Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bandt opponents shooting themselves in the foot?

In the recent debate over Adam Bandt's tweet:

"Why Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia & more pics like this of Sydney ... "

I've seen several people arguing that bushfires in September and October aren't unusual.

For example, helen stream, a commenter at The Conversation, quoted some information, which she said was drawn from contemporary media, showing 14 cases of bushfires in September and October in NSW (full quote at the end of this post). I've seen those figures quoted elsewhere and heard that similar figures were used in News Limited media (although I haven't seen them because I don't usually read those media).

At first I thought well, that's interesting, it must be more common to have bushfires at this time of year than I'd thought (which is presumably what the commenter wanted people to think). Then later, after reading that Environment Minister Greg Hunt  draws his information on bushfires  from Wikipedia, I checked out Wikipedia also.

To cut this long story short, I went back and looked again at Ms stream's figures after reading Wikipedia, and noticed the following pattern:

Decade       Bushfires in September or October in NSW (according to helen stream's figures)
1920-29   1
1930-39    -
1940-49    1
1950-59    1
1960-69    -
1970-79    -
1980-89    1
1990-99    3
2000-09    7

On the face of it, that looks very much like bushfires in Spring in NSW are increasing very rapidly, exactly in line with what one would expect with climate change.  

Now I certainly would not put too much faith in Ms stream's figures, because they are clearly politically motivated (even if they show the opposite of what she wants them to). But it would certainly be interesting if any researchers had the time to follow this up, or have already looked at these figures?

It's also equally interesting that climate change opponents are apparently so desperate that they will use figures that actually undermine their case.

I haven't seen anyone else pointing this out yet, so I thought I'd publish it here for information and comment.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and several other conservative MPs criticised Mr Bandt for "politicising" the bush fires. Bill Shorten, the ALP Opposition Leader, also backed away from the issue, saying it was not an appropriate time to look at it. Tony Abbott went so far as to say that UN climate chief Christiana Figueres was "talking through her hat" in linking climate change and bushfires.

I'd suggest that conservative politicians should take a good look at the figures that are being used to (supposedly) support their case that there's no link between climate change and bushfires!

Comments and further information are welcome as ever.

From helen stream, commenter at The Conversation, 22 October 2013:

"[OCTOBER 1951
From Sydney Morning Herald 24 October 1951, Page 1 headlines:
Firefighters battled yesterday with more than 100 bushfires near Sydney and in the country. ']
From Sydney Morning Herald 13 October 1948 Page 1
FIGHT FOR HOMES Bushfires At Mt Colah.
From Sydney Morning Herald 8 October 1928, Page 11 headlines:
Fires and Storm 
The city was encircled by bushfires, and many buildings were Unroofed.
North-Western NSW: Bushfires – 01/09/84 deaths – 4
Western Sydney and Central Coast, NSW: 16/10/91 deaths – 2
Hunter Valley, NSW: 01/09/96
Central Coast/Hunter Valley/south coast. 15/08/96
NW NSW : Bush Fire 30/10/01
Sydney, NSW: Bushfires 09/10/02
Northern NSW: Bushfire 27/09/02
Central Coast, QLD/NSW: Bushfires 27/09/02
Cessnock, NSW: Bushfire 19/10/02 deaths – 1
NSW Bushfires 24/09/06 
Bushfires: Sydney and South Coast, NSW 24/09/06 ']"


Valerie Kay said...

I received a comment from someone saying they were receiving too many notifications from this blog. The comment contained a link to an internet gambling site and has been treated as spam.
If by any chance it was a genuine comment that somehow got spammed, feel free to try again without a link. You can spell out links if necessary (eg use at instead of @)

Valerie Kay said...

Also clearly if the comment mentioned above was a genuine comment, you would need to sign in rather than comment as anonymous, otherwise I can't help you.