Prominent Australian conservative lets fly during heated debate over coal and bushfires as climate expert tells him Australia faces 'unimaginable' blaze seasons
Michael Mann is a pseudo-scientist. He is so nervous about the quality of the data underlying his research reports that he opted to lose a court case rather than reveal his data. Such a breach of basic scientific principles makes all his words unproven nasturtiums
Barnaby is perfectly correct to say that adopting stricter CO2 policies would do nothing to extinguish the fires. The fires will burn as long as the fuel to burn is there and dry. No fuel no fire. Lots of dry fuel, lots of fire. That's the essence of it and nothing else much matters. Control the fuel buildup and you control the fires. Laws of any kind passed in parliament are irrelevant to that
Barnaby Joyce has gone up against a climatologist in a heated debate about coal, bushfires and Australia's climate change policies.
During a 60 Minutes panel discussion between the Nationals MP and former fire chiefs, renowned US climate expert Professor Michael Mann said the country's bushfires will continue to worsen if the Coalition doesn't step up.
But Joyce hit back, saying that despite recognising the climate is changing, 'we're not going to [put out fires] by having this incredible debate in Canberra'.
Joyce said he believes Prime Minister Scott Morrison thinks Australia 'has got to do its part and is doing its part' to combat climate change and the growing fire threat.
Prof Mann shot down the outspoken MP's views, saying: 'In all fairness Barnaby, Scott Morrison and his government have played a destructive role in global negotiations to act on climate.
'[The Coalition] have literally dismissed the connection between climate change and these unprecedented bushfires that we're experiencing. 'The scientific community has spoken authoritatively on this matter.'
But when asked if he accepted that the fires have been driven by global warming, Joyce admitted climate change had played a role.
'I can absolutely accept that we've had a massive change in the climate. That is not my argument. My argument is one of immediate efficacy,' he said.
'We're going to put back into our fire breaks, we're going to make sure we build central watering points so that no [fire] truck has to travel more than 20km. 'These are the things that I want to concentrate on.'
Prof Mann fired back, saying politicians 'can't solve the problem if they refuse to accept the cause of the problem'.
Mr Joyce argued Australia has complied with international agreements.
'No that's not true,' Prof Mann responded.
Mr Joyce then went on to spruik the importance of exporting coal, and noted it's one of Australia's biggest exports next to iron ore.
'Therefore the money that comes from that - whether you like it or not - supports our hospitals, our schools, our defence force,' he said. '[We aren't going to] say to the Australian people "we're going to get rid of that income stream and you've got to accept that this money is not going to turn up".
'And I'll tell you what happens in politics if you do that - you lose the election.'
60 Minutes host Tara Brown asked Mr Joyce if he was overstating the wealth of coal to Australia, and reminded him the coal industry is just 2.2 per cent of the GDP and only employs 0.4 per cent of the population.
Prof Munn then doubled down on his views: 'How about the hundreds of millions of dollars being lost in tourism, the damage that's been done in these unprecedented bushfires?. 'The cost of climate inaction far outweighs the modest cost of taking action.'
But again, Joyce hit back. 'Are you saying that if Australia changes its domestic policies then the climate will change?. 'This idea that Australia unilaterally will make a decision that is going to change the climate is absurd.'
Prof Mann said there are a number of politicians around the world who are 'basically sabotaging climate action for the entire planet'.
'You can count [these countries] on the fingers of your hand. It's Saudi Arabia, it's Russia, it's the United States and Brazil. Does Australia want to be part of that family?'
But Joyce said Australians will lose their 'dignity' if Australia's economy becomes weakened if it stops exporting coal. 'If you want to sell this program, you have to say to [the Australian people] how you're going to make their lives more affordable and put dignity back into their lives,' he said.
His remarks angered retired Army General Major General Peter Dunn, who then went toe-to-toe with the former deputy prime minister. 'But what dignity have you got, Barnaby, when you are standing in the middle of rubble and saying "how on earth did this fire happen?",' he said.
He said the 'head of the serpent' fuelling bushfires is climate change. 'This country wants politicians to step up. It is the existential issue that the public have raised,' he said.
'It defeats me as to why you won't step up to it. All [scientists'] predictions have, damn it, turned out to be right.'
Prof Mann said the effects of climate change are 'actually worse than we predicted'. 'Here in Australia we are seeing an unimaginable crisis take place,' he said.
'We're not seeing the sort of action we need to be seeing here in Australia and around the world to avert truly catastrophic climate change.'
Former Victorian Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley advised climate change deniers to 'go to the science'.
Prof Mann, who works at Pennsylvania State University, claimed Australia's future bushfire seasons will be even worse than what the country endured this summer. '(Fires) will become more intense, they become faster spreading, they become more extensive,' he said.
'When you turn the entire continent or large parts of it into a tinderbox, there's really no amount of fire suppression or backburning that's going to get you out of the problem.
'People ask me, is this a new normal for Australia? It's worse than that.'
Maj Gen Dunn, who lives in bushfire-ravaged Conjola on the NSW south coast, echoed Prof Munn's sentiments. 'What happened here? It was like a nuclear explosion. It was terrifying. It's a monster,' he said.
'We've really got to think about these sorts of things; how we manage bushfire fighting. The traditional approach has been well and truly proven to be ineffective.'
So far, 33 people have died in the horror infernos and millions of hectares of land has been destroyed.