adult males, alcohol, arrests, arson, Australia, bots, burning off, bushfire season, bushfires, depression, Donald Trump Jr, drought, drugs, dry, fires, fuel load, fuel load reduction, Gippsland, global warming, government, Greens, hot, kids, left, lightning, misinformation, New South Wales, police, right, social media, South Australia, trolls, Victoria, weather, wildfires, windy
We are having the worst bushfire or wildfire season ever here in Australia in 2019-20. The underlying cause is of course global warming. We’ve just had our hottest and driest year on record and when it’s hot and dry (and windy), the fires will be worse. But those on the political right are inventing other reasons such as Greens policies and arson.
The Greens have never been in government in Australia at federal or state level. There are about 100 Greens councillors in local government out of many thousands of councillors across about 540 councils in Australia. We have had a centre-right government at the federal level since 2013. The states are a mixture of left and right governments but New South Wales, which has been hit hardest by the fires, has had a centre-right government since 2011.
The right say that Greens policies have prevented fuel load reduction. But burning off has been ongoing for decades. Opportunities to reduce fuel load have become less with longer bushfire seasons and hot dry weather. Reducing fuel loads will work okay in normal weather but not in extreme weather like we’ve seen recently. Also, reducing fuel loads is less effective in thickly wooded areas.
The following article in The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/a-surprising-answer-to-a-hot…, states: “Our research has shown controlled burning was likely to have reduced the area later burnt by bushfires in only four of 30 regions examined in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT. Evidence from a range of studies demonstrates fuel loads can significantly modify fire behaviour under benign weather conditions. But reduced fuel loads do little for bushfire mitigation under extreme fire weather and in times of drought.”
Arson is certainly a factor in bushfires but it has been exaggerated in social media. Bots and trolls have been spreading misinformation about arson. The right grab this and retweet it and spread it around, including by Donald Trump Jr. There was a figure of 183 arrests for arson this bushfire season. But the figure is totally wrong as explained here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/police-contradict-claims-spread-online-exaggerating-arsons-role-in-australian-bushfires.
Some fires are deliberately lit, some accidentally lit and some happen naturally such as by lightning. Most of the deliberately lit fires are started by kids mucking around and also by adult males with depression, alcohol, drugs, relationship breakdown, job loss, etc problems. But as the Guardian article states: “‘There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour,’ a Victoria police spokeswoman said.” When it’s hot, dry and windy, the fires are more likely to be larger and last longer.