It will have escaped no one’s notice that the recent fires in Australia have been particularly widespread this year. Unhappily, a couple of dozen people have been killed, and although this number is much smaller than the many who have been killed by the anomalously cold weather in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan during the same period, it is a couple of dozen too many.
The fires are of course useful fuel for climate alarmists, who want to push the narrative that there is some sort of emergency whereby carbon dioxide emissions will cause us all to fry sometime soon. Thus, Greta Thunberg wrote in a tweet on 22nd December:
Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible? Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFires That’s what has to change. Now.
The evidence, however, is unremittingly against this analysis. New South Wales, where the fires first took a grip, has had a hot spell, for sure, but not exceptionally so:
And similarly, whilst it is been dry, it is not been exceptionally so:
There have been many bushfires in Australia, and quite a lot of work done on their causes. Typically, about 10 to 15% of them are caused by lightning strikes, but the 85% to 90% – the great majority – are lit by people. Of those, it seems about half are ordinarily accidental, and the other half are caused by arsonists. Some of these arsonists – the firebugs – have a mental derangement which causes them to light fires, and it seems that, on the whole, the police have a pretty good idea who they are. Others – such as those who are aiming to collect on their insurance policies – have a more cynical motive.
What seems to be unprecedented about the fires over the last few weeks is the sheer number of them, and their geographical diversity throughout Australia. There is no evidence that I have seen that lightning strikes have been anything out of the ordinary, and so that would suggest that the proportion lit by people is even greater than usual. And neither is there any evidence that people have suddenly got more careless about throwing away lighted cigarettes in the long grass. And so it seems likely that there has been a massive increase in the number of fires lit deliberately. It has been a combination of the considerable number of deliberately lit fires – and the current fashion (driven by the flopsies) not to reduce the fuel load in bushland by preventative burning – that has led to the extensive acreage that has been burned.
Who has been lighting them? Again, there is no evidence of any explosion in the population of firebug nutters. The evidence that we do have is that many of those that have been caught are really quite young – about the same age as Greta Thunberg. That is not to say that the arsonists who have been caught are a necessarily representative sample – it seems that the police catch only a small proportion of the arsonists. The police might be catching the least sly of them.
One always needs to be careful about conspiracy theories. On the whole, events are more frequently explained by cock-ups than by conspiracies. But that said, a suggestion which is increasingly been gaining traction in social media is that many of these fires are being lit by climate activists, who see bushfires as a useful way of putting pressure on governments and corporations.
As far as I can see, the police are saying little or nothing about the motives of those who they have been arresting for this arson over the past weeks. Perhaps they think, with some justification, that making an announcement to that effect would encourage even more of the little bastards to light even more fires.
Unsurprisingly, the flopsies are extremely resistant to the idea of any sort of enquiry as to these fires, insisting on the glib and palpably untrue assertion that they have been caused by a climate change emergency. But until there is some sort of enquiry, we really will not know the extent to which these fires have been caused by climate activists getting active with boxes of matches.
There might be something to be said for getting on with such an enquiry promptly. If it is true that many of the fires have been lit by climate activists, then there would be good reason to fear similar activity in the northern hemisphere – California, the south of France, Greece etc – in about six months’ time. That will be the usual fire risk season in those regions, and unhappily, there will be many impressionable but ill-informed people there, especially young but sometimes old, who might be tempted to answer the call to do something inflammatory.
Meanwhile, calls for “action” by the alarmists are unlikely to slow down.