncements appeared before captions told the audience that these were not the promised scientists.

Eventually appeared Professor Andy Pitman, who is an alarmist but at least an actual scientist and halfway responsible about what he says. And nor did he say anything which backed up the conclusive link which was the thesis of the program.

The only link which has been proven conclusively is the equation between ground fuel and fire intensity. And that’s the one thing greenies don’t like talking about.


Teacher strike possible as Queensland Government pushes staff performance bonuses, contracts

A 24-HOUR teacher strike could hit schools when the State Government goes ahead with staff performance bonuses and fixed contracts for principals.

The Queensland Teachers' Union is balloting members throughout the state to authorise a 24-hour strike "if the government proceeds with a number of Great Teachers = Great Results (GT=GR) actions".  They include teacher performance bonuses, which the union says are "inherently bad", performance-based fixed-term contracts for principals and deputy principals and any annual performance review process that hasn't been negotiated with or agreed to by the QTU.

""The industrial action will only occur if the government moves to implement one or more of those changes," a statement authorised by QTU general secretary Graham Moloney states.

The State Government has already indicated it will go ahead with the changes.

Mr Moloney said the process of authorising industrial action before a government acted was unusual but necessary due to "the Queensland government's propensity to announce and implement changes without notice and with no real consultation".

In a 10-minute video on the QTU website, Mr Moloney warns teachers the strike would be unprotected industrial action, so they could be fined up to $3000 each, but goes on to say he thinks the State Government would be unlikely to do this. 

He urges them to push aside their fear and make a stand on the issues.  "If these changes go through, they will profoundly and negatively affect your working lives and the education of students in our schools," Mr Moloney tells teachers.  "We have two choices: we can either sit by and let it happen and bemoan our fates or we can stand up for ourselves and that is what this ballot is about."

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the Newman Government had a relentless focus on delivering better student outcomes and threatened strike action from the QTU would not stand in the way.   "It's extremely disappointing that the Queensland Teachers Union wants to upset student learning and inconvenience parents just to make a political point," Mr Langbroek said.

"Great Teachers = Great Results is about boosting teacher quality, increasing school autonomy and improving student discipline.   "Through this initiative we'll be putting an extra $50 million into the pockets of teachers as well as offering scholarships for masters degrees. "I would expect reasonable teachers would vote against the Union playing politics with student outcomes."


Tony Abbott says his government stopped the boats in 50 days

FIFTY days into the job, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he's already delivered on many of his election promises, and that includes stopping the boats.  Mr Abbott emphasised the minor milestone, which he'll reach on Sunday, as he addressed Liberal members at the party's Tasmanian state conference.

His "stop the boats" pledge was already being realised, the Prime Minister said, despite Labor shifting to a hard line policy on Kevin Rudd's return as PM in June.  "I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of that challenge but they are stopping," Mr Abbott said.

"Over the last month, illegal arrivals by boat have been scarcely 10 per cent of the peak under Labor in July."

Mr Abbott said immigration officials had been "managing a problem" under the ALP.  "Our determination is to end the problem," he said.  "Our determination is not to guide the boats, our determination is to stop the boats."

The Coalition's asylum seeker policy was one on a long list of achievements Mr Abbott said the government had already ticked off.

They also included a day-one move to axe a fringe benefits tax hit to the car industry and plans to repeal the mining and carbon taxes.

"We inherited a mess but we have made a very strong start," the PM said.  "Never forget the trough into which our country had fallen."

Mr Abbott warned there were economic challenges ahead as much of the rest of the world battles recession.  "It's an uncertain world," he said.

"We've seen consistent long-term economic mismanagement in so many of the countries that we are accustomed to look to for leadership."


1 comment:

Dan Pangburn said...

Google ‘conenssti energy’ to discover what has driven average global temperature since 1610. Follow a link in that paper to a paper that gives an equation that calculates average global temperatures with 90% accuracy since before 1900 using only one external forcing. Carbon dioxide change has no significant influence. The average global temperature trend is down.