May I reply as briefly as I can to Neil Barraclough’s letter (BA 19/12) and make the following points:-
- I was disappointed (and still am) that an organisation calling itself the East Gippsland Wildfire Taskforce (EGWT) could have a day forum of presentations when the question and influence of climate change on catastrophic fires was “only touched on briefly”. Neil does not address this question in his letter.
- The article Neil criticised was written from one of my press releases issued in the middle of the state election campaign. My press release was not questioning or criticising the bona fides of the speakers at the forum but was critical of the approach of the EGWT forum in general.
- Best science (I am talking CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, NASA et al) clearly indicates climate change is making bushfires more frequent, fire seasons longer and that big fires are getting worse.
- Neil suggested that my knowledge may have been improved by a visit to some burnt areas. I did exactly that in 2003. My experiences and impressions, as well as Neil’s own, are “anecdotal accounts” of which he seemingly disapproves.
- It is unusual to provide footnotes in a brief press release – especially during a political campaign – and in my 14 press releases (see below) I only occasionally did so. These releases were used on at least 20 occasions in the media and no footnote was reproduced by any journalist as far as I am aware. At least half of these releases emphasized both the threat of heatwaves and catastrophic fires.
- Arguments about the phasing out of logging and plantations hinge on questions about carbon sinks and how we are going to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Neil also implies that there will be no work in the bush when logging is phased out whereas I insist there should be more. The critical question is that the jobs should be there first.
- Neil finishes his correspondence with a colourful quote from Voltaire with the implication that I believe in “absurdities” (climate change?) which I have been pushing for my own ends – whatever they may be. Perhaps Neil can tell us? It may be perceived that many at the EGWT forum have vested interests far above any that I may have.
- The science of climate change is founded on basic physics – the greenhouse effect – and the acceptance of this is the major difference between Neil (and possibly a substantial part of the EGWT forum) and myself.
- The pity of all this is that we agree that catastrophic fires are a huge problem and that a large number of actions are necessary to protect both life and property.