Greg Hunt uses Wikipedia research to dismiss climate change-bushfires link

Greg Hunt uses Wikipedia research to dismiss climate change-bushfires link

24 October 2013

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Australia — The environment minister Greg Hunt has dismissed a link between bushfires and climate change, saying he “looked up what Wikipedia says” about bushfires and it was clear Australia had a history of frequent events during hotter months since before European settlement.

Hunt was questioned on BBC’s Newshour program about the connection between climate change and bushfires including the prime minister Tony Abbott’s claim that the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when she said the bushfires were linked to climate change.

When asked by presenter Razia Iqbal if he agreed with Abbott’s comments about Figueres, Hunt replied that he had spoken to Figueres and that she indicated she had been misrepresented.

“Australia has since European settlement and obviously well before that, had a history of recurrent bushfire,” said Hunt.

“I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.”

When asked whether he accepted that there is potentially a causal relationship between rising temperatures and bushfires, Hunt replied: “Well by definition, bushfires happen in hot weather.”

Iqbal then pushed on the science behind fire weather being impacted by “changes in the climate, ergo climate change”. Hunt responded: “Well we all have to be very careful. In talking with the senior people of the Bureau of Meteorology, for example, they always emphasise – never try to link any particular event to climate change.”

He claimed the issue was raised for political advantage by the Greens.

“The way in which this was done in Australia was to blame the newly elected government for fires such as this. Even though we’re living under a carbon tax in Australia. You’d imagine then that the logic would be that that would mean there wouldn’t be bushfires,” said Hunt.

“Australians know that this is the condition we live with each and every year. Nobody in my view should be politicising the science.”

When Iqbal quoted Abbott saying climate change science is “crap”, Hunt responded that the government supports the science.

”So [Mr Abbott] no longer thinks its absolute crap?”

”Look, with great respect, you can swear on international radio, you can invite me from Australia to do this, you can be profoundly rude, I’m happy to answer but I’m not going to be sworn at.”

”Mr Hunt, I’m merely quoting your prime minister,” Iqbal replied.

Figueres released a statement after the interview, welcoming the Australian government’s commitment to meet emission reduction targets, and to reiterate the link between climate change and bushfires she previously made by quoting the IPCC’s fourth assessment report from 2007.

“Climate change is known to alter the likelihood of increased wildfire sizes and frequencies … while also inducing stress on trees that indirectly exacerbate disturbances. This suggests an increasing likelihood of more prevalent fire disturbances, as has recently been observed”.

In an example of why Wikipedia is not usually trusted as a primary source, Hunt’s own page was quickly updated. “After the 2013 election, Hunt was appointed environment minister under prime minister Tony Abbott. He was quoted as saying he uses Wikipedia for important policy research.[4]”

Mr Hunt has been contacted for comment.

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