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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.
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.
And...FYA Dr Paul Reid, co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson says studies have shown that there are approx 62,000 bush fires every year of which 31,000 are either arson or suspected arson every year.— British & Commonwealth Mil (2CG) 💂🇬🇧 🇲🇾 🇳🇿 (@BritComMil) January 6, 2020
Yes some are arson.— Sir Moosie (@Supermoosie) January 6, 2020
So how did all the others start then?
Record hottest year
Record dryest yr
Record hottest day averaged across Australia 3 days in a row ( huge 1.3c above 2007 record)
Links between climate change and the rate that all fires are grow well proven.
Are you kidding? Any fire set by an arson is spinning out of control, embers flying km’s to light new blazes. The condition of the country due to climate change has given the breeding grounds for the catastrophe. At this point Australia is basically kindling. pic.twitter.com/qgc2O6T6Kl— Lexi - TS7🦋😱💜💖🦋 (@lexicane) January 3, 2020
There are on average over a thousand 'arson arrests' per year in Australia. They don't relate directly to these bush fires, but to illegal negligent behaviour (backburning without permission, barbecues when banned, failing to obey fire safety regs etc). Arson is a red herring.— Chris Lowndes (@chrislowndes) January 6, 2020
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.
Arson jihad against Australia set the fires. #WeThePeople KNOW. After robing, raping, consuming and kidnapping Haiti's children on behalf of your "charity", how dare you try your international grifting stunt again?— California Granny (@BAN_MSM_LIES) January 6, 2020
Once again... Almost 200 people arrested in Australia for ARSON... 85% of the fires have been started by people. 55+% of those via ARSON. Nothing to do with Climate Change.. Main issues are the #Left who have refused proper backburning and fire breaks. Not CLIMATE CHANGE!— Age of Disclosure (@ageofdisclosure) January 7, 2020
God you people are dumb. Most of these fire were started by arson! I pray for the people of Australia it’s horrible!— Jen Foard (@jfoard) January 7, 2020
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.
Yeah there are, climate change isn't one of them. The government not allowing back burning in the main part of Australia is what has cause the other fires. There are fires every summer in Australia. It's worse this year due to arson.— Sammy (@supersammycharm) January 6, 2020
@piersmorgan @CraigKellyMP— Stephen Hauville (@StephenHauville) January 7, 2020
Not the hottest temperature recorded. Check
Australia’s scientists say no relationship fires & temperature.
Years of left leaning local governments have prevented hazard reduction & appropriate back burning.
200 yes 200 arrested for arson. Facts Mate.. https://t.co/M7SZDAAmWJ
These climate activists lie!!!! Story is out today!!! Over 200 people charged for arson in Australia!!! The activists are the danger to us!!! Wake the hell up!!! https://t.co/jSGi5g6xK5— ♥️💙Motomom (@Motomom128302) January 6, 2020
Large number of people charged with arson in lighting bush fires. People dead, property destroyed.— Jason Ryan (@jasonAvid4121) January 3, 2020
When fires have been put out and the arsonists have been charged, it will be time to examine what affiliations these arsonists had.
Has major eco-terrorism arrived in Australia? pic.twitter.com/A9OGwlFDlQ
Australian Fires = ARSON. Those pushing climate change agenda should be investigated for involvement. Were those 180+ people arrested for arson paid and if so by whom? Seems funny that many people would simultaneously just decide to burn Australia to the ground.— iconoclasticmegalomaniac (@yayayay1991) January 6, 2020
I think we can reasonably suggest at this point that many fires were started by liberals and other feminists in order to push a "climate emergency" narrative. When will liberals hit rock bottom?https://t.co/nFBaFae00d— NORSKK® (@NORSKK) January 6, 2020
How do over a hundred fires simultaneously start around Australia? media is complicit in hiding these arson figures. Begs the question are many of these arsonists 'climate change arsonist' @EmeraldRobinson @RitaPanahi @nyunggai https://t.co/W3GYwnSofd— Q'dInAussie (@darc54) January 6, 2020
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.
You are aware over 200 people in Australia have been arrested for starting fires!— Binh (@BinhBaeagca) January 6, 2020
BC fires Arson
Ab fires Arson
ON fires Arson
CA fires Arson
Do the math
But a excellent reason for liberals to tax grab,
So why would you care, right! pic.twitter.com/F67RyHetEO
Let's take a look at the locations of the Australia fires (that have had 187 arson convictions) vs where they have plans for a new High speed rail project— Shawn Daniels (@ShawnDanielspkr) January 6, 2020
And let's do the same for CA
Prob just a coincidence pic.twitter.com/L0fEY5PebD
Climate terrorists, they're in Canada too and they'll take advantage of heat waves to deliberately set wildfires. They're also in the highest ranks of government and news media.https://t.co/i15kwMfo42— Mr. Surveillance 🇨🇦 (@surveilz) January 4, 2020
Australia arrests man for starting 9 fires:https://t.co/1AvVxgBFnN
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.
Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org