Friday, January 24, 2020

Fuel reduction, a contrary view

Every official enquiry into the causes of Australia's big bushfires has concluded that more off-season preventive burns are needed to prevent a recurrence of such fires.  Greenies worldwide however have a long history of obstructing such burns.

The far-Left ""New Matilda" has found a couple of scientists who defend the Greenie actions. They say that preventive burns are ineffective.  I excerpt their argument below.  They say that most preventive burns just consume the ground cover, leaving the tops of the trees intact.  And the tops of the trees are plenty to support a big bushfire.

So what do they conclude from that?  They conclude that we are always going to have big bushfires so we had better get used to it.

That is however a very strange conclusion. It is both a non sequitur and a counsel of despair.

If what they say is generally true, I would have thought the obvious conclusion to be that preventive burns have to be more thorough.  If wildfires burn the tops of the trees then preventive burns have to do that too.  Obviously, the bigger the preventive burn the riskier it is going to be but big efforts at containment should be possible. 

A two-step procedure may be needed.  First burn off the ground  cover then attack the top cover.  That would surely halve the risk.

But it is all theory.  In most locations getting any sort of preventive burn done seems to be near impossible.  The inertia of the State government fire authorities seems set to ensure that we will continue to have big fires for many years to come.

Dr Byron Lamont a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Plant Ecology with Curtin University, and Adjunct Research Fellow Dr Tianhua He explain:

The knee-jerk response to the devastating wildfires that have raged in Australia this summer has been for some to demand a more intensive program of prescribed/controlled burning before summer begins. But what are they and do they even work?

Prescribed burns are fires created by fire management authorities to reduce fuel in an attempt to stop the advance of future possible wildfires.

Unfortunately, areas that recently received a prescribed burn have offered little resistance to the advance of current wildfires. The fires have just passed straight through them. But why?

Current practices of prescribed fires essentially burn the ground flora, the shrubs, herbs, and creepers. At most, heat from the ground might scorch the upper canopy, and they tend to be patchy. These are called surface fires.

But wildfires burn everything. They create their own inferno.

Their greatest heat is produced from fuel in the tree canopy. The convective currents created by the firestorm spray embers up to kilometres from the fire front – they simply drop onto or over areas that have received prescribed burns.

These are called crown fires.

The aim of fire managers is to avoid crown fires during prescribed burning for fear that the fire gets out of control and will go far beyond the area intended to be burnt.

Controlled fires are only meant to stop the odd cigarette thrown out of a car window from starting a fire, or lightning strikes igniting the ground flora. They may not even achieve those goals, because scorching the trees above can lead to considerable leaf drop and build-up of litter that increases flammability and deters germination and seedling establishment.

Nature conservation was never one of its overt goals, though research by these same fire management authorities claims that no harm is done. And because they always fall behind in their prescribed burning program, independent ecologists are usually satisfied that species diversity does not appear to be harmed.

The only effective deterrent is areas that have recently experienced a wildfire, as no combustible fuel remains. This inhibitory effect might last for five or so years when the vegetation can carry a fire again.

Ironically, the Australian flora has experienced wildfires of the current type for many millions of years.

It is adapted to wildfires, not prescribed burns.

Thus all eucalypts, paperbarks, she-oaks, and banksias release their seeds only when their canopies are burnt and there is massive seedling recruitment in the next wet season that ensures the vegetation recovers.

Ultimately, we are guests in the world’s most flammable continent and have to learn to live with that fact. The Aboriginal inhabitants learned to but we have not.


How a tiny group of Greenie protesters managed to stop backburning in East Gippsland over worries baby birds would die - before fires ravaged the area killing four people and forcing mass evacuations from the beach

Greenies fighting to save baby birds blocked vital hazard reduction burns in a tiny Victorian town two months before residents had to be evacuated as a deadly bushfire closed in.

Holding placards that read 'be firefighters not firelighters' and 'spring burns kill baby birds', the protesters refused to leave the planned burn area in Nowa Nowa, Victoria in September.

Firefighters were forced to abandon what they considered a necessary step in bushfire mitigation before the government reduced the planned burn area by more than 97 per cent to appease activists.

The backdown has played out in similar scenes across the country with devastating consequences as hazard reduction burning drops to dangerous levels.

'Burning in spring is the worst time because the animals are breeding and trees are flowering and it is still so dry,' Mary from Nowa Nowa told her local ABC outlet during the protest.

'The Department of Environment, Land and Water and Planning (DELWP) is dividing the community because they are telling us this has to be done to save our lives but in fact they're just destroying the environment.'

The department scaled back the planned burn from 370 hectares to just nine in what would prove a disastrous move as Australia entered a summer of disaster.

Just two months later, the town's 200 residents would have to be urgently evacuated as the East Gippsland bushfire - which killed four people, destroyed 340 homes and burnt 1 million hectares - raged. The insurance bill from the Gippsland area alone is expected to surpass $100 million.

The ABC has since blurred the faces of the activists to protect their identities, having become a target for trolls in the wake of the East Gippsland fires. 

But also coming under fire online was the Victorian government and its agencies for bowing to the wishes of Greens and reducing its planned burns in the Nowa Nowa area by roughly 97.5 per cent.

A Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires found that 385,000 hectares of hazard reduction needed to be carried out annually across the state.

But DELWP's annual reports reveal only one-third of that goal was accomplished in 2018/19, with 130,000ha burned.


Davos 2020: Mathias Cormann defends Australia on climate action and coal

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has fiercely defended both Australia’s climate action record and its coal industry in front of world leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Australia’s bushfires, the Finance Minister fought off suggestions from Australian artist Lynette Wallworth and a retired firefighter that the government was not taking climate change seriously enough.

Senator Cormann’s defence of the Morrison Government’s commitment to action came hours after US President Donald Trump told Davos not to listen to “prophets of doom.”

“Australia absolutely does its bit,” the Finance Minister said in Switzerland. “The proposition that is circulated by some, that we are not committed to effective action on climate change, is false. “It’s an assertion that suits the narrative of some commentators, but it’s not accurate.”

Scott Morrison has pledged to focus more on climate change adaptation and resilience, but will not shift to more radical emission reductions targets or policies like a price on carbon.

In the wake of the bushfires crisis, the Prime Minister criticised the fact there were clear rules and transparency arrangements for reporting on emissions but not on mitigation measures.

He highlighted hazard-reduction burns, landclearing laws and management of native vegetation and national parks as critical state issues that had to be scrutinised.

Mr Morrison’s mantra on climate change was repeated by Senator Cormann in Switzerland, who also repeated Mr Morrison’s recent comments that hazard reduction is also a highly important focus on fighting future bushfires.

Senator Cormann – who has been meeting with world political and business leaders as Australia’s most senior representative at Davos – also defended Australia’s coal industry and said not every coal mine was “bad for the environment.”

“There is a global demand for coal, and if it’s not met by cleaner Australian coal it will be met by comparatively dirtier coal from other sources and the world environment will be worse off,” he said.

“Not every coal mine is a bad thing for the environment. When you have better quality coal compared to the alternative options that are available, you actually might be able to help the transition and provide better outcomes.”

Senator Cormann also stressed the huge size of the Australian continent and its history of extreme weather events in any global discussion of the bushfires.

“Yes, climate change is making things worse … But we have also got to keep it in perspective. In a sense, Australia has always been a country that has suffered extreme weather events,” he said.


Malcolm Turnbull unloads on Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party that dumped him as PM in extraordinary interview about the bushfire crisis and climate change

He's just a miserable ghost, a big ego and a sore loser

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has slammed Scott Morrison, saying he failed to show leadership during the bushfire crisis.

Mr Turnbull said the prime minister misled Australians by downplaying the influence of global warming and climate change.

'Everybody knew we were in a very dry time and as a consequence the fire season was likely to be very bad,' he told the BBC.

'So rather than doing what a leader should do and preparing people for that, he downplayed it and then, of course, chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii.

'At the peak of the crisis? I just can't explain any of that. It's just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act.'

Mr Turnbull, who was ousted from leadership and replaced by Mr Morrison in 2018, said he could not explain the current Liberal leader's behaviour.

Despite working closely with Mr Morrison and knowing him for 20 years, he said he 'did not know why Scott Morrison has acted the way he has'.

'I can't explain why he didn't meet the former fire commissioners who wanted to see him in March last year to talk about the gravity of the threat,' he said.

Mr Morrison has come under heavy criticism over the past month for his handling of Australia's unprecedented bushfire season, which have killed almost 30 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

He faced criticism for not acting quick enough to bolster the nation's firefighting capabilities, and for going on holiday to Hawaii during the crisis.

The disaster has bolstered the climate change debate and the government has been criticised for not taking more action. 

Mr Morrison acknowledged that summers are 'longer drier and hotter' than ever before but insisted he was taking action on climate change.

'We will beat the Kyoto targets and meet and beat the Paris agreements... We will reduce our carbon emissions per capita by half between now and 2030,' he said.


Bushfires: Malcolm Turnbull has exposed the opportunism and inconsistency of climate crusaders

He has done a backflip on the role of climate in the fires

We ought to be thankful for Malcolm Turnbull’s intervention. All summer the green Left have been shamelessly trying to use the trauma and tragedy of another deadly Australian bushfire season to promote their political and ideological goals on climate policy.

Undeterred by facts, history, context or decency they have attempted to capitalise on every burned building, every horrible death, as an excuse to promote their utopian goal of a carbon price and the forced closure of fossil fuel industries that would, they suggest, render horrific bushfires a thing of the past.

If you don’t think it has been as shameless as that just look at the twitter feeds of people like Green Leader Richard Di Natale. When firefighters were killed just two days before Christmas he tweeted: “We grieve with those who have lost loved ones and homes in this latest tragedy. This is what a climate crisis looks like.”

More to the point, this is what ghoulish and cynical politics looks like.

There must be room for a sober and informed discussion about the relatively marginal future impacts of climate change on the prevalence of high fire risk weather conditions — but the rush to exploit tragedy for the climate alarmism cause, fanned by a largely compliant media, has been sickening.

What does this have to do with former prime minister Turnbull, who once suggested former leaders should not hang around like “miserable ghosts” but now seems intent on haunting Scott Morrison like Banquo? Well, Turnbull has accidentally belled the cat, he has exposed for all to see the opportunism and inconsistency of the climate crusaders.

If any of this is about science, then it is political science that is mainly at play. And not political science of the high-minded variety but of the personal and vengeful kind.

Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership in opposition (when I worked for him) and then again as prime minister — both times because he was trying to do a bipartisan deal with Labor on climate policy. Climate policy is his bete noire and it seems there are only two ways to rationalise what has transpired for him; either he has been so wrong on the politics for so long that he has allowed it to destroy his political ambitions twice, or most everyone else in his party (and the broader electorate) is wrong and have failed to recognise the wisdom of his national climate leadership.

Guess which version he subscribes to.

And so it is that this summer, while former prime minister Tony Abbott has been at the frontline of fires all over NSW as a volunteer firefighter and the current Prime Minister has been calling in the army reserves to help out, Turnbull has been using the tragedy to support his carbon emissions policy preferences and settle political scores. In order to do so he has been emphatic about the link between these fires and climate change.

“Australia’s fires this summer — unprecedented in the scale of their destruction — are the ferocious but inevitable reality of global warming,” he wrote for Time magazine. This statement is untrue, of course, both in its claims about “unprecedented” destruction and on the climate link.

One of the clearest explanations for why the climate link is wrong comes from Turnbull himself, when he was prime minister and had responsibility for national leadership. In 2018 fire ripped through Tathra in NSW and destroyed more than 60 houses while the Greens tried to link the episode to climate change.

“I’m disappointed that the Greens would try to politicise an event like this,” Turnbull said. “You can’t attribute any particular event, whether it’s a flood or fire or a drought or a storm to climate change.”

Quite. That is correct. And his own words expose his current politicking and that of so many advocates in politics and the media.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

"Ultimately, we are guests in the world’s most flammable continent and have to learn to live with that fact. The Aboriginal inhabitants learned to but we have not."

So the Aboriginal Inhabitants DIDN'T do the burning that everyone has been saying they did (and lionizing them for doing?) Surely New Matilda can't have it both ways....oh, there's an agenda? Then of course they can.