Recent climate change has not caused Australian bushfires. Besides the fact that many of the fires are set by people, either intentionally or by accident, a major cause of Australia's fire problem has been the high 'fuel loads,' underbrush that, left to accumulate over years, acts as a tinder box for bushfires. Craig Kelly, Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives (Hughes, New South Wales), told ITV's Good Morning Britain on January 6:
Now, we have record fuel loads on the ground, … and every single royal commission we have had from our past bushfires have said that we have to reduce those fuel loads. And that is the main issue. And yet we have failed to do so.
Kelly went on to explain that the Royal Commission in 2009 "called for a minimum burning of 5% of that state's forest in Victoria. That would amount, over the past two years of something like 770,000 hectares that should have been back burned and the actual number was something only about 200,000."
Surrey, British Columbia-based forest microclimate specialist, Rob Scagel agrees and said, "Fuel load rules. Spending resources and intellectual capital on climate change considerations is as effective at mitigating bushfires as changing the colour of the paper used in reporting them."
Later in the interview, Kelly pointed out that drought was also an important contributor to the bushfires but explained,
If you look at … the long-term rainfall records in Australia, there is simply no trend. As CO2 has increased there has been no trend. The first 20 years of this century, we've had more rainfall in Australia than the first 20 years of the last century.
Kelly was correct again. Here is the graph of rainfall from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Arson apparently also plays a significant role in Australian bushfires. ABC (Australia) News reported in September 2019 that:
Dr Paul Read, co-director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, said the great majority of bushfires are deliberately lit by "cunning, furtive and versatile criminals".
"About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson," he said.
"The remainder are usually due to reckless fire lighting or even just children playing with fire."
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