Cell site attacks

There have been 14 attempted attacks on cell phone towers over the last six weeks, most of them in Auckland and some of them successfully disabling communications at a time that remote communication was all that people had under lockdown.

This is thought to be related to anti-5G conspiracies.

Newsroom:  Auckland may lose reception as cell tower sabotage continues

There have been 14 attempted arson attacks carried out against cell towers and other mobile network infrastructure in the past six weeks.

Of these, 10 have occurred in Auckland, the Telecommunications Forum (TCF) has said in a statement.

Vandalism began in early April, coinciding with a massive uptick in the popularity of false 5G-related conspiracy theories, including one that wrongly attributes blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the wireless technology. Newsroom understands that none of the towers targeted in recent attacks are 5G-related.

“These attacks are infuriating and can have real connectivity impacts for New Zealanders – meaning people could have reduced mobile phone and internet coverage in an area with a damaged cell site, which is a real issue particularly in South Auckland. While we’ve been able to keep customers connected so far, each attack has a cumulative negative impact,” said Tony Baird, Vodafone NZ’s wholesale and infrastructure director.

“This is senseless activity and sadly, the greatest damage it causes is to the local homes and businesses who are having their technology cut off at a time when they need it most,” said Martin Sharrock, chief technology officer for 2degrees.

“Attacks on critical infrastructure are inexcusable at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. A disruption to mobile connectivity can put New Zealanders at risk by cutting off access to critical services like 111, we encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity near a cell tower to contact police or crime stoppers,” Mark Beder, Spark NZ’s technology director, said.

The nutters seem to have had some success spreading conspiracy stories.

NZ Compare, a consumer advice and transparency firm, released a survey in December that found 46 percent of Kiwis are concerned that 5G might affect human health and a third were worried about its impact on animals and plants. Such worries are unfounded, according to scientific experts, but the movement opposing 5G is surprisingly widespread, as Newsroom reported in October.

Anti-5G protesters are concerned the technology could kill bees or give humans cancer, but the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor has launched a new website to dispel these myths.

“The radio waves used for 5G have frequencies that are ten thousand times too low to damage molecules,” the website states.

“Radio waves can heat our body if we are over-exposed to them. However, these effects can only occur when exposed directly to a very powerful source so that the heat builds up enough to damage tissue before it dissipates. 5G sources are simply not powerful enough to cause damage in this way.

That may assure some people but the nutters are unlikely to be swayed by facts or by science.

As people increasingly use mobile phones as their own means of making phone calls it raises risks of not being able to call emergency services due to disabled phone towers – there’s much more risk to life because of that than of too much radio waves.

Aussie bushfires – climate change versus arson claims

Corky commented:

Maybe the news should have reported concurrently with their CC extravaganza that 183 Aussies have be charge/fined for reckless activities that could contribute to starting fires.
24 are alleged to have started fires deliberately. These idiots obviously have been struck down with CC fever.

Guardian: Police contradict claims spread online exaggerating arson’s role in Australian bushfires

Victoria police say there is no evidence any of the devastating bushfires in the state were caused by arson, contrary to the spread of global disinformation exaggerating arsonist arrests during the current crisis.

A misleading figure suggesting 183 arsonists have been arrested “since the start of the bushfire season” spread across the globe on Wednesday, after initial reports in News Corp were picked up by Donald Trump Jr, US far-right websites and popular alt-right personalities.

The figure included statistics from some states covering the entirety of 2019, rather than just the current bushfire season, which began in September.

In Victoria, 43 alleged arsonists were counted among the 183 arrested “in the past few months” and “since the start of the bushfire season”. That Victorian figure was, in fact, the figure for the year ending September 2019, meaning it had no relation to the current bushfire season.

“There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour,” a Victoria police spokeswoman said.

The reported figure of 183 also includes 101 individuals from Queensland who were “picked up for setting fires in the bush”. But a Queensland police spokeswoman said the figure included a broader range of offences than arson, including the breaching of total fire bans, and was not a total of arrests, but a total of “police enforcement actions”.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/police-contradict-claims-spread-online-exaggerating-arsons-role-in-australian-bushfires

Snopes: “Nearly 200″ Australians were arrested in late 2019 and early 2020 for deliberately setting bushfires” – false

The unprecedented fires, which have killed at least 24 people, have destroyed 1,400 homes and killed millions of animals; the fires have been facilitated by extreme weather linked to climate change, like drought and a prolonged wildfire season in Australia, which has also been experiencing extreme heat. The fires are so powerful they are creating their own weather and are expected to continue burning for months to come.

But some, including Alex Jones’ conspiracy site InfoWars that spreads climate change denialism, falsely reported that “nearly 200 people” were arrested in Australia for “deliberately” starting bushfires.

That would be a distortion of the facts. Police in New South Wales released a statement disclosing that since Nov. 8, 2019, 183 people, including 40 juveniles, have been charged with 205 bushfire-related offenses. Of the 183, 24 people have been charged with deliberately setting fires. According to police, of the 183, another “53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban,” and an additional “47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.”

Local press reports indicate that not all of the people charged committed acts that contributed to the raging brushfires. For example, a man in the Sydney suburb of Wallacia was fined for lighting a fire to make a cup of tea. That blaze was extinguished by firefighters. Another man was cited for lighting a fire to cook food in the town of Tarro. That fire was also put out by responding crews.

Were ‘Nearly 200’ People Arrested for Deliberately Starting Australia Bushfires?

Miranda Devine (NY Post):  Celebrities, activists using Australia bushfire crisis to push dangerous climate change myth

I’m sorry, but I lived in Australia through the past two decades of escalating fire crises and it’s not climate change that has caused today’s disaster, but the criminal negligence of governments that have tried to buy green votes by locking up vast tracts of land as national parks, yet failed to spend the money needed to control ground fuel and maintain fire trails.

Instead, they bowed to an ideology that obstructs necessary hazard reduction and prevents landowners from clearing vegetation around their own properties, all in thrall to the god of “biodiversity.”

Anyone referring to “dangerous climate change myth” has to be viewed with more scepticism than usual.

Guardian: Firefighters’ group that disputes climate link to bushfires has close ties to Shooters party

A small volunteer firefighting association that disputes the link between climate change and the current bushfires has close ties to the New South Wales Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party and diverted thousands of dollars from its meagre finances to bankroll a bid by its president to run as an SFF candidate in the NSW election.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association has been quoted extensively in the media during the bushfire crisis, particularly on Sky News and in the Australian, downplaying the links to climate change, attacking the group of ex-fire and emergency chiefs who have called for climate action, and placing blame for the fires chiefly on a lack of hazard reduction burning and poor land management.

The VFFA, which splintered from NSW’s main volunteer firefighting representative body in 2004, has repeatedly refused to say how many members it has, and recently drew the ire of the RFS commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, who called it a “highly politically-charged” group with unclear motivations that had failed to reveal “who they claim to represent, how many they represent, and how they operate”.

The Guardian can now reveal the group’s close links to the SFF party, whose leader Robert Borsak frequently disputes that humans are causing climate change and similarly blames the fires on a lack of hazard reduction burning.

Stuff (AP) – Australian bushfires: How climate change and other factors worsen fires

Experts say Australia’s unprecedented wildfires are supercharged because of climate change, the type of trees catching fire and weather.

“They are basically just in a horrific convergence of events,” said Stanford University environmental studies director Chris Field, who chaired an international scientific report on climate change and extreme events.

Q: IS CLIMATE CHANGE REALLY A FACTOR?

A: Scientists, both those who study fire and those who study climate, say there’s no doubt man-made global warming has been a big part, but not the only part, of the fires.

Last year in Australia was the hottest and driest on record, with the average annual temperature 1.5 degrees Celsius above the 1960 to 1990 average, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. Temperatures in Australia last month hit 49.9C.

“What would have been a bad fire season was made worse by the background drying/warming trend,” Andrew Watkins, head of long-range forecasts at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, said in an email.

Mike Flannigan, a fire scientist at the University of Alberta in Canada, said Australia’s fires are “an example of climate change”.

A 2019 Australian government brief report on wildfires and climate change said, “Human-caused climate change has resulted in more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires in recent decades for many regions of Australia.”

Q: HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE MAKE THESE FIRES WORSE?

A: The drier the fuel – trees and plants – the easier it is for fires to start and the hotter and nastier they get, Flannigan said.

“It means more fuel is available to burn, which means higher intensity fires, which makes it more difficult – or impossible – to put out,” Flannigan said.

The heat makes the fuel drier, so they combine for something called fire weather. And that determines “fuel moisture”, which is crucial for fire spread. The lower the moisture, the more likely Australian fires start and spread from lightning and human-caused ignition, a 2016 study found.

There’s been a 10 per cent long-term drying trend in Australia’s southeast and 15 per cent long-term drying trend in the country’s southwest, Watkins said. When added to a degree of warming and a generally southward shift of weather systems, that means a generally drier landscape.

Australia’s drought since late 2017 “has been at least the equal of our worst drought in 1902”, Australia’s Watkins said. “It has probably been driven by ocean temperature patterns in the Indian Ocean and the long term drying trend.”

Stuff: Climate change led here, Australian PM Scott Morrison says amid bushfire crisis

“There is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change, globally, and its effect on global weather patterns, and that includes how that impacts in Australia,” Morrison said on Sunday.

“I have to correct the record here, I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government has always made this connection and that has never been in dispute.”

He said that “climate change has impacted on the world’s weather patterns [and] has led to where we are here today to some extent, combined with many other factors, the drought being the most significant”.