australia arson

Marcel Poncu/Shutterstock

Climate deniers are obsessed with arson as the cause of the Australia fires

With nearly 200 arsonists arrested in Australia some say this disproves climate change. The reality is more complicated.


Siobhan Ball


Posted on Jan 7, 2020   Updated on May 19, 2021, 6:42 pm CDT

With the revelation that 187 people have been arrested for arson in Australia, deliberately starting some of the bush fires that have ravaged the continent over the past few months, many on the right are claiming this disproves the argument that climate change is behind that catastrophe.

However, the truth is more complicated than that.

Between 50-87 % (the variation is due to different means of data collection) of Australia’s bush fires are man-made, and those numbers remain consistent from year-to-year.

This year is no exception, yet the scale of the bush fires has been catastrophic.

Additionally, 29 of this year’s arrests were made between July and September, before the catastrophic fires began. Many of the arrests made after that point were cases of negligent fire-starting rather than intentional, still classified as arson because they resulted from prohibited behaviors, like lighting a campfire or burning off excess vegetation at times where there was a total fire ban in place.

That means many of these cases of “arson” were actually the result of small, contained blazes that raged out of control due to environmental conditions, conditions that are the direct result of climate change.

Essentially, arsonists are a scapegoat for conservatives to point to instead of talking about the impact of climate change on Australia’s bush fires. And climate change denialists are latching onto the news hard, using it as a way to shoot down any discussion of climate change, since it doesn’t fit their preferred world narrative.

While some are limiting themselves to tweeting aggressively at celebrities and climate activists about how they are wrong, others have bought into conspiracy theories about the fires as well.

A number of climate denialists on Twitter seem to believe that environmental activists are the ones responsible for the fires. Some inaccurately blame the Green Party’s policies for exacerbating the fires once they started, but others outright accuse climate change activists of starting the fires themselves to prove the validity of their cause.

Others believe the government is responsible, either setting the fires to justify a carbon tax (which climate denialists see as a cynical cash grab) or to clear land for building purposes, such as a high-speed rail.


Climate scientists say that this summer is only a preview of what is to come and that bush fire season will only get worse each year unless climate change is addressed.


Share this article
*First Published: Jan 7, 2020, 9:52 am CST