Surprise! Aussie Bushfire Climate Change Outrage Pivots into an Activist Demand for Cash

CSIRO Project Aquarius experimental fire Block 20, 1/3/83, McCorkhill, WA. Fire emerging from block 1 hour after ignition. Crowning of intermediate tree layer. Intensity 7500 kW/m, rate of spread 800-1000 m/h. CSIRO [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Having failed to establish climate change as the reason for Australia’s recent severe bushfires, Aussie greens are now rushing forward with demands for a new levy to be imposed on fossil fuel companies.

Making fossil fuel companies pay for the cost of climate change bushfires

By James Purtill
Thursday 30 July 2020 6:38pm

Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Why not ask fossil fuel companies to pay for some of the damage?

In November, a fast-moving bushfire sliced through a valley in the Warrawillah area, north of Taree, on New South Wales’ mid north coast. Fiona Lee was one of the first Australians to lose her house in what would become Australia’s worst-ever fire season. More than 3,500 houses and 18 million hectares would burn before March.

“It came with no warning,” she told Hack.

“We were the only house on our road that got burnt.”

Who pays for all this? Victims like Fiona? The taxpayer? This week, a group of experts including former emergency services commissioners from all over Australia proposed that at least some of the money should come from the industry making money out of fossil fuels — namely oil and gas companies, and coal miners.

Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) are calling on the Federal Government to introduce a $1 levy on every tonne of embedded carbon produced in Australia. They calculate this would raise $1.5 billion per year.

“Something has to be done to wake up the fossil fuel industry,” he told Hack.

“We’re all paying through the nose for their profiteering at our expense.

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Australians already pay around USD $3.40 / gallon for gasoline, even after prices came down in the wake of Covid-19 – a punishingly high price for fuel in a country with such long roads and empty distances.

Adding a carbon levy to fuel on top of all the other taxes would not punish fossil fuel companies, it would punish ordinary Australians, because fossil fuel companies would simply pass the cost on to their customers.

Everyone would pay for the levy through increased road freight haulage costs, even if they don’t personally own an automobile. Fuel taxes are regressive, so poor people would suffer the greatest impact from a new carbon tax.

If greens really wanted to make a difference to CO2 emissions they could demand Australia invest in nuclear power, convert all our coal plants to zero carbon nuclear like France did in the 1970s.

France still has one of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in the industrialised world, because unlike renewables, nuclear power delivers genuine reductions in national CO2 emissions. Unlike renewables, nuclear plants don’t need “backup” fossil fuel plants to power up when the sun goes down, to service the early evening demand peak.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Aussie greens to embrace nuclear power.

Link between climate change and drought
h/t JoNova – a slide from Professor Andy Pitman‘s presentation in June 2019. Droughts are associated with increased bushfire risk.

30 thoughts on “Surprise! Aussie Bushfire Climate Change Outrage Pivots into an Activist Demand for Cash

  1. The 2019-2020 bushfire season was a carbon copy of the Federation Drought, especially in the 1897-1898 season. Back then the pCO2 level was about 300 ppmV. But the ENSO patterns in the lead up were very similar, and the ~60 year thermohaline cycle was in the same phase.

    • The 2019-2020 fires were not the result of ENSO this time but resulted from the prolonged drying out of southern Australia caused by the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) pushing warm water towards Africa -hence flooding rains there-followed by subsequent locust plague, allowing upwelling of cooler waters off the western Australian coast with resultant less precipitation over most of southern Australia ie drought-which dried out the bush predisposing it to fire when lighting or arsonists struck as they did
      This was exacerbated by the positioning of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) which also brought no rain for lengthy periods
      Source :Australian Bureau of Meteorology

  2. Fossil fuels aren’t fossils and CO2 and Nuclear Power are not dangerous items. Bushfires are a result of not having enough controlled burn-offs and load reduction. Droughts in Australia are normal and floods are rare and sporadic. Between 20 and 100 million hectares of Australia burn every year on average. People in bushfire prone areas need to be alert each year.

  3. It difficult to understand whether these people seriously believe that Australia’s small 1% contribution to GHG is the cause of the fires or whether they are using the fires as an excuse to de-industrialise the country.

    • That was the problem the climate council ran into in it’s submission at the Royal Commission. It was asked if Australia reduced it’s emissions what would be the impact on next year and the next decade fire seasons. Answer none CO2 emissions will continue to rise for the next decade.

    • And exactly WHO is the “industry” responsible?

      Here in the US, the state and federal governments ALL make more per gallon of gasoline than do the oil companies. So does the retailer, generally. And then there are the end-users, those that use the product to perform construction, drive to work, do whatever, enjoy life. Start by making all of them pay for the damage they’re causing. Why do they never talk about that, i.e., about their own gasoline and energy use?

  4. Goldfish memories or no maths skills?
    “The 1974–75 Australian bushfire season is a series of bushfires, also known around the world as wildfires, that burned across Australia. Fires that summer burned up an estimated 117 million hectares (290 million acres; 1,170,000 square kilometres; 450,000 square miles). Approximately 15% of Australia’s land mass suffered “extensive fire damage” including parts of New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.”

    “Recommended limits of head fire behaviour and suppression strategies:
    Fire intensity less than 800 kW/m can be suppressed with hand tools with water support as a direct attack.
    Fire intensity less than 2000 kW/m can be suppressed by machines, tankers and water bombers as a direct attack.
    Fire intensity greater than 2000 kW/m may be suppressed by machines, tankers and water bombers using an indirect attack.
    Fire intensity greater than 3000 kW/m is unlikely to be suppressed.”

    At fire intensity of 2000kW/m with 14m flames the radiant heat forces fire fighter to be atleast 56m away (comfort dist 4x flame height) from the flames ie. Not practical to fight and control fire with just ground attack. Water bombing from aircraft helps but also not sufficient for large fires and weather conditions (wind, smoke, darkness) can ground aircraft. The ground crews would be lucky to reach 35m into the bush from a nozzle but need an expert to clarify. At full flow, these fire appliances can empty their own tanks in about 3 minutes. Once the fires reach 2000 kW/m it’s more about evacuate locals, protect a few buildings and then just protect yourself (run).

    Burning the wood may give more than 20MJ/kg of energy but does 5MJ/kg get used to heat the water etc. in the green wood. 40T/Hectare = 4kg/sq.m, 60MJ/sq.m of bushland @15MJ/kg (YMMV)
    0.026MJ for 1sq.m x 20m high of air (heat capacity of 1sq.m of air times 20m high, temp change by 1 Kelvin)
    0.026MJ / 60MJ = 0.043% per degree C or K.
    A rise of 1C is not significant compared to the 750 to 900C rise in temperature after combustion.
    Air temperature alone is not a major factor.
    Why worry about the less than 0.1% when it’s the 99.9% that really matters. The 60MJ per square metre of bushland (or more) is what matters. YMMV

  5. In worst cases, they have to rely on back burning, bulldozers and wetting down areas before the fire is anywhere near them. If you didn’t minimise the risk before the fire season, it’s very hard to do it during it.

  6. If climate change is causing hotter and drier conditions, then eventually the climate will be so dry that nothing will grow. No vegetation = no fires. Climate change to the rescue.

  7. The “experts” who make up this committee should more correctly be called the “culprits”
    On their watch insufficient fuel reduction measures were carried out year after year.
    Of course they now conveniently blame “climate change” for bushfires.

  8. More than 3,500 houses and 18 million hectares would burn before March.

    “It came with no warning,” she told Hack.

    “We were the only house on our road that got burnt.

    Perhaps the houses that didn’t burn had done their housekeeping and cleared their land

  9. Didn’t I just hear that Young Mr Murdoch has resigned from the board of his dad’s news firm because Sky Australia won’t go with the climate alarmist rhetoric that Sky employs elswhere?

  10. You have to hand it to the Greens in discovering a hitherto unknown property of CO2, whereby it knows where it was emitted, and stays in that location.

    So Australian CO2 causes drastic problems for Australia, apparently, but Chinese CO2 which is far more prevalent, stays in China and causes no problem… Thus by taxing the Australia fossil fuel industry the Greens, with this newly discovered property of CO2, ensure that Australia will be sheltered from further harmful (supposedly) increases…

    What an utter joke! Even if CO2 were the driver of climate change, Australia could be totally shutdown and there would be no measureable effect on world climate. But Australia would be plunged to Third World or worse status – without any gain whatsoever.

    And where is the proof that CO2 is causing the supposed rise in temperature.No good if one looks at the hopelessly compromised Australian BOM with its non science based approach to temperature (it can’t get its forecasts for next week right, so how can we trust them on any predictions decades hence), and even the IPCC is unable to produce definitive proof…

  11. Maybe the greens should contribute instead. After all, they are responsible for the proliferation of wind turbines, the ones that have been creating all that extra wind that fan the bush fires. 🙂

  12. Fires, floods … is there nothing that carbon (sic) can’t do?

    Coal miners to blame for Queensland floods, says Australian Greens leader Bob Brown

    “The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change.”
    – Back in January, catastrophist Michael Mann wrote an article for The Guardian from the burning Blue Mountains.

    Except no they weren’t:

    Backburns backfired at Balmoral and the Blue Mountains, RFS investigation finds

  13. The world governments are powerless in the face of a virus; pubs have to close, businesses shuttered, events cancelled, etc, etc. Oddly enough, however, a governments can change the world’s weather with a few tax rises……..

  14. From the article: “Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Why not ask fossil fuel companies to pay for some of the damage?”

    There is no evidence that CO2, a greenhouse gas, causes the Earth’s climate to change. There is no evidence of damage to the Earth, or its inhabitants, caused by CO2. Therefore, there is no reason to make fossil fuel companies pay for anything related to CO2.

    • On the other hand, isn’t there some evidence that the earth is “greening” in part due to increased atmospheric CO2 levels? If so, shouldn’t fossil fuel companies should be paid, not be asked to pay?

  15. The exquisite irony of demanding a tax on fossil fuel companies while also asking for more water bombing aircraft -which fly on avgas- a fossil fuel derived energy source -plus more firetrucks and pumps –which also largely run on diesel derived from fossil fuels
    Tells you a lot about their analytical abilities

  16. It can be argued that the potential to increase co2 content of the atmosphere is present in fosile fuels but no co2 is released until fuels are burned by a third party.

    I have never seen a gunpowder manufacturer charged when a bullet is used to murder someone.

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