Skip to content

Who Checks The Factcheckers?

January 11, 2020

By Paul Homewood


You may recall that I posted an article last month called “Green ideology, not climate change makes wildfires worse”. The post is here, but essentially it was sourced from an article last March by the Volunteer Firefighters Association of NSW, which pointed out that the major factor in why Victoria’s bushfires at the time were so bad was poor management of national parks and the failure to reduce hazardous fuel loads and clear vegetation.

My post was shared on Facebook by the Friends of Science, a group of active and retired earth and atmospheric scientists, engineers, and other professionals, based in Canada:


So far so good! However, Facebook in their infinite wisdom decided to flag the post as “Misleading”, based on a report by the self proclaimed Factcheck site, Climate Feedback. A quick look at their website confirms they are not an impartial site, and regularly push climate alarmism.


Below is the “judgment” by Climate Feedback:



Misrepresents a complex reality: While authorities in Australia are investigating the source of some of the bushfires, this does not preclude other factors from being important for some aspects of these fires. For instance, the magnitude of wildfires is controlled primarily by the conditions of the fuels.



The important contribution of climate change to fires is not in starting fires (although increases in lightning are possible) but in making fuels drier. The current fires in Australia are not so extreme because fires were sparked, but because 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, with dry and windy weather patterns in place as the fires burned. The source of ignition for each fire is not relevant to understanding whether climate change contributed to their extent and intensity.


CLAIM: “Authorities in Australia have confirmed the bushfires were caused by arsonists and a series of lightning strikes, not ‘climate change’ as many activists have claimed.”

Dozens of outlets, blogs and social media users have made the claim that climate change has no influence on the bushfires currently burning record areas in Australia because authorities are investigating who or what started some of these fires, suspecting some fires were ignited by people and many more by lightning.

This flawed reasoning misunderstands that fires are exacerbated by hot and dry conditions and Australia is currently facing a severe drought amidst increasing temperatures. The temperature trend is linked to human-caused climate change and contributes to drier fuel and soils by increasing evaporation.

While conditions were exceptionally warm and dry in southern Australia, there is no evidence to suggest that the current season has seen a higher level of arson, although some bushfires are indeed typically caused by humans (intentionally or not).

Regarding the potential influence of climate change so far, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s website indicates that

“Climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world, including through influencing temperature, environmental moisture, weather patterns and fuel conditions”.

A recent study has identified a “clear trend toward more dangerous [fire] conditions during spring and summer in southern Australia”1. Another study found that “climate change increases the potential for extreme wildfires”2. While a precise attribution study will be needed to quantify the influence of climate change on this specific series of fires in Australia, the above claim prematurely rules out climate change as a factor in the severity of these fires. Conversely, one should not conclude that climate change is the only factor influencing bushfires (you can read more on this at Carbon Brief).


Stefan Doerr, Professor, Swansea University:
This statement misleadingly suggests that many activists argue that the fires are “ignited” due to climate change. The “authorities” are focusing here on the ignitions, which are typically lighting, arson, or accidental in each fire season in Australia. (That noted, increases in atmospheric temperature do increase lightning frequency and hence wildfire probability1.)

What activists are concerned about is not the “ignitions” per se; there will always be potential sources of ignitions. What most activists (and many scientists) are concerned about is that the extreme intensity and extent of the fires in this fire season are a result of the environmental impact of climate change. The combination of such widespread temperature maxima not recorded before combined with very dry live and dead vegetation following a long and severe drought has allowed the ignitions (be it arson, lightning, or accidental) to conflagrate to fires covering an unprecedented geographic range in recorded history.

For example, in New South Wales alone the extent of the area burned in a single fire season is unprecedented in recorded history and so is the severity of the drought in this state. The increased likelihood of extreme drought and high temperatures occurring is consistent with observed recent trends and predictions of the impact of climate change in this region3. This article concludes:

“there is a clear trend toward more dangerous conditions during spring and summer in southern Australia, including increased frequency and magnitude of extremes, as well as indicating an earlier start to the fire season. Changes in fire weather conditions are attributable at least in part to anthropogenic climate change, including in relation to increasing temperatures.”




The decision by Facebook to flag the post is extremely troubling in a number of ways.

Firstly, who decides who should be the arbiter of facts, and how is this decision made? Why should Facebook trust Climate Feedback anymore than any other expert source?

We must remember that the article originated from the NSW firefighters association. The idea that their expert views, based on experience and intimate local knowledge, should be ditched in favour of those of an academic thousands of miles away is absurd.

Secondly, the claim which Climate Feedback say is misleading, was never even made in our article:



This claim appears to have been made in a Breitbart article, and the rebuttal then used to kill off other articles sceptical of the role of climate change. This is a shoddy practice to say the least.

Thirdly, the “Factcheck” fails to find anything actually incorrect with the Friend of Science post, (or as far as I can see with the Breitbart story either).

It merely moans that it does not cover every aspect concerning the severity of the fires. Yet how many thousands of stories have seen in recent weeks blaming the fires on climate change, without a mention of other factors? And how many of these have been “factchecked” by Climate Feedback? I suspect the answer is nearer to zero than one!

Indeed, the Climate Feedback’s own Key Takeaway, shown above, blames climate change, yet makes no mention of forest management:

The current fires in Australia are not so extreme because fires were sparked, but because 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, with dry and windy weather patterns in place as the fires burned.

The idea anyway that every article on any subject should fully analyse all aspects of an issue is ridiculous. In this instance, the firefighters were raising a very real problem, which deserved to be considered in its own right.

Even the supposed factcheck contains some highly questionable statements. For instance:

The important contribution of climate change to fires is not in starting fires (although increases in lightning are possible) but in making fuels drier. The current fires in Australia are not so extreme because fires were sparked, but because 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record,

In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that the “driest year on record” has anything at all to do with “climate change”. On the contrary, according to the Australian BOM, rainfall in Australia has been much greater since the 1970s than before, last year notwithstanding.



Then there is this claim by Climate Feedback’s “expert”, Prof Stefan Doerr:

For example, in New South Wales alone the extent of the area burned in a single fire season is unprecedented in recorded history and so is the severity of the drought in this state. The increased likelihood of extreme drought and high temperatures occurring is consistent with observed recent trends and predictions of the impact of climate change in this region.

But the actual data does not agree with Prof Doerr, as again we find that NSW has been much wetter since the 1950s than before, when severe droughts were endemic. One would rightly conclude that global warming has led to a wetter climate in NSW:


Doerr links his claim to a paper, “Dowdy (2018) Climatological Variability of Fire Weather in Australia, Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology”, which states:

“there is a clear trend toward more dangerous conditions during spring and summer in southern Australia, including increased frequency and magnitude of extremes, as well as indicating an earlier start to the fire season. Changes in fire weather conditions are attributable at least in part to anthropogenic climate change, including in relation to increasing temperatures.”

However Dowdy explains that his analysis only starts from 1950. Full data back to 1900 contradicts his findings.

As we can see, there is little apparent trend in spring rainfall in southern Australia, but a definite rising trend in summer.



It is clear from the data that the role of climate change in Australia’s bushfires is by no means certain, and it is perfectly reasonable to discuss the importance of other factors such as forest management.

It is utterly wrong for Facebook to attempt to shut down such debate, based on the partisan views of a self appointed factcheck site. Indeed it could be argued that Climate Feedback’s analysis is actually far more misleading than the stories they are criticising!

Finally, this all raises important questions.

Who actually decides to flag post like this one at Facebook?

What evidence do they consider?

Who reports posts considered to be “misleading” to Facebook?

What role do websites like Climate Feedback have in Facebook’s decision making?

What checks do Facebook themselves make on the factcheckers?

  1. historyscoper permalink
    January 11, 2020 5:23 pm

    From the start Facebook and other social media platforms though they had the right to censor any views they don’t like, when the most they should have been able to do is label posts with ratings, and allow others who disagree with them to add in their competitive ratings. Each post can easily have a Ratings Bar that readers are free to pay attention to or ignore. That’s why if they don’t begin policing themselves I’ll support U.S. govt. takeover, because then the First Amendment will rule, and nobody can have anything taken down without going to federal court.

    • January 11, 2020 6:01 pm

      Maybe. Or maybe it just gets worse as the US government censors speech. You can’t really believe amendments matter…..The progressives own the colleges and all educational facilities, progressives own the massive coorporations in the US and within ten years or less, there will be no free speech. So, Facebook is just ahead of their time.

    • Broadlands permalink
      January 11, 2020 6:27 pm

      Ratings are useless simply because those who do the rating have their own biases. If one is a climate “activist” they will downrate anything or anyone who they see as a “denialist”. The reverse is true. The blogs are filled with such meaningless “competitive” information…Thumbs up and thumbs down?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 12, 2020 12:39 pm

        Studies show that most of us live in our own echo chambers when it comes to reading on the internet, albeit some do read more widely. Of course
        there are fake studies such as those from Lewandowski that purport to show correlations between off the wall beliefs, so it can be hard to find honest brokers of statistical analysis. But there maybe some value in collecting the ratings and analysing the cross correlations of opinion. At the simplest, it provides some evidence of cut through to different opinion holders.

        Part of the problem is that standards of journalism have declined markedly in even the “best” publications. I have spent quite a bit of time over recent days researching the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner, and it has been almost astonishing to see the credibility granted to sceptics of that event by e.g. the BBC, which was reporting Iranian denials as being of fair news value right up until the Iranians admitted shooting it down. That despite the clear photo evidence of extensive shrapnel damage to the flight surfaces that emerged straight away, let alone the video and other evidence that was utterly conclusive, and which the BBC seemed reluctant to present and ask for expert opinion on: indeed, they went out of their way to find a Swedish “expert” who claimed that the shooting down was impossible. That sort of attitude takes Corbynesque contortions of mindset. Propaganda has now replaced proper investigative reporting.

    • Gamecock permalink
      January 11, 2020 9:51 pm

      You are completely wrong, scoper. The First Amendment prohibits government censorship. Which has double ought zero to do with Facebook.

      “That’s why if they don’t begin policing themselves”

      The problem IS THEIR POLICING. They must stop.

      “I’ll support U.S. govt. takeover”

      Ridiculous. Policing by the government is not going to be better than policing by the site owner.

      The solution is to make it a platform. I.e., only mess with content for defined reasons. Managing content makes them a publisher, not a platform. Hence, they should have liability. They are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That’s fine. As long as they are a platform. They are not. Nor are the other big social media ‘platforms.’

      They have morphed into publishers, and should have liability for their content.

  2. Malcolm Bell permalink
    January 11, 2020 5:34 pm

    My colleagues in Australia have just told me that so far 183 people have been arrested for arson.

    Never mentioned on BBC.

    183 are about enough to have started most of the methinks.

    • Chilli permalink
      January 11, 2020 6:19 pm

      Saw a BBC news report with safe-hands Myrie on the scene, attempting to down play the role of arson in the fires – saying the vast majority had been started by lightning. I don’t recall the source for his claim. Certainly didn’t look like the weather for thunder storms…

      • Pancho Plail permalink
        January 11, 2020 10:08 pm

        I think he misread lighting as lightning

    • A C Osborn permalink
      January 11, 2020 9:33 pm

      The “arsonist” data is now being demonised in the media as just trolling lies.
      They are trying to discredit everything but Climate Change.

      • January 12, 2020 3:11 pm

        Of course. Arsonists can’t be ‘linked to climate change’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean, i.e. anything they like as long as CC gets a mention.

    • chrism56 permalink
      January 12, 2020 2:44 am

      You will be picked up by the alarmists because what you wrote isn’t strictly correct. The 183 were for fire related offences in NSW only. IIRC only 24 were actual arson. Victoria hasn’t released its numbers and there were some in QLD and SA

      • A C Osborn permalink
        January 12, 2020 11:13 am

        Yes, but it has become impossible to get to the true data about how many cases are pennding etc.
        The Government agencies and MSM are closing ranks.
        The only allowable cause for the fires is Climate Change.

  3. January 11, 2020 5:58 pm

    Facebook OWNS the world and people don’t seem to mind. They live and breathe for Facebook. Why worry about facts? That’s not what Facebook is for—it’s to make Zuckerberg richer and keep the electronic soma coming. It’s a bit late to worry now. Half the population is drugged and they are not going back.

  4. Broadlands permalink
    January 11, 2020 6:38 pm

    All this because CO2 is up 45% but the average global temperature has risen only 0.83°C ±0.5°C over the last several hundred years??? Global population is up by two billion since CO2 was at 350 ppm. And the solution to this “climate emergency”? Reduce carbon fuel emissions ASAP and run the world on solar and wind. Seems simple enough. Sarcasm intended.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    January 11, 2020 6:53 pm

    Also from their preferred ‘expert’ Stefan Doerr:

    ” … to conflagrate to fires (in Australia) covering an unprecedented geographic range in recorded history.”

    Approx 11,000,000 hectares have burnt so far during the 2019-20 bushfire season

    Yet the 2004 University of Wollongong paper “National Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management” advises 101,000,000 hectares burnt during the 1974-75 bushfire season.

    If the Wollongong claim is true, then Doerr’s claim “… fires covering an unprecedented geographic range in recorded history.” cannot be.

    He also cherry-picks “For example, in New South Wales alone the extent of the area burned in a single fire season is unprecedented in recorded history ….” (which now may be approx 5,000,000 hectares) True for NSW, but certainly NOT as a state burnt-area record.

    According to the Wollongong paper, Northern Territories suffered 45,000,000 hectares burnt in the 1974-75 season.

  6. jack broughton permalink
    January 11, 2020 7:21 pm

    The most brilliant manoeuvre of the Climate Fear movements was to get control of the media and ensure that all debate was stifled. They have total control of the BBC, ITV, Sky, Al Jazeera and most of the technical press. Their next phase has been to try to censor all comments against them.

    Fortunately for us all, the Americans had the sense to vote for Trump against these mealy-mouthed paranoids. Sadly the swamp has not been drained and even in the USA open debate is difficult.

    • January 11, 2020 10:15 pm

      The swamp drained? No way. The cancer has metastasized while we snoozed and pretended it wasn’t happening. Even massive chemo and radiation may not stop this terminal cancer. You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequenses of ignoring reality.

    • Angusmac permalink
      January 12, 2020 2:06 am

      Jack, Sky in Australia is predominantly right-of-centre and their climate change views tend to be sceptical. However, (unlike BBC or ABC) they do allow opposing views to be aired and discussed.

  7. Emrys Jones permalink
    January 11, 2020 7:31 pm

    It has always been known as Basefook, and with good reason.

  8. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 11, 2020 7:34 pm

    The claim it was a dry year and that makes the fires worse is utter nonsense. Once the fuel load is dry, it will burn. It doesn’t need to get even more dry. If it had been incredibly wet in the first nine months of the year but dry since then, the fuel load would be very dry.

    You just don’t need record drought to create dry conditions. It’s a stupid claim.

    • paul weldon permalink
      January 12, 2020 10:48 am

      I totally and utterly agree. I nearly lost my house in Latvia some 10 years back due to wildfire. It occurred at the beginning of March with sub-zero temperatures. And a relative humidity of only 20% and strong winds after a dry period. What our ignorant scientist with no first-hand experience does not understand is that once the vegetation reaches a certain dryness it will readily combust. Increasing the length of the dry period or the temperature has no effect after that point. Time these uni-bound so called experts got back out in the field.

    • John Hadley permalink
      January 12, 2020 2:11 pm

      Absolutely, there is an optimum level re temperature at which point vegetation will burn and any increase in temperature won’t make a blind bit of difference – and that level is far below the temperatures being seen at the moment in Australia.
      For goodness sake, do they think we were all born yesterday?

  9. January 11, 2020 8:18 pm

    Doerr, as again we find that NSW has been much since the


  10. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 11, 2020 8:23 pm

    There is an interesting comparison using a map of Europe on

    There were quite a number of warnings since 2015 about the coming fires, due to the build up of undergrowth and lack of clearing, especially roadsides. the Victorian State Government has been trying to shut down all logging and neglecting clearing of fire trails, so the fires have resulted in people asking why. The blaming of Climate Change is an attempt to excuse their ideological idiocy.

    On a minor matter I understand that only 28 have been charged with arson, i.e. deliberately lighting fires. A lot more are being investigated by the police, which is probably the source of the 180 figure.

  11. john cooknell permalink
    January 11, 2020 8:44 pm

    Climate Change is a belief.

    The half life of a science fact is about 40 years, before it is replaced by other science facts, the half life of belief goes on forever.

    People will lay down their lives for a belief, not seen anyone do that for a fact.

    If Michael Mann,s hockey stick research MBH 98 was a fact then I would be hot, but I am not, so his fact is not reproducible and should be replaced by other facts, but it is a belief so it just goes on and on.

  12. Mack permalink
    January 11, 2020 9:11 pm

    Take it as a badge of honour, Paul. You’re getting under their skin. Must be doing something right. Same thing happens on Twitter. Almost every time Tony Heller posts a graph or historical newspaper clipping that runs contrary to the doomsday narrative it get’s flagged up and hidden as ‘sensitive material’ just in case any snowflakes out there pass out reading something that might make them question their religion. He would have less restrictions making posts posing as the weatherman from ISIS! Keep up the good work.

  13. January 11, 2020 9:16 pm

    During the last couple of years of Brexit shenanigans, the BBC’s “reality checkers” were a massive source of lies and misinformation. It was impossible to do anything to counter their propaganda or to get them removed. It was safet to assume that the opposite of what they said would be the truth.

  14. January 11, 2020 9:58 pm

    Hi Paul, the ABC Factcheck site is wholly partisan. Cut and paste job to promote the views of those who want to promote the cause. The venom drips. The ABC itself is wholly partisan on this issue.

  15. grammarschoolman permalink
    January 11, 2020 10:29 pm

    Your original post is also supported by the factual and anecdotal evidence in this piece from The Spectator, which describes green-influenced legal attacks on fire protection:

  16. Mickey permalink
    January 11, 2020 11:58 pm

    “But the actual data does not agree with Prof Doerr, as again we find that NSW has been much[sic] since the 1950s than before”. Perhaps this should be “much wetter since 1950s”?

    • January 12, 2020 11:18 am

      Yes, corrected thanks

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 12, 2020 12:47 pm

        Perhaps “Doerr!” is the new “Doh!” with apologies to Matt Groening.

  17. Cybersailor permalink
    January 12, 2020 3:00 am

    What did flagging the post as “Misleading” accomplish? I see it’s still there. Did they have to fight to get it back? If so, how does one do that?

  18. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 12, 2020 8:54 am

    Way off thread but right now Wind is producing 36% of our electricity. Why is detested Coal at 9%? Take a look at the ‘week’ box on gridwatch.templar and notice that as wind ramps up so does coal. Because after that major blackout the grid managers are taking out more inertia insurance? It’s being kept jolly quiet by the BBC.

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 12, 2020 11:36 am

      Good point.

      A picture being worth a thousand words

  19. January 12, 2020 9:28 am

    Doerr links to the same paper that Richard Betts linked to to justify the claim that climate change is making fire weather worse in Australia. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really prove that. What it does show is that ENSO is highly positively correlated to fire weather conditions and the influence of a 1C rise in annual mean temperature is a possible, but unquantified contributor.

  20. Bloke down the pub permalink
    January 12, 2020 12:33 pm

    If man’s emissions have had a part to play in the Australian fires, it is because increased CO₂ levels have allowed the vegetation to grow faster, which has increased the fuel load.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      January 12, 2020 12:43 pm

      Extra rainfall too. The fuel load should have been managed accordingly, but wasn’t.

  21. January 12, 2020 12:39 pm

    Here is a little, little known history of Facebook. There was a prior Lifelog which was a project of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) of the US government. One day Lifelog disappeared and the very next day Facebook launched. Coincidence? Hardly. This is how the government got you to spew all about yourself and your contacts to those who like to spy on everyday citizens.

  22. Peter Schofield permalink
    January 12, 2020 2:10 pm


    How about doing a post on William Happer`s views ? I would like to see the graphs and other data he referenced in his talk to celebrate Freeman Dyson (on youtube).
    In his talk he uses a pointer but this is not shown in the main screen, which makes it difficult to follow. The graphs really get to the heart of the subject.

  23. Curious George permalink
    January 12, 2020 4:57 pm

    Paul, why whine about having a post labeled as “misleading” based on some sentences that were not even there? That you forgot to include? Instead, embrace the thought police. They really love you.They know better than you do. Welcome to socialism.

  24. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    January 12, 2020 5:31 pm

    Be mindful of the Streisand effect.
    It is likely that many folks now know of “notalotofpeopleknowthat”
    that did not know before ‘climatefeedback’ and Facebook got involved.
    How many? I’ve no idea — I don’t know those sites.

  25. john cooknell permalink
    January 12, 2020 10:34 pm

    It is no good trying to deal with a belief by using reason.

    Half the world genuinely believe in the supernatural, the other half think they are all mad.

    Climate Change is a belief it has gone well past reason, it even invades fiction, I just wasted an hour watching Dr Who and found myself being lectured on how I must save the Planet from Climate Change.

    Yes a fictional time travelling alien with 2 hearts, who has a time machine that is bigger on the inside than outside was lecturing us all on climate change. Whatever will the BBC think of next.

    However Dr Who has changed from a man to a woman, so perhaps it is not so far fetched, perhaps all employees will be gender neutral is going to be the way forward for all at the BBC, then pay inequality cannot be an issue. But what do you do about those who identify as Aliens?

  26. tom0mason permalink
    January 12, 2020 11:29 pm

    BUT, BUT, BUT !!!
    The world is burning-up!
    All real fact checker agree …

    “kids will not know what snow is …

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 Snow falls on Mauna Kea, Hawaii

    Fri, 10 Jan 2020 snowfall in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia




    Sat, 11 Jan 2020 Heavy snowfall in Turkey


    Sun, 12 Jan 2020 Snowfall hits South Sinai, Egypt

    Sun, 12 Jan 2020 At least 17 killed as extreme cold sweeps across Afghanistan


  27. Ian Cook permalink
    January 13, 2020 9:21 am

    Alarmists absolutely rely on simplistic arguments. When your assertion isn’t based on science, but you claim it is, the last thing you want is anyone checking! Hence fires are caused by Global Warming because it’s hotter. Thick people (the alarmists target audience) can cope with this. CO2 can be a ‘greenhouse gas’, we produce CO2 through human activity therefore there will be Global Warming that we caused. Complexity like proving how, is unhelpful. And as 97% of Alarmists are political activists or journalists, science is completely unnecessary.

  28. January 13, 2020 2:37 pm

    Who reports these posts? I have a sneaky suspicion in the case of Friends Of Science it is one of the resident trolls called Antoine Bret

  29. Peter Salonius permalink
    January 20, 2020 8:25 pm

    Climate Warming emergency in an ICE HOUSE world ?

    When the Earth is in one of the coldest periods of the last half billion years, the anguish over mild climate warming does not make sense.

    Quoting from the article :

    “We are currently living in the most recent ice age; we are also in icehouse conditions and have permanent ice on both poles. In the past 550 million years we have been in icehouse conditions about nine percent of the time and the current icehouse is one of the most severe in that period.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: