Update: SBS restored the article, but added a notice at the top of the piece, stating:
Speaking earlier this week, Mr Packham confirmed his position on what is causing the current severe bushfire conditions. Addressing the matter on Sky News, he said fuel loads remain the core issue.
“The most important (factor) is the dryness of the fuel, which comes from the hot dry weather,” he said.
“It’s not behind the lot of it, it’s behind all of it. The theory is as solid as the universal theory of gravitation.”
SBS has attempted to contact Mr Packham on whether he holds the same views he expressed in the original 2013 article refuting links between climate change and bushfires at that time.
This article was originally published on 21/10/13.
Yesterday I tweeted a quote from an SBS News article from 2013 which featured top bushfire researcher David Packham calling links between bushfire disaster and climate change “an absolute nonsense”.
I gave them credit where credit was due for the balance it suggested they may, after all, be capable of, albeit while acknowledging how rare it was.
Unusual balance from @SBSNews:
“If there is any global warming, the global warming is so slow & so small that the #bushfire event is totally overrun by the fuel state.” – leading scientist & retired Monash Uni researcher David Packham#AusPol #bushfireshttps://t.co/3MwJf0GG9g
— Dave Pellowe 🇦🇺 (@DavePellowe) November 12, 2019
I tagged SBS News in it, but that may have been a mistake. Within an hour several followers noticed the article had mysteriously and coincidentally suddenly disappeared.
In its place, a standard error message was displayed for pages which don’t exist (or don’t exist anymore) with a photo of an astronaut and the words, “Oops! it looks like this page is lost in space.”
Was I dreaming it? Was it too good to be true that the altogether redundant national broadcaster might actually reflect some expert commentary from the scientific community as a counterpoint to the dominant media narrative?
Using my super-sleuth, investigative journalism skills (Google) I discovered a cache of the article, “a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 30 October 2019”.
Hurrah! SBS News will be delighted – I’m almost sure – to learn the accidental deletion of their moment of balanced journalism as per the law and their funding obligations has been recovered. It is copied in full and without alteration below for posterity, just in case Google’s cache also mysteriously loses it.
Fires not due to climate change: expert
Linking the bushfire disaster in NSW to climate change is “an absolute nonsense” and reducing fuel loads in the Australian bush is urgently needed, a leading scientist says.
Retired Monash University researcher David Packham says global warming is a gradual process which doesn’t explain major bushfires.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has been accused of playing politics by linking the NSW bushfires to the new federal government’s climate change policies.
But Mr Packham says there is no link.
“It’s an absolute nonsense,” he told AAP.
“The very best interpretation is (it’s) misguided by them not understanding how bushfires actually do work in Australia.
“If there is any global warming, the global warming is so slow and so small that the bushfire event is totally overrun by the fuel state.”
Mr Packham has previously accused “latte conservationists” of having too much influence on forest management.
He says fuel loads are now the heaviest they have been since human occupation of the continent and Aboriginal methods need to be adopted.
Flying over the Blue Mountains in recent years had been “frightening”, he said.
“There’s been this determination over the last 10 to 20 years to not treat our country in the same way the indigenous people treated it for 30,000 years,” Mr Packham said.
“The concept has been every fire is a bad fire.
“In the Australian context you need fire to keep the bush healthy and safe.”
Mr Packham said Western Australia had successfully reduced fuel for decades and up to 20 per cent of bushland should be burned annually.
“If we got to 10 per cent then our area burnt would drop by 90 per cent and our intensity would drop by at least that and undoubtedly more,” he said.
He said major fires had occurred every 10 to 20 years since records began in 1915.
Mr Packham called for an end to playing politics with bushfires and instead called for leadership based on scientific evidence.
A tweet from Mr Bandt last week linked the Abbott government to more bushfires, while Greens leader Christine Milne said it was “climate censorship” to not discuss global warming and bushfires.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said he was worried about singling out individual events and using that as an example of climate change.
“Climate change is about overall trends,” he told ABC TV.
“You can never pick the individual drought or the individual weather event and say that’s one because of climate change.”
However, Mr Burke acknowledged climate change was increasing the intensity of extreme weather events.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce described Mr Bandt’s statement as “inflammatory”.
“I don’t think (the people who lost their homes) will appreciate someone playing short term politics,” Senator Joyce told ABC TV.
He said fire activity was not unusual.
Four days after this apparition of an article was updated for the final time Andrew Bolt blogged that the ABC’s 7:30 Report had been less balanced in their coverage of the 2013 NSW bushfire emergency.
“Bushfire expert David Packham tried to tell 7.30 we had to burn our bush every 10 years to cut the leaf litter that turns our fires into infernos, a level of burning NSW doesn’t come close to reaching. But after just 69 words, 7.30 handed back his microphone to chatterers whose living depends on the warming scare – two green activists and a scientist from Climate System Science.”
Bolt quotes Packham describing the experience with the other taxpayer-funded national broadcaster to him.
“Briefly, at 7.30 request I came into Melbourne a three-hour drive and spent 50 minutes with the 7.30 folk. I estimate about 35 minutes was in interview. I was asked to confirm that the fires in NSW were unprecedented in being so early in the season. I said no, they were not and offered information from Luke and Mc Arthur “Bushfires in Australia -1976” (Aust Govt Publishing Service) which was not accepted.
When the question was put as to the role of global warming, again I said “not involved”. That was not an acceptable answer and it was clear that it did not fit with the predetermined agenda. My sadness at the termination of my life-long love of the ABC because of this very unethical journalism – at least of the news division – is not only sadness but also a touch of fear for our democracy.”