“I would say it’s the weather and weather is the short-term of climate. We do have these more extreme weather situations more often, so this is climate change,” Held continued.
“But it’s a very welcome excuse to say it’s climate change. It gives you a nice way out to say it’s climate change.”
Held, a forester and a fire specialist, called for more to be done to prevent fires by managing the land better.
He said the land hit in Portugal’s deadly fire last month was owned by forestry companies who had no incentive to limit their profits by putting in fire breaks.
“There’s nobody on a European level to say yes we need helicopters and the fire service but let’s take 10 percent of the firefighting budget and invest that in strategic vegetation management,” he said.
“Firefighting is expensive, with all the vehicles and aerial resources. It would be a fraction of this budget to invest in managing the land.
“Or compensate a landowner if he is cutting fire breaks or providing better access to his land or if he does a risk analysis.
“At the moment this is very neglected. The reality is firefighting is very political and business-driven, especially with helicopters and aircraft.
“As a politician if you order more helicopters you are seen as a very active politician but if you invest in clearing land, no-one from the media will show any interest in your prevention work.”
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Listen to the full interview with Alexander Held