The million (and more) hectare fires

And that’s just New South Wales. And that’s just so far… Of the many images we have seen, this one from Harringtom NSW stands out:


Fortunately yesterday we here in the Illawarra were spared serious fires, though not the catastrophic weather conditions. Here in West Wollongong it hit 39 C around 3 pm, and the wind at times was strong. The most obvious sign was the haze, a mixture of smoke and dust. When the southerly came at last the temperature soon dropped 10 degrees, but sadly no rain, and in the foreseeable future no sign of rain.

The bush near here is certainly ready to burn. As a neighbour pointed out there hasn’t been a major burn-out since 2001 — and I recalled that one because it was on Christmas Day, and I saw it not from The Gong but from Paddington in Sydney. On the way home from Christmas Lunch at the Dowager Empress’s place to Elizabeth Street Surry Hills I saw, to the south, great clouds of smoke.  And the post is still lurking in cyberspace!

I am just back from Christmas lunch with the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong. His Atlantic salmon was to die for, and the tamarind prawns were–oh my God, I don’t usually eat prawns, but they were wonderful. The Christmas cake was a genuine Mrs Beeton recipe (with a whole bottle of brandy); it was light yet flavoursome. There is no doubt the Empress has a talent. I would have loved to have shared this day with the Crown Prince, I really would, but that could not be. Sirdan was there, and Paul Davis and another friend of DEHK’s.

On DEHK’s new DVD and digital TV we saw several episodes of Queer as Folk, which is not on free-to-air TV here. It is such a shame that SBS did not get it for late night viewing, because it is actually very good indeed. I would like the chance to see it again.

Walking home was an apocalyptic experience. The ground is yellow with smoke as bushfires ring Sydney. It is very hot and there are strong winds. The south and west of the city looked to be totally in flames from the vantage point of the inner city. According to the latest news the Blue Mountains are very bad, and the road north may soon be closed. To the south around Appin seems also to be bad. M. has headed north but would have got through before the problem arose.

Ironically, given the past few days, that Christmas M. (Michael) was heading for Laurieton!

Today our attention is especially on Queensland, but it does need to be said that this is just the beginning of months in which we very likely will see yesterday’s catastrophic conditions return.

Back to the Elephant in the Room again — and I really do commend again Jim Belshaw’s post. Let me also commend a recent (31 October 2019) opinion piece in the New York Times by Katherine Hayhoe, a professor at the Climate Center at Texas Tech University, and an evangelical Christian.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion…”

…my favorite question is the one I often hear from fellow Christians: “Do you believe in climate change?”….

As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering….

I want to make one rather obvious point: it is not quite correct to say that climate change CAUSES bush fires. Lots of things, including arson, cause fires. What climate change has done however is to magnify the CONDITIONS where bush fires are likely to be worse and more frequent. To me this is hardly controversial!

On the other hand there is finger-pointing on the subject of hazard reduction. Now clearly hazard reduction is a good thing. But I urge you to read Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction? by Graham Readfern.

Large parts of New South Wales have been in the grip of catastrophic fire weather this week as firefighters desperately work to save homes, properties and lives.

But as firefighters try and beat back the bushfires, a familiar blame game began with critics pointing fingers at “greenies”, claiming they get in the way of hazard reduction efforts that might have reduced the size and scale of the disaster.

“These are very tired and very old conspiracy theories that get a run after most major fires,” says Prof Ross Bradstock, the director of the centre for environmental risk management of bushfires at the University of Wollongong, who has been researching bushfires for 40 years.

“They’ve been extensively dealt with in many inquiries.”…

Sadly, silly and unfortunate things have been said on several sides by politicians who really should know better. I quite agree with the Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe on this:

The loss of Australians’ homes, and sometimes their lives, should shame politicians who exploit human misery to score points against their enemies. Yet the politicians cannot help themselves….

… For some politicians, everything about you is seen through the prism of partisanship. Even your death.

When [Barnaby] Joyce called in to radio station 2GB later in the day, he sounded under huge stress as he tried to save his parents’ home in country NSW, but the damage from his earlier remark was already done.

This was a dismal but predictable sight for anyone who has watched the decline of Australian politics over the past decade.

I am not going to dignify Barnaby’s remark by quoting it! And Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John was not much better.


What might have been yesterday, or what might be! This photo of Mount Keira — so close to me — was taken I believe during the 1968 fires. Found on Facebook but the source is elusive, but it is a real photo. Scary, eh! Showed it to an old lady here at Diggers who remembered it happening.


From Peter FitzSimons to climate emergency…

Loved Peter FitzSimon’s 2019 Andrew Olle lecture, which is not to say I agreed with everything in it. But this I surely do agree with:

… A planet that really DOES face a critical threat through climate change – again, obviously the most pressing issue of our time, and indeed all time, whereby the world must choose between quickly transitioning to some green decades or facing some very black millennia.

I love the fact that six years ago, under editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir, the Herald brought in a policy whereby we not publish  climate change denialism on the same grounds that we wouldn’t publish letters or columns maintaining the earth was flat – because sometimes there actually aren’t two sides to this story, there is just one, the truth.

And we have enough respect for our readership that we won’t publish what we know to be nonsense.

This approach has brought many critics who continue to rant – to this day – that they and the shock-jocks with the fossil-fuel sponsors just happen to know more than the scientists with the Nobel Prizes . . .

Yes, it’s all a furphy!

And, after all, what if we cleaned up the planet, made the air, the earth, and the oceans safer for all living creatures – for nothing?

Climate change and the range of options in dealing with it, raises complex issues, and good, important journalism consists of painstakingly exploring those issues and fearlessly reporting on them.

What is the TRUTH of the matter? Print that!

Today we have Climate emergency declared by 11,000 scientists worldwide who warn of ‘catastrophic threat’ to humanity.  Now that really should impress you — us! Strictly speaking it is more impressive than (though in line with) what Greta Thunberg  is saying. She after all is no more a climate scientist, or any kind of scientist, than I am (or Bolt, or Jones, or silly Timmy.)

Key points:

  • The 11,000 scientists who put their name to the paper say they have a “moral obligation” to humanity
  • The scientists, from 153 countries, have backed governments across the world that made similar declarations
  • The group of scientists say there needs to be greater emphasis on human activities that can change the climate such as fertility rate, air travel and meat production

Now if you care to, do your homework: the actual paper is accessible — World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency — free from BioScience.

Since 1964, BioScience has presented readers with timely and authoritative overviews of current research in biology, accompanied by essays and discussion sections on education, public policy, history, and the conceptual underpinnings of the biological sciences.

A peer-reviewed, heavily cited, monthly journal with content written and edited for accessibility to researchers, educators, and students alike…

The paper begins:

Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.

Do go there and read on.  What you then do is up to you, but I am afraid that, while understanding the actions taken, I am not so sure that gluing yourself to things or disruption seemingly for its own sake are really all that useful. Nor is “blaming capitalism.” See Who are Extinction Rebellion and why are they blocking your commute to work? which makes in my view some very good points.


See also Ross Garnaut: three policies will set Australia on a path to 100% renewable energy.  Saw him on ABC this morning. The book looks worth following up.

And as always when I raise the topic of climate change, please note the side-bar links here! Particularly useful and well-informed (won the Eureka Prize a few years back) is Skeptical Science.

Skeptical Science is based on the notion that science by its very nature is skeptical. Genuine skepticism means you don’t take someone’s word for it but investigate for yourself. You look at all the facts before coming to a conclusion. In the case of climate science, our understanding of climate  comes from considering the full body of evidence.

In contrast, climate skepticism looks at small pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the full picture. Climate skeptics vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet uncritically embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. If you began with a position of climate skepticism then cherrypick the data that supports your view while fighting tooth and nail against any evidence that contradicts that position, I’m sorry but that’s not genuine scientific skepticism.

So the approach of Skeptical Science is as follows. It looks at the many climate skeptic arguments, exposes how they focus on small pieces of the puzzle and then puts them in their proper context by presenting the full picture. The skeptic arguments are listed by popularity (eg – how often each argument appears in online articles).

So much going on today

Indeed. Here is a local manifestation of one of them:


Personally I find that mindless and unnecessary — and badly executed as well. But here in The Gong we will be seeing rather more today.

Businesses and miners will also hold demonstrations ahead of the Global School Strike 4 Climate rally and march starting at noon. The Wollongong rally will be held outside the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Burelli Street. Organisers are intending to march up to Crown St Mall and back again before heading towards Flagstaff Hill. There will be a community picket at the South32 office, UOW Innovation Campus at 10am.

The bigger picture:

Thousands of students will lead climate strikes across the country on Friday, joining millions around the world demanding greater action to protect Earth from emissions.

The global rallies come ahead of Monday’s United Nations climate summit in New York, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not scheduled to attend. Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne will represent Australia.

The School Strike for Climate in Australia has singled out three main demands: no new coal or gas projects; 100 per cent of electricity to be supplied by renewable energy by 2030; and provision of a fund to support a “just transition” for fossil-fuel workers and their communities.

Sadly Climate Strike or no Climate Strike I really don’t think any of those demands is likely to happen in real life, but this is encouraging, if true: China and India demand $100 billion for climate action on eve of UN summit.

Now I hasten to add that I am what some call a “global warmist”, along with the majority of world scientists and people like Sir David Attenborough. Look at the sidebar of this blog!  That’s just another way of saying I am sane.  Not that I am suggesting that some of our more notorious parliamentarians are bonkers, though I am tempted… Take Craig Kelly (Lib) who sits — add a letter if you wish — just north of the Gong. He’ll probably appear on Sky News in the next day or two, possibly with Andrew Bolt. Here is the gospel of Craig: I kid you not.

I understand how persuasive that peer group pressure can be for teenagers and their desire to conform and fit in with the crowd.

However, I would say to any student considering joining the so-called climate protest, don’t be a sheep and think for yourself because you are being used and manipulated and everything you are told is a lie.

The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought. Polar bears are increasing in number. Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather at any time in human history.

There is no 97% consensus. Such claims are a fraud. Crop yields have increased remarkably, wildfires have declined 25% over the past two decades, we are seeing less cyclones, not more.

Cold weather kills many times more than hot weather, including here in Australia. The sea ice is not melting away.

In fact, where the ill-fated Franklin expedition sailed in 1845, this year is blocked by thick sea ice.

Renewables ain’t renewable and they certainly don’t make electricity cheaper. And if you are worried about sea level rise, I suggest that you get some old photos of Fort Denison, get the tide gauge data and go and have a look for yourself.

Don’t take my word. I encourage all students in my electorate to study the science and learn for themselves.

Rarely have I seen so much bullshit in such a short space!  If you are tempted to take ANY of it seriously, go and have a good read here.

Meanwhile our PM — whom I praised just the other day, and don’t regret doing so — is being treated to Maccas at the White House with you-know-who and a gaggle of right-wing business types. Inevitably I thought of the last time a State Dinner was granted, by George W to John Howard, and I recalled a very pleasant night at The Belvoir watching Keating: The Musical.  This song seems so apt again.

Hang on a tic, just let me talk
‘Cos you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m just a bloke, a normal bloke, and nothin’ more
I’ve got my home, I’ve got my health
I’ve got my lovely wife and kids,
I’ve got no tickets on myself
I’m just a bloke, an Aussie bloke, to the core.
So you know that I’d be grateful to the nation at large
If you thought it was appropriate to put me in charge…

If Mr Morrison says “Maaaate!” one more time I think I’ll throw up!

Update Monday 23 September — Spring Equinox!

Here was the scene in Wollongong while not far away I dined on minestrone soup. “Around 50 Chinese visitors having fish and chips at City Diggers right now. So well-dressed I have to assume they are from Shanghai! Pretty amazing this almost daily occurrence when you think back….” So down the road:


Quite a success, and world-wide was amazing. (Al Jazeera had the best coverage I saw.) Now today Climate change ‘hitting harder and sooner’ than forecast, warn scientists ahead of UN meeting. And just one symptom: ‘Funeral march’ held for Swiss glacier lost to global warming.

And where are we, and Donald Trump today?

Quite a dramatic few days

Especially when it comes to weather. I stayed home yesterday. Wollongong at times looked like this — and by the way as I write the sun has just come out!


But Sydney got it worse.

Meanwhile in Queensland!



And dear me, in the weird world of media — specifically The Oz — even more remarkable things have been noted. I can’t help wondering if after all we should revisit that moon landing really being faked in Hollywood or 9/11 being an inside job! I think the Oz has gone quite mad….