Jeremy Corbyn needs to do the Maths on Boundary Commission Proposals

In my previous post I noted how some Labour MPs were falsely claiming that the Boundary Commission’s recommendations for England and Wales were party-political gerrymandering. Labour Party Leader, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP makes a quite different claim to some of his more desperate MPs.

Corbyn claims that since last December (which the Boundary Commission used as a basis of the boundary changes) the electorate has grown by two million people. That is nearly 5% of the electorate. As a result of the wrong figures “you cannot deliver a fair and democratic result on the basis of information that is a year out of date.
Actually it is possible for it to be fair and democratic if the growth in the electorate is evenly spread across the country. That should be a default position that Corbyn needs to disprove. The question is, how much would the imbalance have to be to wipe out the disadvantage Labour gets from the boundary review – a disadvantage due to current 231 Labour seats in England and Wales having on average 3515 fewer constituents than the 329 Conservative seats in May 2015. Let us do the maths, ignoring the 13 seats held by other parties and the Speaker. To even up average constituency size Labour constituencies would need about 812,000 extra voters (231 x 3515), and for the rest of the two million to be evenly spread between the other 560 constituencies. That is about 2120 extra voters. It is not impossible that the average Labour constituency has added 5635 to the electoral roll (>8% extra) and the average Conservative constituency has added 2120 to the electoral roll (<3% extra). Winning the millions on Lotto is not impossible either. But both are highly unlikely, as the reason for the Boundary Review is that Constituency sizes have diverged, with greater growth in the South of England than in the North of England and Wales. So like other Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyns’ opposition to the Boundary Commission’s proposals seem to be opposition to greater equality and fairness in the British democratic processes.
Two graphs to illustrate this point. Figure 1 from the previous post shows the average constituency size by party and region.

Figure 4 from the previous post shows that average constituency size per region is made much closer to the average constituency size for England and Wales in the proposed changes.

 

Kevin Marshall

Are the Proposed Boundary Changes Designed to hurt the Labour Party?

Yesterday the proposed new boundaries for England and Wales were published by the Boundary Commission. Nationally the total number of constituencies will be reduced from 650 to 600, still leaving Britain with one of the largest number of representatives of any democratic parliament. In England the reduction is from 533 to 501 and in Wales from 40 to 29. The UK Polling Report website reports

The changes in England and Wales result in the Conservatives losing 10 seats, Labour losing 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats losing 4 and the Greens losing Brighton Pavilion (though notional calculations like these risk underestimating the performance of parties with isolated pockets of support like the Greens and Lib Dems, so it may not hit them as hard as these suggest).

The Guardian Reports under the banner Boundary changes are designed to hurt us at next election, says Labour MP

Jon Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister leading the process for Labour, said the party was convinced the proposals were motivated by party politics.

The Manchester Evening News carries this comment

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, accused the Conservatives of ‘old-fashioned gerrymandering’.
I will contest these proposals, because I believe they are a naked attempt to increase the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party at the expense of coherent parliamentary representation,” he said.

This are quite a serious claim to make, particularly as the Boundary Commission clearly states

The Boundary Commission for England is the independent and impartial body that is considering where the boundaries of the new constituencies should be. We must report to Parliament in September 2018.
In doing so, we have to ensure that every new constituency has roughly the same number of electors: no fewer than 71,031 and no more than 78,507. While proposing a set of boundaries which are fairer and more equal, the Commission will also try to reflect geographic factors and local ties. The Commission will also look at the boundaries of existing constituencies and local government patterns in redrawing the map of parliamentary constituency boundaries across England.
In undertaking the 2018 Review, we rely heavily on evidence from the public about their local area. Though we have to work within the tight electorate thresholds outlined above, we seek to recommend constituency boundaries that reflect local areas as much as we can. You can find more detailed guidance in our Guide to the 2018 Review.

I thought I would look at the figures myself to see whether the Boundary Commission has done a fair job overall, or has basically lied, providing a deliberately partisan result, that the UK Polling Report has been complicit in supporting.
For previous posts I downloaded the results of the May 2015 General Election by constituency. I then spilt the results into the regions of England and Wales.
Figure 1 shows the average size of constituency by Region and Party. Spk is the Speaker of the House of Commons.

On average the Conservative held constituencies had 3815 more voters in than Labour held ones. But there are large regional differences. Figure 2 shows the number of constituencies by region and political party.

In the South East and South West, where Labour have larger average constituency sizes they have very few seats. In these regions, the regional average seat size is greater than the England and Wales average, so there will be proportionately less seat reductions. The Conservatives, with the vast majority of seats in these regions do not lose from a reduction in the national total and a more equitable distribution. In the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber, Labour are well represented, but have smaller average seat sizes than the Conservatives. In the North West and in Wales Labour are well represented, the average seat sizes in Labour seats are similar to Conservative seats, but the regional average seat sizes are smaller than the England and Wales average. Smaller average seat sizes in these regions will hit Labour harder than the Conservatives due to Labour’s higher representation.
The only exception to the England and Wales picture is London. The region has larger than average constituencies at present, the average constituency size of Labour constituencies is bigger than Conservative constituencies and over 60% of the 73 constituencies are Labour held. But still the region and Labour lose seats, though proportionately less than elsewhere.
The effect of the revisions in shown in the average seat size. In Figure 3 with less seats the average seat size increases, but in some regions by far more than others, resulting in much less regional variation from the proposed boundary changes.

Figure 4 emphasizes the more even distribution of seat size. Currently, the variation of average constituency by region from England and Wales average is between -14740 (Wales) and +4517 (South East). Under the proposals, the variation is between -1160 (East Midlands) and + 2135 (London). https://manicbeancounter.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/fig4variationewave.jpg

In London’s case it could be argued for another two constituencies, but this is hardly significant. Also, given that London MPs spend their week far nearer to their constituents than any other region, an extra 2-3% of people to represent is hardly a burden.
Finally I have done my own estimated impact on Labour, Conservative and Green seats based on changes in regional seat average sizes in Figure 5. If though I do not include the Lib-Dems, the results are very similar to UK Polling Report. The much more even (and therefore fairer) distribution of seats, along with a modest reduction in the total, disadvantages the Labour Party far more than the Conservatives, despite having two-thirds of the seats.

The Labour Party MPs who are doubting the independence of the Boundary Commission should apologize. The evidence is clearly against them.

Kevin Marshall

Going for Brexit or denying the EU Referendum

The Rt Hon David Davies MP and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU gave an update to the House of Commons today. He made quite clear what Brexit means

Naturally, people want to know what Brexit will mean.
Simply, it means the UK leaving the European Union. We will decide on our borders, our laws, and taxpayers’ money.
It means getting the best deal for Britain – one that is unique to Britain and not an ‘off the shelf’ solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe – but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services.

He went on to lay out the principles on which Britain would proceed.

…as we proceed, we will be guided by some clear principles. First, as I said, we wish to build a national consensus around our position. Second, while always putting the national interest first, we will always act in good faith towards our European partners. Third, wherever possible we will try to minimise any uncertainty that change can inevitably bring. And, fourth, crucially, we will – by the end of this process – have left the European Union, and put the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.

On other words Britain will Brexit is in a very British fashion.

– It will be from principles, not from specific objectives or adhering to specific rules.
– Britain will act honourably, something that the British have long been known for commercial dealings.
– It will recognize that other EU members have interests as well. The outcome being aimed for is where Britain’s relationship to the EU is based on co-operation and trade where both sides are net winners.
– At the end of the process Britain will have a more sovereign Parliament. That is, the democratically elected Government will be able to decide the future course of country, for better or worse.

Text is at ConservativeHome
Emily Thornberry MP, speaking for the Labour Party, gave a somewhat different perspective from about 13:10

– Strategy consists of clearly laid out and concrete plan.
– There are areas of policy that should placed outside of the scope of a sovereign Parliament, such “workers rights” and guarantees for EU Nationals currently resident in the UK.
– A “positive vision” consists of definite objectives.
– You listen to outside gloomy prophesies that support your perspective.
– The Government are now rushing to start negotiation, without a well-thought plan. Given that the Government is delaying triggering Article 50 until 2017, the means she is wanting a slower pace. But on 24th June when the referendum result was announced, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was all for triggering Article 50 straight away. Is this another open split with the Labour Leader, or an about-face in Labour policy?
– Article 50 should not be triggered without a parliamentary vote to authorize.

On triggering Article 50 David Davies pointed out 20.35 there was a referendum bill that went through the House of Commons, and was voted for 6 to 1. Emily Thornberry voted in favour. It was made perfectly clear by the then Foreign Secretary at the time that the EU referendum was not a consultation, or an advice to parliament, but a decision by the electorate. The words of the Act do not state that, but people were lead to believe that in the campaign. Most importantly Will Straw, leader of Britain Stronger in Europe (the official Remain campaign) said the decision was for the voters.

RE: THE FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EU AND THE REFERENDUM
On 23rd June you will get to vote on the EU Referendum and decide whether Britain remains in or leaves Europe.

Apart from the inaccuracy of naming the decision as whether to leave the geographical continent rather than the political organisation, the statement could not be clearer. Yet the losers in the Referendum want to re-interpret the meaning of the result.

Kevin Marshall

The EU Referendum – The end of the Labour Party or the United Kingdom?

In the previous post I used Chris Hanretty’s estimated the referendum vote split for the 574 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales to look at the pattern of voting. In particular I found that a disproportionate number of the constituencies with strong votes either for remaining in the EU or leaving the EU have a Labour Party MP.

The graphic below shows the split by region for constituencies with Labour MPs. The strongest Remain votes are concentrated in London, whilst the majority of constituencies voted for Leave.

This is not the full picture. Most of the Labour Party MPs still have a desire to become the party of Government. At a minimum, they would have to win enough seats to become the largest party to have a chance of power. Of the 573 parliamentary seats in England and Wales Labour came second in 212. Of these, 58 had majorities of less than 12% of the popular vote. This would mean winning 56 from the Conservatives and 2 from the Liberal Democrats.

The problem for Labour is that these target constituencies exhibit similar patterns to the existing Labour constituencies. That is, there was support for Remain in London, and support for Leave in much of the rest of the country.  The differences between existing and target Labour seats are slight. The proportion of seats that voted Leave is slightly higher (78% against 69%), whilst the constituencies that voted at least 60% Leave is lower (29% against 39%) when compared to existing Labour constituencies.

Adding these target seats to the existing seats makes very little difference to the split between London and the rest of England and Wales, except for downgrading the relative importance of London in relation to the Midlands and the North West of England.

The elephant in the room is Scotland, where Labour lost 40 seats to the SNP. It is likely that every single one of these voted to Remain in the EU. This compares to just 8 Labour losses in England and Wales, everyone to the Conservatives and 7 calculated by Chris Hanretty to have voted for Leave. To make themselves electable in Scotland and maintain support in London where up to 40% of the membership live, Labour must support some policy of opposing Brexit. But this would scupper their chances of winning more seats most of England and Wales, and might help maintain support for UKIP. This is particularly true in the North and Midlands where UKIP are strongest. This is illustrated in the table below.

This gives the biggest issue of them all. If Labour manage to revive from their present turmoil and become the largest party at the next election, then the price of power might be the breakup of the United Kingdom. But this is unlikely to happen if in 2020 Brexit remains the over-riding political issue. If Brexit ceases to be an issue, Jeremy Corbyn, in hanging onto power might be doing the country a service by ensuring the breakup of the Labour Party into two unelectable factions.

Kevin Marshall

 

 

The Democratic Deficit in the Referendum Result

During the EU Referendum campaign all the main political parties backed the Remain campaign. The opinion polls predicted a final 52/48 split for the Remain vote. The final vote was 52/48 win for leaving the EU, sending shock waves around the world. This seems quite a narrow win. However, Chris Hanretty, a Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia, has estimated the referendum vote split for the 574 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales. The actual vote also covered the 76 constituencies in Scotland and Northern Island, along with Gibraltar. This was not a simple task, as the vote was counted by local Government areas, which rarely coincide with the constituencies. He estimated that 421 of these 574 constituencies likely voted for Leave.
However, there was no geographical split of the figures. I therefore classified the constituencies by region, along with putting the estimated vote into bands, with shades of green for a majority to Leave the EU and shades of pink/red for a majority to Remain in the EU.

There is a huge divergence between the regions. London was the only region to vote Remain in England and Wales, with 71% of constituencies in favour. The next nearest pro-EU region was the South East, with 39% of constituencies in favour. Furthermore London accounted for 22 of the 26 constituencies with greater than 70% of the vote in favour of Remain. What is quite worrying for future political consensus is that in 39% of constituencies the vote was at least 60% for a position for the majority vote.

The split by political party is also revealing. Of the 574 constituencies, 330 have Conservative MPs, 231 have Labour MPs and the remaining 12 seats are split between four other parties.
The Conservative constituency split is as follows.

The Conservative support is mostly in the South of England and the Midlands. The divergence is slightly less extreme than for the total, with 94 of the 330 constituencies having at least 60% for the majority vote.
The Labour Party constituency split is as follows.

The Labour Party support is mostly in the North of England, the West Midlands, London and Wales. The divergence in vote is more extreme than for the total, with 123 of the 231 constituencies having at least 60% for the majority vote. Over half of the constituencies with a greater than 60% Remain vote in England and Wales (34 of 54) are Labour. Also over half of the constituencies with a greater than 60% Leave vote in England and Wales (89 of 168) are Labour. Yet Labour have just 40% of the Parliamentary seats. What is worse for the Party, the divergence is regional. The Remain constituencies are concentrated in London. All the other core regions have a strong Leave vote. Even worse, the Party activists are strongly Remain supporters and are behind efforts to annul the Referendum result.

In summary the results show two things.
First is that there is a huge divergence in Referendum vote across the English and Welsh constituencies.
Second is that a disproportionate number of the constituencies with strong votes either for remaining in the EU or leaving the EU have a Labour Party MP.

Kevin Marshall

Guardian Images of Global Warming Part 2 – A Starved Dead Polar Bear

In the Part 2 of my look at Ashley Cooper’s photographs of global warming published in The Guardian on June 3rd I concentrate on the single image of a dead, emaciated, polar bear.
The caption reads

A male polar bear that starved to death as a consequence of climate change. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt their main prey, seals. Western fjords of Svalbard which normally freeze in winter, remained ice free all season during the winter of 2012/13, one of the worst on record for sea ice around the island archipelago. This bear headed hundreds of miles north, looking for suitable sea ice to hunt on before it finally collapsed and died.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has monthly maps of sea ice extent. The Western Fjords were indeed ice free during the winter of 2012/13, even in March 2013 when the sea ice reaches a maximum. In March 2012 Western Fjords were also ice free, along with most of the North Coast was as well.  The maps are also available for March of 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. It is the earliest available year that seems to have the minimum extent. Screen shots of Svarlbard are shown below.

As the sea ice extent has been diminishing for years, maybe this had impacted on the polar bear population? This is not the case. A survey published late last year, showed that polar bear numbers has increased by 42% between 2004 and 2015 for Svarlbard and neighbouring archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya.

Even more relevantly, studies have shown that the biggest threat to polar bear is not low sea ice levels but unusually thick spring sea ice. This affects the seal population, the main polar bear food source, at the time of year when the polar bears are rebuilding fat after the long winter.
Even if diminishing sea ice is a major cause of some starvation then it may have been a greater cause in the past. There was no satellite data prior to the late 1970s when the sea ice levels started diminishing. The best proxies are the average temperatures. Last year I looked at the two major temperature data sets for Svarlbard, both located on the West Coast where the dead polar bear was found. It would appear that there was a more dramatic rise in temperatures in Svarlbard in the period 1910-1925 than in period since the late 1970s. But in the earlier warming period polar bear numbers were likely decreasing, continuing into later cooling period. Recovery in numbers corresponds to the warming period. These changes have nothing to do with average temperatures or sea ice levels. It is because until recent decades polar bears were being hunted, a practice that has largely stopped.

The starvation of this pictured polar bear may have a more mundane cause. Polar bears are at the top of the food chain, relying on killing fast-moving seals for food. As a polar bear gets older it slows down, due to arthritis and muscles not working as well. As speed and agility are key factors in catching food, along with a bit of luck, starvation might be the most common cause of death in polar bears.

Kevin Marshall

Is there fraud behind the EU Referendum Petition?

In an update to the previous post on the EU Referendum Petition I noted:-

In a few hours 25,000 signatures have been added to one constituency – London and Westminster to 39,338. There are only about 110,000 people in the constituency, including babies and those not entitled to vote. There were only 57,240 (53,928 + 3,312) who voted for Remain on Thursday.

By 10.15 the votes had risen to 43,317, but at 14.30 it had reduced to 14,031.

PetWestm1430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the BBC Reports

Second EU referendum petition investigated for fraud

The House of Commons petitions committee is investigating allegations of fraud in connection with a petition calling for a second EU referendum.

Its inquiry is focused on the possibility that some names could be fraudulent – 77,000 signatures have already been removed.

Also

A House of Commons spokeswoman said the petition was created on 24 May. There were 22 signatures on it at the time the referendum result was announced.

Confirming my thoughts in the previous post

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says the petition has attracted a lot of attention but has no chance of being enacted, because it is asking for retrospective legislation.

Our correspondent says some referendums do have thresholds but those clauses must be inserted in legislation before the vote so everyone is clear about the rules.

You cannot simply invent new hurdles if you are on the losing side, our correspondent says.

The Petitions Committee has removed 77,000, of which at least 29,000 were from the Cities of London and Westminster Constituency. Where the are the other concentrated? At the foot of the petition there is Get petition data (json format). This I downloaded at 10.15 and 17.24 today.

From the twitter feed.

LGMTwitter

At 10.15 there were 40,031 signatories from the Vatican. By 17.24 this had reduced to just 45.

Also on the Twitter feed.

CW&Nyan

At 10.15 there were 24,372 signatories from North Korea. By 17.24 this had reduced to just 26.

From the petition data it is possible to calculate the non-UK signatories by deducting the UK total from the overall total. At 10.15 there were 597,354 non-UK signatories. By 17.24 This had reduced to just 128,384. With the 29,000 deducted from the Cities of London and Westminster Constituency that is over 498,000 petitions deleted.

However, there are still likely to be a very large number of fraudulent responses that have, as yet, gone unnoticed.

Kevin Marshall

EU Referendum Petition tries to overthrow a democratic decision

Rather than accept that they lost, there are efforts to stop the result of the EU Referendum being implemented by some Remain supporters. An example is in a petition to Parliament from EU supporters that which would nullify the EU Referendum decision and re-run it on rigged criteria.
Some background. In Britain it is possible to start online petitions and get others to electronically sign them. If there are more than 100,000 signatures the issue will be discussed in Parliament. (More than 500,000 who signed a petition to “Block Donald J Trump from UK entry” earlier this year.) The latest, started a month before the referendum, states

EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum and w
We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.

Anybody who reads it should realize that the petition became redundant once voting started. People were voting on the basis of winner being the position that won the most votes. With an either/or decision it means the winner has greater than 50% of the valid votes cast. In the event, the Leave EU vote was 51.9% of the total, or 1269501 votes more than the Remain vote. Turnout was 72.2%, higher than in any General Election since 1992.
What would have happened if the rules had been accepted for the Referendum? Quite clearly, in a country where voting is not compulsory, a little apathy would have nullified the result. The Leave vote would probably have been a higher proportion, as a protest vote would have likely made no difference to the outcome, but would have embarrassed the Government. Given the criteria, no decision would be taken so there would be regular repeat Referenda. The alienation from the democratic process that many feel would doubtless grow, maybe leading to a rebirth of fascist politics.
What is worse is the implication from the location of two million or more who have signed the petition after the referendum result has been announced. The deep red areas where the petitioners are concentrated are in London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge (Petition map extract around 00.30 26/06/15).

These are the very centres of the left intelligentsia that voted for so solidly for Remain last Thursday. Unable to accept the majority view, including many who they view as their ignorant inferiors, they are effectively attempting to deny democracy. But to retrospectively rig the rules to nullify a democratic result is what one would expect in a 1970s Banana Republic, not something to be considered in the Mother of all Parliaments. Hopefully the House of Commons will unite to treat this petition with the contempt it deserves. To do otherwise would be to usurp the democratic decision of the people they represent in favour of the undemocratic rule by a failing undemocratic institution that the majority have decided to cease being a part of.

Update 9.40am – Is the petition website being scammed?

The screenshot above was taken at around 00.30, when there were about 2.6 million signatures. By 09.00 the number was 2.91 million. By the composition has changed. In a few hours 25,000 signatures have been added to one constituency – London and Westminster to 39,338. There are only about 110,000 people in the constituency, including babies and those not entitled to vote. There were only 57,240 (53,928 + 3,312) who voted for Remain on Thursday. Seems a bit of a daft way to send a message to the Westminster Parliament, as it indicates the petition is not the will of the people, but a few vocal activists attempting to maintain a failing undemocratic institution.

9.40am 2,957,066 signatures of which 41,249 in Westminster.

10.15am 2,999,122 signatures of which 43,317 in Westminster.

Update 15.00 – Scam responses from Westminster removed

UK votes for divorce from EU

The unexpected has happened. Despite the efforts of most of the British political establishment, the UK has voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union. It should be viewed as a divorce which the interested parties had tried to prevent Like with a divorce, there needs to be deep breaths all round to accept the future dissolution. Like a divorce with children involved, Britain and the EU need to work constructively to achieve the best futures for all.
British politicians need to reflect as well. Maybe two-thirds supported Remain. Many were in line with their constituents, especially in London, Scotland and the M4 corridor where Prime Minister David Cameron’s constituency lies. But most of the North of England, particularly in the Labour Heartlands, voted for Leave. The MPs have to clearly state that they accept the result, and will join in obtaining the best futures for Britain and the countries of Europe. Those who cannot accept this should recognize they have no future in public service and resign from leading roles in politics.

Kevin Marshall

Guardian Images of Global Warming Part 1 – Australian Droughts

On Friday June 3rd the Guardian presented some high quality images with the headline

Droughts, floods, forest fires and melting poles – climate change is impacting Earth like never before. From the Australia to Greenland, Ashley Cooper’s work spans 13 years and over 30 countries. This selection, taken from his new book, shows a changing landscape, scarred by pollution and natural disasters – but there is hope too, with the steady rise of renewable energy.

The purpose is to convince people that human-caused climate change is happening now, to bolster support for climate mitigation policies. But the real stories of what the pictures show is quite different.  I will start with three images relating to drought in Australia.

Image 5

Forest ghosts: Lake Eildon in Victoria, Australia was built in the 1950’s to provide irrigation water, but the last time it was full was in 1995. The day the shot was taken it was at 29% capacity with levels down around 75ft.

Data from Lake Eildon (which is accessible with a simple search of Lake Eildon capacity) links to a graph where up to 7 years of data can be compared.

In 1995 the dam was not at full capacity, but it was full, for a short period, in the following year. However, more recently after the recent drought broke, in 2011 the reservoir was pretty much full for all the year.

But were the low levels due to more extreme drought brought on by climate change? That is very difficult to determine, as Lake Eildon is an artificial lake, constructed to provide water for irrigation occasional hydro-electric power as well as recreational facilities. The near empty levels at the end of the biggest drought in many decades could be just due a failure to predict the duration of the drought, or simply a policy of supplying irrigation water for the maximum length of time. The fact that water levels never reached full capacity for many years is indicated by a 2003 article in The Age

The dam wall at Lake Eildon, Victoria’s biggest state-run water storage, has been declared unsafe and will need a $30 million upgrade if the lake is to be refilled.

The dam, which is at its lowest level since being completed in 1956, will be restricted to just 65 per cent capacity because it no longer meets safety standards for earthquakes and extreme floods.

Image 6

Forest destroyed by bush fires near Michelago, New South Wales, Australia.

The inference is that this is caused by global warming.

According to Munich Re

The majority of bushfires in southeast Australia are caused by human activity

Bushfire is the only natural hazard in which humans have a direct influence on the hazard situation. The majority of bushfires near populated areas are the consequence of human activity. Lightning causes the smaller portion naturally. Sometimes, a carelessly discarded cigarette or a glass shard, which can focus the sun’s rays is all it takes to start a fire. Heat from motors or engines, or electric sparks from power lines and machines can ignite dry grass. Besides this accidental causes, a significant share of wildfires are started deliberately.

Humans also change the natural fire frequency and intensity. They decrease the natural fire frequency due to deliberate fire suppression near populated areas. If there is no fuel-reduction burning in forests for the purposes of fire prevention, large quantities of combustible material can accumulate at ground level.

Surface fires in these areas can become so intense due to the large amounts of fuel that they spread to the crowns of the trees and rapidly grow into a major fire. If humans had not intervened in the natural bushfire regime, more frequent low-intensity fires would have consumed the forest undergrowth and ensured that woodland grasses and scrubs do not proliferate excessively.

David Evans expands on the issue of fuel load in a 2013 article.

Like with the water levels in an artificial lake, forest fires are strongly influenced by the management of those forests. Extinguishing forest fires before they have run their natural course results in bigger and more intense fires at a later date. More frequent or intense droughts would not change this primary cause of many horrific forest fire disasters seen in recent years.

Image 7

Where has all the water gone?: Lake Hume is the largest reservoir in Australia and was set up to provide irrigation water for farms further down the Murray Basin and drinking water for Adelaide. On the day this photograph was taken it was at 19.6% capacity. By the end of the summer of 2009 it dropped to 2.1 % capacity. Such impacts of the drought are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. The last time the water was anywhere near this road bridge was 10 years ago, rendering this no fishing sign, somewhat redundant.

Again this is old data. Like for Lake Eildon, it is easy to construct graphs.

Following the end of the drought, the reservoir came back to full capacity. Worsening drought is only apparent to those who look over a short time range.

When looking at drought in Australia, Dorothea Mackellar’s 1908 poem “My Country” provides some context. Written for a British audience, the poem begins

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains

To understand the difference that human-caused climate change is having on the climate first requires an understanding of natural climatic variation over multiple time-scales. It then requires an understanding of how other human factors are influencing the environment, both intended and unintended.

Kevin Marshall