Sunday, August 30, 2020

We need an inquiry into climate alarmism

I hope you are sitting down; this foray into political and media madness over bushfires and climate change starts with recognising some excellent, forensic journalism by the ABC. Investigating last summer’s devastating Gospers Mountain fire, journalist Philippa McDonald took us to the very tree where the fire is believed to have been started when it was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm.

McDonald used this to give us the brilliantly counterintuitive opening line; “It began not with fire, but ice.” In a series of reports, McDonald and her team retraced the history of the fire over a number of weeks, how it was almost extinguished by rain, how bushwalkers in the wrong place at the wrong time thwarted a backburn that might have stopped it, how another prescribed burn got out of control and destroyed houses, and how a fortuitous wind change stopped it encroaching on suburban Sydney.

We might quibble with some of the alarmist language — repeating the silly new “megafire” term and pretending that when fires meet they join and get bigger when, in fact, this reduces the number of fronts and total length of fire perimeter — but overall the reporting was factual and admirable because it explained the many variables in fire behaviour and the factors that can influence whether a fire can be contained or extinguished before weather conditions turn it into an unstoppable beast. Surprisingly, and refreshingly, the reports did not dwell on climate change.

When it comes to our bushfires climate change is so close to being irrelevant, it should hardly warrant a passing reference — we have always faced disastrous bushfire conditions and always will. If climate change makes the worst conditions either marginally more or less common, it matters not; we still need to do the same things to protect ourselves.

In previous articles I have detailed the leading scientific analysis showing the main precondition for the NSW fires — a long drought — cannot be attributed to climate change. Unless climate activists want to argue Australia could do something to alter the global climate sufficiently to reduce our bushfire threat, they are exposed as cynical campaigners who used the sure bet of bushfires to advance their political scare campaign.

The NSW bushfire inquiry released this week took a dive into the climate science — as it was tasked to do — and found, predictably enough, that climate change “clearly played a role in the conditions” that led up to the fires and helped spread them. But thankfully it did not waste much time on climate in its recommendations, merely suggesting climate trends need to be monitored and factored in.

Apart from exercises in politically correct box ticking — Indigenous training for evacuation centre staff so they are “culturally competent”, wildlife rescue training for firefighters, and signs to promote ABC radio stations — most of the recommendations were practical. Better equipment for firefighters, more water bombers, more communication, public education and most importantly, a range of suggestions on fuel reduction around settled areas and planning controls on building in fire prone areas.

The bottom line has always been obvious: the one fire input we can control is fuel, so where we want to slow blazes or protect properties, we must reduce fuel. Planning is also important to prevent housing in indefensible locations, but one crucial phrase missing from the report was “personal responsibility”.

Houses on wooded hilltops or surrounded by bush cannot be protected and their residents should not expect others to risk their lives trying to do so.

People must be educated to clear extensively around properties, sufficient to withstand not a moderate fire but a firestorm, otherwise they must be prepared to surrender their homes and escape early.

“Hazard reduction is not the complete answer,” said report author Mary O’Kane. “People do need to take responsibility, they need to realise that if they live in certain areas it can be very dangerous, and we try to give a strong message of, if you are in a dangerous area and there is one of these big, bad megafires, the message, is get out.”

O’Kane is right, of course. But it seems a hell of a waste to hold a full inquiry only to be told we should do more fuel reduction, be careful where we build houses, and get the hell out of the way rather than try to fight firestorms. We knew all this.

The push for an inquiry was largely driven by the climate catastrophists. Remember, they wanted to blame the blazes on the axing of the carbon tax, and on Scott Morrison. It was inane and rancid stuff.

They will be at it again, this fire season. They love making political capital out of disasters, although they go as quiet as Tim Flannery when it comes to full dams and widespread snowfalls.

The area of land burned in the Australian summer has now been revised down by 25 per cent, and the claims about wildlife deaths revised downwards too, to factor in the mind-blowing realisation that animals actually escape fire when they can — birds fly, wombats burrow, kangaroos hop and even koalas can climb to the treetops and escape all but a crowning blaze.

Remember we had articles in The Guardian, The New York Times, and on CNN and the BBC, saying the bush might never recover. Take a drive through the Blue Mountains, Kangaroo Island or the Australian Alps and see how their predictions turned out.

The sclerophyll forests of southern Australia are not just adapted to fire, they are reliant on it. Therefore, the wildlife also is reliant on it for the rejuvenation of the vegetation — why does basic ecology escape the climate activists? If it is any comfort, the same madness is now playing out in California. Similar climate, similar history of bushfires, and the same maddening political debate. With fires burning more than a million acres in northern California this month, the state’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, sent a recorded message to his party’s national convention; “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California.” The trouble is that while these are bad wildfires, they are not unusual in the natural and settled history of that environment.

Like the Australian bush, the redwood forests that US journalists suggest are being destroyed by fire, depend on fire for propagation. Just like here, one of the issues has been the suppression of bushfire by human interference, leading to the unnatural build up of fuel that can explode when a wildfire does get away in bad conditions.

Environmentalist and author of Apocalypse Never; Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Michael Shellenberger says the climate is warming but the impact of this on fires is overstated. In an article for he quoted Scott Stevens of the University of California, Berkeley, saying climate change is not a major factor, as well as other experts scoffing of the idea that severe fires are anything new.

“California’s fires should indeed serve as a warning to the public, but not that climate change is causing the apocalypse,” wrote Shellenberger. “Rather, it should serve as a warning that mainstream news reporters and California’s politicians cannot be trusted to tell the truth about climate change and fires.”

Ditto for Oz. I have detailed previously how Fran Kelly told ABC audiences in November that “the fire warning had been increased to catastrophic for the first time ever in this country” — but that was wrong, wildly wrong.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John accused his political opponents of being “no better than arsonists” and other Greens and Labor MPs said Australia’s climate policies were exacerbating bushfires. Insane as this might be, it was amplified rather than interrogated by most media.

The thick smoke haze in Sydney was portrayed as something “unprecedented” — if it has not been on Twitter before it must never have happened — but a quick search of newspaper files found similar bushfire-induced shrouds in 1951, when airports were closed, and 1936, when a ship couldn’t find the heads.

Fires in rainforest areas of southern Queensland and northern NSW were not “unprecedented” either, with archived reports noting similar fires in the spring of 1951 and even the winter of 1946.

Despite 200,000 media mentions of “unprecedented” tracked by media monitors across December and January, the facts showed none of this was new. Greater areas were burned in 1851 and 1974-75, and human devastation was either as bad or worse on Black Saturday in 2009, Ash Wednesday in 1983, Black Tuesday in 1967, Black Friday in 1939 and Black Thursday 1851.

Bushland was not destroyed forever, koalas were not rendered extinct and Scott Morrison was not to blame. We should have an inquiry into climate alarmism, political posturing and media reporting — we would learn a lot more from that than we have from relearning age-old fire preparedness from yet another bushfire inquiry.


Do we really need Mustafas?

Mustafa is one of the names of Muhammad

A sadistic ice junkie who raped seven women, including a 13-year-old school girl and a 22-year-old who died before she could see her attacker face justice, will die in prison.

Mustafa Kayirici, 30, was sentenced to 34 years in jail on Friday for the terrifying five-hour long sexual assault of a child which took place over 10 locations in 2016.

The sickening sex monster had already been sentenced to 38 years for the rape and robbery of seven other escorts that same year.

A judged at Sydney's Downing Centre District Court deemed Kayirici so evil that his latest sentence won't even come into effect until September 2041, but it's unlikely he will live that long as he has been diagnosed with an incurable disease and has just 12 months to live.

Kayirici's rampage began on the morning of May 7, 2016, when he raped a sex worker at an apartment block in Sydney's CBD while threatening her with a butcher's knife.

Later that afternoon, he arranged to meet another escort in Parramatta where he carried out a similar attack.

She said the face-tattooed predator was 'aggressive and dominant' and called her a sl*t before he spat in her eye, beat her and brutally raped her.

'I had to fight for my life,' she said.

Kayirici told her he 'loved seeing the fear in people when they can't do anything about it,' she said.

Just one week later he robbed another sex worker at knife point at her Parramatta apartment and then robbed another woman in her home in the same suburb on May 20.

On May 27, Kayirici pulled a butcher's knife on Dasha Volnoukhin - a 22-year-old Canadian model and escort who was living in Parramatta.

Eerie CCTV pictures showed him walking with her through the lobby of the Fiori Apartments in Parramatta and into the lift before his crime.

Ms Volnoukhin never saw her abuser suffer the consequences of his depraved acts as she died in the months before his sentencing hearing.

The cause of her death cannot legally be published.

Within moments of Ms Volnoukhin letting him inside the apartment, he took a 'large butcher style knife' from a kitchen drawer and told her to take off her clothes.

Kayirici told the terrified young woman - who screamed upon seeing the knife - to take off her clothes and then carry out sex acts on him.

'The man then yelled at me ''don't f***ing scream'' (and then) ''take your clothes off'',' Ms Volnoukhin told police.

'I was wearing shorts and a tank top at the time and then started to take my clothes off as I was thinking that if I don't, I will probably die. I was so scared.'

The young woman also said in her police statement that Kayirici filmed himself sexually assaulting her while asking her 'do you like being raped?'

'The man was pointing the phone at me… then started to demand that I say things… he was saying to me: ''Say you are a sl*t'.'

The rape ended after three to four minutes, Ms Volnoukhin said, before Kayirici stole her day's earnings and left.

Just three days after the brutal attack on Ms Volnoukhin, Kayirici robbed and raped another sex worker at knifepoint.

On June 19, Kayirici raped yet another woman in a Parramatta apartment block, calling her a 'little dog'.

His crime spree would continue on June 26, when he lured a 13-year-old into his car.

He then he drove the teenager to an underground car park where he forced her to undress and made her watch pornographic videos.

He told her she was going to get 'raped one day or another,' before making the girl perform sex acts and threatening her with a knife when she refused.

Kayirici then drove the teenager to a unit block basement and forced her to perform another series of sex acts.

He even tried to get her to find another young girl to join them as the pair drove 10 different locations, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The pair went to a supermarket together to buy duct tape and razors and the teenager tried to make eye contact with one of the staff members, the court heard.

Kayirici then scolded the girl for trying to get him caught.

He then raped her repeatedly in his car before dumping her at Auburn train station.

Kayirici gave the girl $5, apologised to her before threatening to release the videos he made if she told anyone.

'If you tell anyone, I will release those videos,' he said, the court was told.

'How would you like it if your dad saw that … I can hold it against you.'

The teenager said in a victim impact statement that the girl sometimes felt she would be 'better off dead' and felt constant fear and humiliation due to the attack.

The litany of sexual assaults over the horror six-week period resulted in Kayirici being found guilty of 42 charges at two separate trials including 12 charges of aggravated sexual assault with a person under 16 and 12 charges of using a child under 14 years to produce child abuse material.


Social work, psychology protected from university price hikes as Federal Government looks to lock in support

The biggest higher education reform in decades is set to pass its first test — a Coalition party room vote — after social work and psychology were cut from the list of humanities courses set to have fees doubled.

Introduced in June, the Federal Government's "job-ready graduates" program is designed to equip the tertiary sector for post-pandemic employment needs by using a carrot and stick method of reducing fees for some courses, while increasing fees for others.

The reforms, which yesterday triggered hundreds of teachers and staff to join a virtual grassroots organising committee vowing illegal strike action, will likely be introduced in the house on Wednesday.

But the reforms face a tougher task in the Senate, where the program needs critical votes from crossbenchers.

Education Minister Dan Tehan declined to comment on the grounds the matter was going to a partyroom vote.

However, the ABC understands Coalition backbenchers returning home to electorates and hearing about concerns over access to mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the partyroom change.

It is understood social work and psychology will both be taken out of the most expensive band, band 4, where humanities sit, and into band 2.

How much students can expect to pay:

Band    Discipline    Annual cost

1    Teaching, clinical psychology, English, maths, nursing, languages, agriculture    $3,700

2    Allied health, other health, architecturey, English, maths, nursing, languages, agriculture    $3,700, IT, creative arts, engineering, environmental studies, science    $7,700

3    Medical, dental, veterinary science    $11,300

4    Law & economics, management & commerce, society & culture, humanities, communications, behavioural science    $14,500

One of the senators the Federal Government will need to convince, independent Rex Patrick, said the latest changes were not enough.

He said wanted to see an inquiry into the proposal — which the Government would likely try to avoid.

"They have been presented without much evidence as to the effect they will have in the long term," Senator Patrick said

"I think a lot of students make their choices based on an affinity for a particular topic.

"I don't think you can force someone who's got an affinity with the humanities down a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] path."

The fee hikes, as well as the absence of a comprehensive rescue package for the sector that is expected to haemorrhage between $3 billion and $4.6 billion in revenue this year, has parts of some campuses in revolt.


Behind Australia's big vaccine gamble

When it came to securing a COVID-19 vaccine for Australia, the Morrison government was between a rock and a hard place. It had to hedge its bets in a vaccine world that is full of uncertainty and risk.

If it sat on its hands and did nothing while a vaccine became successful, it risked looking inept. But, if it backed a vaccine which then fell over, it also risked looking inept.

For weeks, the government studied the options, took wise counsel, waited and debated. Then it made an educated guess. It selected the vaccine being developed jointly by the University of Oxford and UK-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

The Morrison government has selected the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford, led by researcher Sarah Gilbert, and UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca. David Rowe

If this vaccine proves successful, Australia has a deal that will allow it to manufacture 25 million doses for domestic use.

“This is one of the most advanced vaccines of the moment and one of the first that shows promise, but there are going to be many others,” says Professor Brendan Crabb, director of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute.

“Everything about it is fine, except that – like all vaccines at this stage of development – it is a high-risk venture and could easily fall over. This means Australia will need a plan B, C and D.

“The ideal thing for a country that wants a vaccine is to bet on every horse in the race, knowing there is some chance that none of the horses will finish the race.”

But there are too many. Of the hundreds of vaccine candidates currently in development across the globe, 167 are listed by The World Health Organisation as having preclinical or clinical trials underway.

Of this number, 29 are already into clinical trials and of them, six are into the final phase. The Oxford vaccine is top of the list and Australia has gambled on it.

In an ideal world, Australia would have kept its powder dry while it waited, but that was not an option, says Professor Crabb. supplied

But Australia also has two local horses in the race, one based at the University of Queensland and one on the Flinders University campus in Adelaide. These two are the most advanced under development in Australia.

While Professor Crabb believes the government has made a very sensible decision he says it is “a fingers-crossed situation”.

“In an ideal world, Australia would have kept its powder dry while it waited, perhaps into next year, until the phase three results were out for the Oxford vaccine.”

But that wasn’t really an option. Other countries were securing deals and there was public pressure to do something. Australia needed to have licensing agreements in place, so as soon as it received the go ahead, it could begin manufacturing the vaccine.

A long lead time is necessary to create the level of sophistication and capacity to manufacture the vaccine at scale.

“This is a huge and expensive undertaking and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had started making it already,” says Professor Crabb. “Imagine the risk in that. If the trial falls over, the project is dead. And so many vaccines fall at the very last hurdle.

"There is every chance this vaccine may not get approval and all this money would have been spent.”

Nevertheless, he says we need more horses so we can be better prepared and won't need to rely on other countries to make a vaccine for us, in their own timeframe.

There is considerable optimism that a vaccine will emerge. This is being driven by the unprecedented global effort from governments, multilateral players and industry to condense a multi-decade-long process into a year or two.

During COVID-19, money has taken on a different life. The previous carefully measured allocation of resources for research has become a bottomless jug of cash pouring into developments that might help to bring the pandemic to a close.

The average cost of a pharmaceutical or a vaccine getting to market is about $US4 billion ($5.6 billion). One reason vaccine development usually takes many years is because the financial risk induces caution, with researchers gingerly going from step to step.

In the COVID-19 catastrophe this caution has been largely discarded, says Professor Crabb.


 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

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