The Bureau of Meteorology told Environment Minister Greg Hunt that global warming and bushfires were linked just weeks before he took part in a major BBC radio interview and cited Wikipedia to discredit similar claims by UN climate boss Christiana Figueres.
Fairfax Media obtained the BoM’s briefing notes under freedom-of-information and say they “show senior officials warned Mr Hunt that the extreme heat that baked Australia in 2013 was ‘unprecedented’ before Mr Hunt downplayed any link between fires and climate change in an interview with the BBC’s Newshour in October last year”.
Instead, Hunt said during the interview that he’d “looked up what Wikipedia says” to back Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s view that Figueres was “talking out of her hat” in linking bushfires and climate change.
It also appears that Hunt contradicted BoM officials when he said:
“In talking with the senior people of the Bureau of Meteorology, for example, they always emphasise never try to link any particular event to climate change.”
In the briefing 20 days earlier, Bureau director Rob Vertessy said: “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.”
Since then, the Bureau has become increasingly certain about the links between bushfires and climate change.
The minister told Fairfax it was an “absolute distortion” to say he’d used Wikipedia as a reference point.
“The point was that even the most basic sources will say Australia has always had massive bushfires,” Hunt said.
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