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Craig Kelly on Climate Change versus Fuel Load

Australia has its fair share of colourful politicians, and Craig Kelly is certainly one of those sufficiently colourful (in the yellow journalism sense) to be a frequent guest on Sky News, for example. After the 2019-2020 bushfires, he notoriously referred to Laura Tobin as an "ignorant Pommy weather girl" who had "no idea what she's talking about", despite her university degree in physics and meteorology. For his own part, Craig Kelly completed high school. Not being one to give up an strongly-held opinion when encountering the facts, he was recently proclaimed on Facebook how a recent Newspoll showed that the majority of Australians believe that failures by state and territory governments to engage in hazard reduction is the main cause of the bushfires, rather than climate change and global warming. Naturally enough, this isn't evaluated on the science but rather on political partisanship. Kelly explains:

Despite months of relentless propaganda led by the ABC blaming this seasons bushfires on 'climate change', and lectures by Hollywood and foreign media, the Australian public haven’t been fooled.

Even Labor voters are spilt 50/50.

Just imagine what the numbers would have been if a few more people hadn’t been intimidated by the green/left and had spoken out on the failure to undertake hazard reductions burns as recommended by previous Royal commissions.

Hazard reduction burns are a well-established method for reducing fuel load. What's a fuel load? Well, technically anything that can burn. But mainly (as CSIRO says) "When we talk about fuel loads, we're talking about fine fuels less than 6 mm in diameter, so leaves, twigs and bark on the floor are the primary component of fuel"
But not all leaves, twigs, and bark all the time. When sodden they are not fuel loads, except for hot fires; when they are dry, however they are.

Which brings one to two incredibly important points which the likes of Craig Kelly do not want to discuss.

1. Hazard reductions burns can only be conducted when it's safe to do so and becomes less likely in drier, hotter conditions.
2. Fuel loads increase when climate change results in drier, hotter conditions.

It is the height of irresponsibility to simple argue "let's do more hazard reduction burns" without consideration of safety. A particularly famous example was in 2005 when seven thousand hectares of national park was burned out when a hazard reduction burn was conducted. To conduct a hazard reduction burn it has to occur when the weather is hot enough for a fire to spread, but not so hot that it gets out of control, to paraphrase Comic Farrell. In summary, hazard reduction burns work, sometimes, when the weather is right for them. Would they have made a difference? Maybe. Experts are divided on that one. Sadly, in such cases people will argue a case from partisanship rather than facts; it's "an emotional load of rubbish".

One thing that scientific opinion does say however, is that the effects of climate change increased the probability of fires by 30%, according to the World Weather Attribution service. In a nutshell? Climate change drives fuel load.

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