24 October, 2013

The Rules: evidence and trends

Alright Internet, let’s clear a few things up:

Any given thing that happened is not necessarily evidence of that thing you’ve said is happening. Not necessarily.

So no, one bushfire is not necessarily evidence of dangerous climate change – but it may be, and that’s a discussion worth having. It just has to be had in a sensitive and rational way, not in the language of political soundbytes. The moment you start acting like your opponent is the moment you stop being any better than them.

However, if the only counter-argument you have is, “Oh, you shouldn’t politicise that,” then you don’t have much of a counter argument.

Yes, fire is a part of the Australian experience. In summer. New South Wales RFS standards for fuel reduction burns published in 2006 state that while southern NSW, south of the Illawarra should conduct controlled burns in autumn...
In northern NSW (generally Sydney north, and more particularly north of the Hunter district) bush fire hazard reduction burning is generally conducted in early spring, when fuels have dried out during the usual dry winter. http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/file_system/attachments/State/Attachment_20060131_C4C3FB83.pdf (page 8)
If you can see massive and catastrophic bushfires occurring a good two months before peak fire season and not at least think to yourself, “Bugger me, self! That’s a bit different,” then how thick are you?

Finally, if you need to look up Wikipedia to learn what the “rest of the world” thinks, then YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG and should immediately stop talking about anything.

For a start, Wikipedia is not Reddit. It’s intended for facts, not opinions, and the moderators of Wikipedia do a pretty good job of flagging articles that are questionable in their objectivity. Secondly, the entire point of Wikipedia is that it is crowd-sourced so there’s a strong likelihood that the article Minister Hunt is referencing in the interview above was written by an Australian. Thirdly, although Wikipedia is pretty good about weeding out non-objective content and general vandalism, that still takes time and if the page Greg Hunt mentioned has not already been edited to blame bushfires on Liberal politicians and bunyips by now, then the spirit of Aussie larrikinism is not what I remember.

Speaking of larrikinism, I can only assume the BBC bleeped out the word ‘crap’ to spare the sensibilities of international listeners, but if you’re an Australian who gets an attack of the vapours about “swearing” on the radio when someone quotes Prime Minister Tony “shit happens” Abbott to you, then you really, really need to get a grip.


  1. What is really crappy is that it has also been noted that the very same Wikipedia article Hunt mentions - that lists all the major Australian bushfires of the last 150 years or so- also details how much closer in frequency they have become. So I'm guessing its just a case of 'Sh*t Happens'


  2. Nice, we can rely on your calm, rational thinking once again. Climate change involves trends, & as such, we need to look in individual incidents in context. Bushfires in October in SE Australia, & Hurricane Sandy, are massive spikes in the data

    1. Thank you. And you're exactly right. To ignore shifts in the norm is folly.