COMMENT:

When I was a boy, the family bought a newly developed section in the middle of the bush on Sydney's upper north shore.

Before work began, it was attacked by a bush fire, as has so much of that part of Sydney in years since. Australia does bush fires well, especially in the southeast. Virtually every summer there were fires around the newer suburbs.

Of the five deadliest fires in Australia, three were in Victoria, one in both Victoria and South Australia, and one in Tasmania. The years of the fires according to lives lost were 2009, 1983, 1939, 1967 and 1926. There were 441 deaths and 5850 homes were destroyed.

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I had relatives who survived two of those fires. One was the Tasmanian fire which got within two kilometres of the Hobart CBD. There were 62 deaths, 1200 houses destroyed and 60,000 farm animals killed. The Tasmanian fire, at the end of January this year, took seven houses and no deaths.

But that didn't stop the man made climate change alarmists pushing their barrow in overdramatic fashion. The Guardian Australia ran a piece which included "power grids collapse, dying rivers vomit huge fish kills, while in the north in Townsville there are unprecedented floods". Really?

There were massive Tasmanian fires in 1898, 1909 and 1915. As Chris Kenny wrote in The Australian, "This is no more terrifying, and no less, than it has ever been." There is nothing new in any of it. That is not to belittle what took place. But there is the hand of human stupidity in each case.

Townsville. I lived and worked there in 1978 and 1979. During that summer, Cyclone Peter drowned Cairns, closed the airport and isolated the city.

As for this year's "unprecedented floods" in Townsville, well, maybe. Depends what the rules of judgment are. Science writer Joanne Nova ran an informative commentary on her website in which she concluded it would be climate change if it stopped flooding in Townsville.

The city has had many floods, the most dramatic being 1881, 1892, 1946, 1953. The hand of human stupidity played a major part in the damage this time round.

Townsville's official flood maps approved swathes of new ground-level homes and businesses in recent years. Gone were the famous Queenslanders, built on stilts in order to allow both lots of ventilation to help cool houses, but also to defend against floodwaters. The council was using expert modelling and its flood maps relied on "exhaustive modelling of every possible scenario". Where have I heard that before?

While the residents of Townsville had a couple of crocodiles in their street for a bit, pity the citizens of Belushaya Guba, on the southwest coast of Novoya Zemlya in the Eastern Berents Sea. Some 50 polar bears have become street sleepers and when pictures began appearing this week the media went mad. Global warming, global warming, climate change, they cried, and ran with the usual propaganda. No context.

According to Dr Susan Crockford, there is a perfectly logical explanation. She suggests by mid December mobile pack ice temporarily contracted, which would have stranded any bears left onshore.

By late January the ice was back on the south east coast, but by then it is likely the bears in Belushaya Guba were entrenched. As a polar bear expert, she says, "This incident of winter problems with polar bears and others like it reported from the Russian Arctic, almost certainly reflect the confluence of a growing human presence in the Arctic and thriving polar bear populations, not lack of sea ice due to global warming."

I wrote this column with no intention of engaging in the so-called science of climate change. But the purpose was to remind those who have retained a healthy scepticism that mother nature makes her own rules, not us.

Australian poet Dorothea Mackeller wrote her most famous poem in 1908, My Country.

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons
I love her jewel -sea
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me.

Context is everything.

• Listen to the Leighton Smith Podcast is at newstalkzb.co.nz, and nzherald.co.nz and on iHeart Radio.