SUBJECT: Bushfires in
Australia; Climate Change.
HOST: Australia is taking action on climate change, but you won’t engage in reckless job destroying and economy crunching targets. Those are the words of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his defence of his country’s approach to climate change. But will the fires which he now calls a disaster change attitudes in a country where tens of thousands of people employed in coal mining. We’re joined by Craig Kelly a backbench MP in the Government’s Liberal Party and also by Catherine King who is a Shadow Minister for the Opposition Labor Party. Morning to you both.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good morning
CRAIG KELLY: Yes, good morning.
HOST: Thank you for taking the time to join us this morning. Craig Kelly, explain to people listening here who have heard scientists say look of course climate change doesn’t lead directly to fires, but it does lead to the conditions which make them much more likely and listeners may just think of course Australia, now, in its own interests needs to do more to tackle climate change.
KELLY: Well firstly, our commitments under the Paris Agreement when it comes on a per capita basis are one of the most strongest targets in the world. Our targets are from 2005 actually per capita are more than a fifty percent reduction by 2030. Now, also when it comes to the fires down here the three things that cause fires, we know, are drying of the environment, the winds, and also some type of spark that sets the fires off. Now, we have a long record of rainfall here and there is simply no trend in our rainfall record down here in south east Australia whatsoever. Yes we are going through a terrible, terrible drought at the moment, a lot of people doing it very tough with that drought. But if you look at the evidence and look at the records, there is no trend in 100 years. And that’s what our climate scientists tell us.
HOST: So just to be clear, Mr Kelly. I want to be clear in what you’re saying, you are saying there is no link between these fires in your view and global climate change?
KELLY: Well firstly there is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment and on this our climate scientists down here have been very clear and they have said that there is no link between drought and climate change.
HOST: Let me put that to Catherine King. Catherine, what do you make of that?
KING: Well look first can I just say to your listeners thank you very much for the outpouring we’ve had from the UK in particular and other countries around the world about what’s happening in Australia at the moment. This is unprecedented and we are right in the middle of a fire season where we’ve got 183 fires burning across the country, many of them at emergency levels, people being evacuated. But it is absolutely clear that we are facing drier, hotter summers that are leading to the sort of conditions that we’ve seen with these fires, and we are kidding ourselves if we don’t say that our climate has changed and that climate change is playing a part in what we are seeing across the nation.
HOST: But Mr Kelly is speaking, isn’t he, for many Australians who don’t believe this and who believe the economy depends on mining jobs and this is in many ways a damaging plot to undermine the Australian economy.
KELLY: *Chuckles*… That’s not exactly right, but anyway….
HOST: You’ll have a chance to put it in your own words in a second, Mr Kelly. Catherine King first.
KING: To be quite honest with in the Parliament, Craig is seen well on the far fringe of these issues, he’s certainly not seen in the middle of these issues. Craig would be one of the people who is on the far right of the climate change debate. I think he would perhaps not describe himself as that, but he doesn’t speak for many Australians. He speaks for a small proportion of Australians who have those views.
HOST: Well if he didn’t speak for any of you at all, you wouldn’t have a Government that takes the position that it does. It’s won an election on that basis. Craig Kelly, is that a fair summary of your position?
KELLY: People here in Australia understand if the look at the evidence and look at the science there is nothing that we can do here in Australia, by sending billions more off to China to buy solar panels to replace our coal fired electricity generators, that is not going to change the weather here in Australia one iota, and it’s not going to stop one bushfire. What we’re seeing down here, the major problem that we have has been a lack of what we call hazard reduction burning, which is the practice that the Aboriginals of Australia practiced for tens of thousands of years where they ensured, they went through the native Australian bush and they burnt it during the cooler times. But when we have this extreme weather, like we’re having at the moment.
HOST: A last word to Catherine King.
KING: Look, that is just, what Craig has said is just totally and utterly wrong. And this is the problem we’ve got. We’ve got people in positions of power, like Craig, overly influencing the Government and its meant that our Parliament has been unable, I’ve been an MP for 20 years, and we have been unable to deal with this. Hazard reduction can only occur when the conditions are suitable for it to do so. When you’ve got a dry climate, when you’ve got the sorts of conditions that we’ve been seeing over the last few years, you cannot undertake hazard reduction. I have been a volunteer firefighter, you talk to anybody who knows anything about the way in which hazard reduction works and climate change is having an effect on our capacity to reduce the hazards.
HOST: Catherine King, we’ve got to leave it there I’m afraid. Catherine King and Craig Kelly thank you very much for joining us.
TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – BBC RADIO 4 TODAY PROGRAM
SUBJECT: Bushfires in
Australia; Climate Change.