Fires not due to climate change: expert

Linking NSW's bushfires to climate change is 'nonsense', a leading expert says.

A bushfire in Springwood - AAP.jpg

A bushfire burns in Springwood, NSW. (AAP) Source: SBS

This article was originally published on 21/10/13.

UPDATE 14/11/19: 

Speaking earlier this week, Mr Packham confirmed his position on what is causing the current severe bushfire conditions. Addressing the matter on Sky News, he said fuel loads remain the core issue.

"The most important (factor) is the dryness of the fuel, which comes from the hot dry weather," he said.

"It's not behind the lot of it, it's behind all of it. The theory is as solid as the universal theory of gravitation."

SBS has attempted to contact Mr Packham on whether he holds the same views he expressed in the original 2013 article refuting links between climate change and bushfires at that time.



Linking the bushfire disaster in NSW to climate change is "an absolute nonsense" and reducing fuel loads in the Australian bush is urgently needed, a leading scientist says.

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.

4 min read
Published 22 October 2013 at 6:51am
Source: AAP