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Aussie Bushfires And Climate Change: A Specious Link

australia bushfires

australia bushfires

The following is excerpted from a longer piece at Quadrant Online on Australia’s bushfires and the media’s Orwellian claim that climate change caused them.

The widespread acceptance of the outrageous claim that climate change “caused” the bushfires has the potential to inflict tremendous harm upon our nation.

If we are blinded by this lunacy and fail to address the real causes of bushfire, strategies to avoid future catastrophe will be misdirected and more Australians will die.

If we accept these fires as evidence of climate change and are fooled into believing that bushfires can be avoided by radical carbon dioxide reductions, then our economy and standard of living will be ravaged to no benefit.

Given what is at stake, the newly-mainstream view that the 2019-20 bushfires were “caused” by climate change must be thoroughly repudiated.

What follows is a treatise that employs only rigorous logic to counter the ideological claims that climate change“caused” the 2019-20 bushfires.

In-so-doing, we will employ the rational argument to combat emotion, invective and hysteria. At no time will any attempt be made to refute the existence of climate change – that is an entirely different debate.

Necessary and Sufficient causes

In logically interrogating the claim that climate change caused the 2019-20 bushfires, we must examine the nature of causation.

A simple method is to consider the concept of ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ causes. This is a framework employed in medicine and epidemiology to evaluate disease causation.

A cause that is ‘neither necessary nor sufficient’ can only be weakly implicated in the causation of a particular event, if at all. It cannot trigger the event alone and is not required to be present for the event to occur.

On the other hand, a cause that is ‘both necessary and sufficient’ is of critical importance in the causation of a particular event. Such a cause must always be present to trigger the event and can do so by itself.

In between these two extremes are causes that must be present for an event to occur, but cannot trigger it alone (‘necessary but not sufficient’) and causes that can independently cause an event, but are not essential to its causation (‘sufficient but not necessary’).

Rural Australians grow up with the annual threat of bushfires and learn that a bushfire needs three things to occur – oxygen, fuel, and heat. This is known as the Fire Triangle.

Room air comprises 21 percent oxygen and is always present to sustain a bushfire. Fuel in the context of a bushfire is provided by vegetation.

The third component, heat refers to the spark that ignites the fire. Although some fires are lit by lightning, about 85 percent are due to humans, typically via machinery, power lines or arson.

In fact, arson is responsible for up to 50 percent of annual bushfires. Recent Orwellian news reports have attempted to rewrite history by claiming that arson has a negligible role in bushfire causation.

These claims are intentional falsehoods, also known as lies.

When we apply the ‘necessary and sufficient’ framework to the Fire Triangle, it is clear that each of the three components may be labeled as ‘necessary but not sufficient’ causes of bushfire.

That is, each component is necessary to start every bushfire, but none of them can start a bushfire alone.

For example, every bushfire needs fuel (it is necessary), but abundant dry vegetation will not cause a bushfire without oxygen and a spark (it is not sufficient).

The ‘necessary and sufficient’ model can be expanded to include the ‘contributory causes’ of an event. These are conditions that can have some role in the causation of an event and may be labeled as ‘neither necessary nor sufficient’.

In the case of recent bushfires, contributory causes would include a high ambient temperature, strong winds, prolonged drought, and inadequate hazard reduction.

However, none of these factors is required for a bushfire to occur (they are not necessary), nor are they able to trigger one alone (they are not sufficient).

As well as being contributory to the causation of bushfires, these factors are key determinants of bushfire severity, whether by enhancing the available fuel load or via another mechanism.

It is pertinent to assess how climate change fits into this framework of bushfire causation. This may be easily gauged by asking two questions.

Is climate change required for all bushfires to occur (is it necessary)? And can climate change independently trigger a bushfire (is it sufficient)? The answer to both of these questions is obviously “no.”

Bushfires existed before the Industrial Revolution and can, therefore, occur without climate change. Further, bushfires cannot start without all components of the “fire triangle.”

Thus, climate change is ‘neither necessary nor sufficient’ in the causation of bushfires.

This conclusion and the reasoning behind it are infantile, but are apparently necessary for this new age, when politicians, journalists, and tertiary-educated Australians claim that climate change caused the 2019-20 bushfires.

It is possible that these catastrophists were caught up in their own hysteria. Perhaps they were engaging in hyperbole and didn’t actually mean that climate change “caused” the bushfires, but that it was merely a contributory cause?

If so, they didn’t say this. If they chose to utter falsehoods, then their offensive use of dead Australians to further a political agenda is made even more appalling.

Read rest at Quadrant