The Bureau of Meteorology is going through a curious attack of credibility at the moment, for some absolutely bizarre reason. Even more bizarre is that their output is being questioned by those close to the Government – despite the fact that they are the Government agency specifically employed to be accurate about the weather. Senior advisors and business advocates close to the Government have been utilised as mouthpieces to question the accuracy and integrity of the agency, and today we’ve learned that even the Environment Minister has deliberately ignored information given to him directly by the Bureau when asked about issues of climate change in the press.
About this time last year, Environment Minister Greg Hunt was interviewed by BBC Radio on topics such as global warming and Australia’s extreme bushfire season. At the time, and if you can actually believe this, the environment minister – i.e. the guy who is politically responsible for this shit – said that he had “looked up what Wikipedia says” about bushfires, and through this ~thorough~ research had concluded that “bushfires are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year.” So therefore bushfires were simply part of “the Australian experience” and were therefore not caused or exacerbated by climate change – a concept which his Government rates as “absolute crap.“
These comments were seemingly made to back up comments made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who suggested that United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” after she suggested that climate change and Australia’s intensifying bushfires were linked.
But today it’s emerged that not only has the Bureau of Meteorology produced damning evidence concluding that man-made climate change is intrinsically linked to, and influences, extreme conditions commonly associated with intense bushfires, but that the Bureau had briefed the Environment Minister on exactly this issue a mere two weeks prior to the Wikipedia quote.
Papers obtained by Fairfax Media show that the Bureau’s director Rob Vertessy had told Greg Hunt, “A number of more recent studies are drawing probabilistic links between more extreme seasonal heat records and climate change, including the Australian summer of 2012-13.“
Subsequent briefings from the Bureau to the Government reveal the department had issued warnings in November of last year:
“Climate change experienced to date has increased the odds of severe weather conducive to severe bushfires occurring.“
“At a global scale, 2013 has seen neutral conditions in the Pacific Ocean (i.e. neither El Nino nor La Nina) meaning that natural large scale drivers have not been present. This means that the recent conditions over Australia cannot be explained by natural drivers.“
With the country on the verge of a summer predicted to be particularly long and hot, even by Australian standards, you can’t help but wonder if Greg Hunt’s Wikipedia browsing has yielded any ideas for proactive action for the consequences of the nasty bushfire season that’s about to jump the proverbial highway.
Photo: Stefan Postles via Getty Images.