Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Radio stations should stop calling it a natural disaster

Today on TRIPLE M, there have been joyful announcements about the amount of money raised to deal with what already ranks as Australia’s worst ever bushfire disaster. It has been surpassed quite a number of times in North America, e.g. the 1871 Peshtigo fire and the 1825 Miramichi fire. The latter fire got closer to destroying the New Brunswick capital of Frederickton than any fire has got to substantially destroying an Australian capital city – even the 2003 Canberra bushfires or the March 1919 fires near Perth.

The problem is that, as I have been saying lately, the current bushfires are not a natural burning of vegetation that occasionally occurs even in wet eucalypt forests. Rather, they are an adjustment to a climate shift that occurred in October 1996 to move vegetation zones poleward or uphill to regions that currently (not before October 1996) have suitable climates.

The point about possible arson and that the frequency of arson is increasing is a question I am willing to discuss, but I will not tolerate dissociation of the basic fact that the fires are an adjustment to global warming that is twelve years and five months late.

The really bad thing, of course, is that even the current bushfires will not be a sufficient adjustment. People are extremely sensibly talking about the prospect of 47˚C or 48˚C days occurring with high winds and fuel even drier than it has been for the past three years. Under such conditions, it would be very easy to imagine such firestorms as are occurring now with not one act of arson.

Whilst I am not ethically opposed to charities to relieve fire victims, if we want to say “polluter pays” then the major carbon dioxide emitters should be the ones to pay the cost of a fire they must be deemed responsible for. It is a pity nobody except me and fringe socialists like GLW are saying anything like this.

During the hottest days, the radio stations were, in contrast to their current over-joyful mood, a little more reasonable about how dreadful the weather was than they usually have been. Perhaps it is unfortunately far too much to ask radio stations to be as blunt about global warming as they ought to be in this situation!

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