Catalyst is supposed to be a science programme, but ends up looking more like a low-budget disaster movie.
Last night’s episode was a case in point:
… But fire is changing. Over the past decade, every forested continent has seen an alarming surge in large, uncontrollable fires. [pause for dramatic effect] Mega-fires.
Prof David Bowman
The sort of metaphoric equivalent of an atomic bomb, that’s what a mega fire is, it’s muscular, it’s mean, it’s big, it’s aggressive.
Prof Tom Swetnam
Really fast burning fires. And their local intensity is just amazing.… these are extraordinary fire events.
So extraordinary, they demolish the very ecosystems that have thrived with fire for millennia.
Because of climate change we’re going to get changes in our vegetation type and our ecosystems that mean there will be more fuel available to burn that previously wouldn’t have burnt. That will mean fires will become harder to suppress. Because of climate change our fire seasons are getting longer. And so we have less time available to us to do the fuel treatments we need before it’s no longer safe to do those sorts of fuel treatments.
Prof David Bowman
I am worried that the worst case scenario is that we get a tumbling out of control of the feedbacks between more fires, more emissions of CO2, more climate change, more hotter weather, less rain, you can go into a fire spiral making it harder for us to pull the brakes back on.
Holy crap, we’re all gonna die!
While there have been some significant ‘megafires’ in the past few years, people (especially environmentalists who have a vested interest) have such short memories, that they do not even bother to look back at the historical records – which themselves are a blink of an eye in geological terms.
On the very same day that Catalyst was spreading alarmism, the Environment and Public Works Committee of the US Senate was conducting hearings into this exact topic.
Dr David South, retired Emeritus Professor from the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, gave evidence regarding the relative importance of climate change and human activity:
In the lower 48 states there have been about ten “extreme megafires,” which I define as burning more than 1 million acres. Eight of these occurred during cooler than average decades. These data suggest that extremely large megafires were 4-times more common before 1940 (back when carbon dioxide concentrations were lower than 310 ppmv). What these graphs suggest is that we cannot reasonably say that anthropogenic global warming causes extremely large wildfires.
Seven years ago, this Committee conducted a hearing about “Examining climate change and the media” [Senate Hearing 109-1077]. During that hearing, concern was expressed over the weather, which was mentioned 17 times, hurricanes, which were mentioned 13 times, and droughts, which were mentioned 4 times. In the 41,000 word text of that hearing, wildfires (that occur every year) were not mentioned at all. I am pleased to discuss forestry practices because, unlike hurricanes, droughts, and the polar vortex, we can actually promote forestry practices that will reduce the risk of wildfires. Unfortunately, some of our national forest management policies have, in my view, contributed to increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
In conclusion, I am certain that attempts to legislate a change in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have no effect on reducing the size of wildfires or the frequency of droughts. In contrast, allowing active forest management to create economically-lasting forestry jobs in the private sector might reduce the fuel load of dense forests.
Catalyst concluded thus:
In the politically-charged debate over whether climate change or high fuel loads are responsible for severe fires, it’s important to go back to basics. Fires need three things: oxygen, fuel and heat. By adding not one, but two of these critical elements, we are stoking the furnace in an age of mega-fires.
Far from being equal contributors to mega-fires, changes in climate are barely significant when compared with other factors and influences. But that doesn’t fit with the apocalyptic view of climate change required by Catalyst and the ABC.