Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Australian Politics 2019: bushfire blame shifting is a tedious business which is intended to distract the electorate from considering the impacts of climate change


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Australia's climate has warmed just over 1 °C since 1910 leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events….There has been a decline of around 11 per cent in April–October rainfall in the southeast of Australia since the late 1990s….There has been a long-term increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of Australia….The year-to-year changes in Australia’s climate are mostly associated with natural climate variability such as El Niño and La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean and phases of the Indian Ocean Dipole in the Indian Ocean. This natural variability now occurs on top of the warming trend, which can modify the impact of these natural drivers on the Australian climate.”  [Australian Bureau of Meteorology, State of the Climate 2018]
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On the morning of 13 November 2017 New South Wales awoke to a state still under siege from climate change and drought induced bushfires.

The NSW Rural Fire Service reported 79 fires at 4.13am, with 4 at Emergency Warning level (out of control), 12 at Watch And Act level and 50 at Advice level.

The largest Emergency fire was in the Clarence Valley local government area (148,120 hectares), largest Watch And Act fire in Kempsey local government area (223,047 hectares) and largest Advice fire in Armidale local government area (113,900 hectares).

Thankfully, changing weather conditions over the day saw the Emergency Warnings reduced to Watch And Act and the number of serious fires reduced to 69 sites

What the general public also awoke to that morning was a continuing attempt to blame shift on the part of federal and state Liberal and Nationals politicians.

They quickly focused on NSW hazard reduction rules – conveniently forgetting that it was Liberal-Nationals Coalition state governments which last amended the relevant legislation.

They blamed the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Greens political party, - shockingly in one instance it was even implied that victims of these fires were themselves to blame because they likely voted for the Greens.

In this they have been aided and abetted by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp metropolitan and regional newspaper empire as well as members of that climate change denying lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

What these rightwing politicians refuse to publicly admit is that in Australia climate change is intensifying heat, reducing rainfall, increasing water evaporation rates, raising the severity levels of drought, lengthening fire seasons and causing bushfires to morph into mega fires.

Nor would these politicians admit that since 2013 the national response to climate change has become insufficient for the scale of problems now facing the country.

Here is how media is presenting this issue. Leading the pack is a News Corp journalist who happens to also be an enthusiastic climate change denier…...

The Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2019, p.13:

For eighty years, inquiries have found reducing hazards is the best, most immediate way to prevent bush fires, but green policies have led us to learned helplessness
Even a hippie in Nimbin knows that greenies are to blame for the power and ­intensity of NSW’s latest bout of tragic bushfires.
“The Greens have to cop it on the head — they have been obsessed with no fires and no burning,” Michael Balderstone told the Australian as bushfires engulfed the north coast.
Wiser words have never been spoken in that Northern Rivers town. Yet Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt still insist that the culprit is climate change.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They oppose any sensible land ­management that is proven to ­reduce the severity of routine ­regular summer bushfires.
And when the inevitable happens they blame climate change.
Their aim is to scare people into buying their climate “emergency” hyperbole so that government is under pressure to enact suicidal policies which drive electricity prices through the roof.
But it is not climate change which turns fires into unstoppable lethal infernos. It is green ideology which blocks removal of fuel loads in national parks and prevents landholders from clearing fire hazards around their homes.

The Guardian, 13 November 2019:

Bureaucrats from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment were sent an email soon after the AdaptNSW 2019 Forum began, causing consternation among some attendees who saw it as tantamount to gagging them.

The email said: “For those attending AdaptNSW today, public affairs has issued advice not to discuss the link between climate change and bushfires.

Refer questions in session and plenaries to bushfire reps.”

What are the links between climate change and bushfires? – explainer
Read more
Former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins was one of the attendees.

But the participants also included scientists and experts who are developing policy and advising the Berejiklian government on adaption measures the state could take in relation to land use, planning and dealing with the risk of bushfires.

SBS News, 12 November 2019:

What does the science say?

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that Australia's fire season is growing longer and more intense due to the effects of climate change.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) stated in a report last year that Australia's climate has warmed just over 1°C since 1910.


The report said climate change has seen an increase in extreme heat events and increased the severity of natural disasters, such as drought.

"There has been a long-term increase in extreme fire weather and in the length of the fire season across large parts of Australia since the 1950s ... Climate change, including increasing temperatures, is contributing to these changes," it said.

Some in the federal government have attributed the increased risk on newly-imposed restrictions on hazard reduction burning - low-intensity burns to remove vegetation so bush or grass fires are less intense.

It is different to backburning, which specifically refers to the starting of small, controlled fires in the path of a bushfire to reduce the amount of fuel available……

Are hazard reduction restrictions to blame?

Some in the federal government have attributed the increased risk on newly-imposed restrictions on hazard reduction burning - low-intensity burns to remove vegetation so bush or grass fires are less intense.

It is different to backburning, which specifically refers to the starting of small, controlled fires in the path of a bushfire to reduce the amount of fuel available.

But David Bowman, director of the Fire Centre Research Hub at the University of Tasmania, said restrictions on hazard reductions are not entirely to blame.

"At the very core, we have a climate signal. There's extreme drought, extreme fire weather conditions - fire weather that you would expect in summer, not in spring,” he told the ABC on Monday.

"Yes, there is a role for managing fuels with hazard reduction burning - but would hazard reduction burning programs on their own stem this fire crisis? No, absolutely not."

What can we expect now?

The BOM said 2017 and 2018 were Australia's third and fourth-hottest years on record.

In April, a group 23 former fire chiefs warned climate change is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.

In September, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) released its annual seasonal bushfire outlook, describing the east coast of Australia as having "above normal fire potential".

"What all the evidence is showing us (is) that the temperature is sitting about one degree above long-term averages. That is leading to a much earlier start fire season around the world. That is internationally noted,” BNHCRC CEO Richard Thornton said.

"We are also seeing the cumulative amount of fire danger during a fire season going up - the time between these really extreme fire years will get shorter and shorter and shorter.

"We will see these conditions come around more frequently."
The Guardian, 12 November 2019:
So what are the claims?
The chief accuser is Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce who says “greens policy” gets in the way “of many of the practicalities of fighting a fire and managing it”.
Among Joyce’s claims, made in several interviews this week, are that Greens policies have made hazard reduction activities more difficult.
This claim, just to be clear, is about the policies of a party that has never been in government.
Joyce also blamed the Greens for “paperwork” that made it harder to carry out hazard reduction activities….
It’s not burning because they burnt off, it’s burning because they didn’t burn off,” Joyce told SkyNews.
According to Bradstock, Joyce’s claims are familiar but “without foundation.”
It’s simply conspiracy stuff. It’s an obvious attempt to deflect the conversation away from climate change.”
A former NSW fire and rescue commissioner, Greg Mullins, has written this week that the hotter and drier conditions, and the higher fire danger ratings, were preventing agencies from carrying out prescribed burning.
He said: “Blaming ‘greenies’ for stopping these important measures is a familiar, populist, but basically untrue claim.”
The Australian, 12 November 2019:

A fierce feud has ignited between NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the National Parks and Wildlife Service following revelations the number of rangers, who perform hazard reduction burns, has been cut by a third since the Coalition came to power in 2011.

The Public Service Association has accused Mr Barilaro of gross hypocrisy after the Deputy Premier blamed the department for contributing to the state’s catastrophic fire conditions by failing to carry out extensive hazard reduction in the lead-up to bushfire season, labelling his comments “worse than an insult”.

Apart from last financial year, the NPWS has not met its annual hazard reduction target of 135,000ha since 2016.

PSA industrial manager Nathan Bradshaw blamed the failure to meet targets on severe cuts to staffing levels, saying that since 2011, the department’s 289 rangers, including 28 senior rangers, had been trimmed to 193.

Following a restructure in 2017, the NPWS’s number of area managers was cut from 50 to 37, he said.

Mr Bradshaw said the Office of Environment and Heritage’s budget had been further depleted by $80m this year, and the NPWS was absorbing part of the cut.

He said the cutbacks had directly affected the department’s ability to operate efficiently.

In 2012-13, the NPWS was involved in 208,000ha of hazard reduction; in 2016-17, that was just 88,136ha, and just 95,589ha in 2017-18. However, the government said the amount of hazard reduction had increased in 2018-19, with “NPWS undertaking 137,500ha of prescribed burns, which is above its target of 135,000ha”.

Crikey, 12 November 2019:

A new report has found Australia’s response to climate change is among the worst in the G20noting a lack of policy, reliance on fossil fuels and rising emissions, The Guardian reports.
As politicians argue over whether the “unprecedented” bushfires ravaging NSW are linked to climate change — or whether it’s appropriate to bring it up at all — the latest Brown to Green Report ranked Australia third-worst in terms of progress toward meeting its Paris goals. The report states Australia is not even on track to meet its “insufficient” 2030 targets, and highlights a poor response on deforestation, transport, energy supply and carbon pricing. The international report was compiled by 14 NGOs, thinktanks and research institutes.
A STATE OF EMERGENCY
About 600 schools will be closed across NSW today, with a week-long state of emergency declared, as the east coast braces for an unprecedented and “catastrophic” fire risk, the ABC reports.
More than 60 bushfires continue to burn across the state, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting “hot, dry and gusty winds” that “will generate very dangerous fire conditions”. The NSW Rural Fire Service is warning that firefighters will not be able to help everybody if a fire takes hold, releasing a statement declaring “if you call for help, you may not get it”. NSW RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers says the situation is worse than he could have imagined, telling reporters: “If someone came to me and said ‘let’s do one of the scenario role-plays’, I would be saying, ‘let’s try to keep this a bit more realistic’”.
BACKGROUND

NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS), Hazard Reduction Standards:

Fire Trail Standards.pdf (PDF, 5.6 MB)



Terms used by NSWRFS:


Emergency Warning: An Emergency Warning is the highest level of Bush Fire Alert. You may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.

Watch and Act: There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.

Advice: A fire has started. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Guardian (Australia) pledge on climate change reporting


This pledge is at the bottom of a number of The Guardian webpages: 

We will not stay quiet… 

...on the escalating climate crisis. This is the Guardian's pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times. 

Our independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe. 

In Australia, we commit to delivering the most comprehensive environmental reporting in the country. We will hold those in power to account for their inadequate national response and keep our focus on the actions of the Morrison government. Guardian Australia will continue to pursue deep investigations into the most important environmental issues. 

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment. 

The Guardian made a choice: to keep our journalism open to all. We do not have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 

We hope you will consider supporting the Guardian’s open, independent reporting today. Every contribution from our readers, however big or small, is so valuable.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison caught misrepresenting climate change facts to the United Nations


The Australian, 24 October 2019:

At the United Nations during his US trip, Scott Morrison said that when it came to per capita investment in clean energy, Australia spent more than “anywhere in the world”. Not a lot of ambiguity there. He repeated the claim last week in parliament, but instead of referring to clean energy the PM narrowed the description down to renewables.

Both claims are false, the latter more so than the first.

The Australia Institute decided to look into the claim, which was based on a Bloomberg study which revealed yes, Australia has the highest per capita investment in clean energy of 14 countries it looked at. The Prime Minister’s office confirmed to me that was the source for his UN claim.

Where to start …

I suspect most readers, along with the PM, realise that there are more than 14 countries in the world. Quite a few more actually. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that. Which means relying on a 14 country study to make the wild claim that we spend more per capita on clean energy (we’ll forget when the PM misspoke in the parliament about “renewables”) than “anywhere in the world” is pretty silly. Yet that’s what Morrison did, on the world stage. It’s rather Donald Trump like.

It turns out beyond the 14 countries in that study there are other nations that invest more per capita than we do — in clean energy broadly and in renewables more specifically……

But if the PM wants to crow about something his government has criticised in the domestic political setting that’s his choice.
However it was plain wrong to claim we are first. And unnecessary, given we do so well despite not being first.

When I first flagged this inaccuracy by the PM last Friday in a news package for Network Ten his office were quick to accuse me of being misleading and complained that when calling out the inaccuracy I didn’t specifically refer to the report which showed we were number one.

Never mind that the PM didn’t refer to the 14 country study either in his 15 minute speech. Apparently I should have done so in my one minute ten seconds package. Weird to expect me to cite a source the PM didn’t cite when making a claim the source didn’t make…….

The next tactic in the PMO complaints was to attack the credibility of the Australia Institute — which yes we can categorise as a left leaning think tank. Reminiscent of John Howard’s “who do you trust” campaign in 2004, I was asked (though it wasn’t really a question) which organisation do I trust more: the highly credible Bloomberg which did the 14 country study, or the ideologically compromised Australia Institute.

But the Australia Institute report didn’t contradict the Bloomberg study. It accepted it, simply pointing out it only examined 14 countries. The criticism for inaccuracy was levelled at the PM, who misused that study to claim first place over every single country across the globe, not Bloomberg. So which organisation anyone thinks is more or less credible just isn’t relevant. It is a red herring.

This is just one example of the way political spin doctors try and challenge entirely fair and reasonable reporting and commentary. Or the way some do, anyway. The funny thing is they become like the boy who cried wolf when they do so this way. Of course journalists and commentators make mistakes and misjudgements. Meaning that there is always a place for the media guardians of a PM or any politician to (politely) complain or correct.

But when they do so on flimsy ground, or no grounds like in this example, they make journalists and commentators instantly cynical of the next time they whinge, just like the boy who cries wolf.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

This is the Singleton Argus article that either the NSW Deputy-Premier or his office alleges is "seditious"


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'the offence [sedition] is one if the person urges by force or violence the overthrowing of a government, or interfering with an election, or encouraging other people to use – or groups of people – to use force or violence against other groups' [The Attorney-General, Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Alan Jones Radio Programme, 14 November 2005, quoted in Australian Parliamentary Library, "In Good Faith:Sedition Law in Australia", 23 August 2010]
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It appears that NSW Deputy-Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade & Liberal MP for Monaro, John Barilaro, is unhappy with journalists having an opinion about the mining industry, state government agencies or the region in which they live and work......



There were two articles published online by The Singleton Argus on 22 October 2019 which dealt with the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption's current review of lobbying activities, access and influence in this state.

The first was a local news article and the second an opinion piece by the same journalist on the same subject.

It was this second piece which is the allegedly "seditious" item that either the Deputy-Premier or his staff apparently decided included content intended to incite violence, public disorder or a public offence:
"Here we go again - the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is hearing evidence about mining approvals - what, haven't we learnt our lessons from the Doyles Creek and Mt Penny inquiries all those years ago?
This time ICAC's Operation Eclipse is not investigating actual corrupt conduct by individuals but rather it is seeking' to examine particular aspects of lobbying activities and the corruption risks involved in the lobbying of public authorities and officials.'
At the same time as ICAC is seeking information about the influence of lobbying on government decision making Planning Minister Rob Stokes announced the terms of reference for the review into the operations of the Independent Planning Commission.
Included in the terms of reference is a question about whether the IPC should exist at all.
Scary when one considers that the former ICAC commissioner David Ipp, QC was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald saying such a move was 'a recipe for corruption'.
The more things change the more they stay the same it would appear when it comes to planning state significant mining projects in NSW.
As an invited witness to this week's Operation Eclipse hearings NSW Minerals Council, chief executive officer Stephen Galilee voiced his strong opinions about the current state of mine approvals in NSW.
He is not happy that Bylong Coal Project was refused, that Dartbrook Underground was only half approved and that United Wambo and Rix's Creek were approved but it took too long so he was still very unhappy.
Mr Galilee is welcome is hold these opinions he works to promote mineral extraction in NSW but his opinions should not over ride due process.
We have seen what happens when mining licences are granted behind closed doors, people made millions often corruptly and the community is treated poorly or not considered at all.
No way should we go back to the bad old days in mine approvals.
We should be planning for our future where we have clean air to breath and new industries for our current mining workforce.
Instead of wasting time and money on the IPC review lets get started with planning for a just transition for our region.
The longer we put off the inevitable transition the harder it will hit our region - want to be part of that Mr Galilee?"

For the life of me I cannot see this as a journalistic call for citizens to man the barricades armed to the teeth and ready to do violence.

Perhaps in the future whichever of the Deputy-Premier's minions crafted that particular email should pause, open a dictionary and a copy of the Crimes Act before choosing his adjectives.

Then when he next rushes to the defence of his minister's 'mates' he won't rashly accuse a journalist of a grave unlawful act.

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'as long as the various sedition offences remain, governments will inevitably be tempted to use them improperly, especially when highly unpopular opinions are expressed' [Sydney Law Review,  (1992) Maher, L.W.,"The Use and Abuse of Sedition"]
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