Fires not due to climate change: expert

Fires not due to climate change: expert

21 October 2013

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Australia — Retired Monash University researcher David Packham says global warming is a gradual process which doesn’t explain major bushfires.

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has been accused of playing politics by linking the NSW bushfires to the new federal government’s climate change policies.

But Mr Packham says there is no link.

“It’s an absolute nonsense,” he told AAP.

“The very best interpretation is (it’s) misguided by them not understanding how bushfires actually do work in Australia.

“If there is any global warming, the global warming is so slow and so small that the bushfire event is totally overrun by the fuel state.”

Mr Packham has previously accused “latte conservationists” of having too much influence on forest management.

He says fuel loads are now the heaviest they have been since human occupation of the continent and Aboriginal methods need to be adopted.

Flying over the Blue Mountains in recent years had been “frightening”, he said.

“There’s been this determination over the last 10 to 20 years to not treat our country in the same way the indigenous people treated it for 30,000 years,” Mr Packham said.

“The concept has been every fire is a bad fire.

“In the Australian context you need fire to keep the bush healthy and safe.”

Mr Packham said Western Australia had successfully reduced fuel for decades and up to 20 per cent of bushland should be burned annually.

“If we got to 10 per cent then our area burnt would drop by 90 per cent and our intensity would drop by at least that and undoubtedly more,” he said.

He said major fires had occurred every 10 to 20 years since records began in 1915.

Mr Packham called for an end to playing politics with bushfires and instead called for leadership based on scientific evidence.

A tweet from Mr Bandt last week linked the Abbott government to more bushfires, while Greens leader Christine Milne said it was “climate censorship” to not discuss global warming and bushfires.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said he was worried about singling out individual events and using that as an example of climate change.

“Climate change is about overall trends,” he told ABC TV.

“You can never pick the individual drought or the individual weather event and say that’s one because of climate change.”

However, Mr Burke acknowledged climate change was increasing the intensity of extreme weather events.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce described Mr Bandt’s statement as “inflammatory”.

“I don’t think (the people who lost their homes) will appreciate someone playing short term politics,” Senator Joyce told ABC TV.

He said fire activity was not unusual.

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