Andrew Forrest Talks Fire Relief and Climate Change

Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest is digging into his own pockets to donate $48 million to fire relief in his country. As the founder of Fortescue Metals Group, Forrest leads one of the world’s largest iron ore producers and has enormous political clout in Australia. He joins Christiane to discuss his views on climate change.

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ANDREW FORREST: Christiane, the science has so far to go. We do — We cannot say there’s a single reason. If someone says, oh, it’s climate change, then, can I tell you, they’re copping out of their responsibility to take everything else…

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: But do you believe that there is a climate change issue?

FORREST: I have believed this for years and years. But, Christiane…

AMANPOUR: OK. So, do you not think that, with all these warnings — like, Sir David Attenborough today gave a massive warning — we have to do something on a macro level now? Al Gore says that. We have had the climate conferences.

FORREST: Now, Christiane, this is hijacking. I’m here for the bushfires.

AMANPOUR: Right. But this is what this is about.


FORREST: If we simplify it and say this is only about climate change, then, you know, that fuel load, which the aboriginals have been removing for 50,000 years, will build up and build up, because, Christiane, people just say, oh, it’s just climate change. Let’s not do any coal burns. Let’s not do firebreaks. Let’s just blame climate change. That would extraordinarily naive. And we will kill thousands of people, not dozens, if we do that. So we have got to be responsible.


FORREST: We recognize there’s a complexity of issues here. It’s fuel load. It’s arsons. But it’s definitely a warming planet. The science must be done to take it out of the politics. Now, I know politics is fun, but I have got to take it out…

AMANPOUR: It’s not fun. It’s really important.

FORREST: I have got to take it out that and give it back to the science.

AMANPOUR: OK, but isn’t it really true that it’s also about the economy, it’s also about jobs? I mean, for instance, your prime minister, Scott Morrison, who’s in pretty deep trouble at home right now, asked if his government would work harder to reduce emissions, says: “I’m not going to put someone’s job at risk or a region’s town’s, future at risk.” Isn’t that the problem, that people think that, in order to save the environment, and the bushfires that you’re now trying to give millions of your own money to relieve, you do need a different policy?

FORREST: Yes. So, we have argued that for a long time. We have a warming climate. I started this interview with that. But I’m not allowing it to be simplified. If we simplify it, then so people are going to die, OK?


AMANPOUR: You have explained that. What do you think your prime minister should do in this case?

FORREST: You know, I’m Australian, and a proud Australian. I’m not going to hop up on CNN and criticize any Australian prime minister. So, he can call it. But if he wants to know my advice, he will hear, as he’s heard before, we’re part of a slowly, gently warming planet. The ecology of the world and particularly the ecosystems of our terrestrial parks, they are going to change. We have to manage them differently. We have to be alert. We need to do the coal burns. And we need to make sure that we — that the science — this is — this phenomena of having fires so hot, Christiane, that they create their own thunderstorms, seven, eight kilometers in the air, they shoot out lightning which can go 10, 20 kilometers away. They’re starting bushfires just by being bushfires. These — this is new phenomenon.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, about Lev Parnas and Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest about fire relief in his country. Walter Isaacson speaks with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about his show “Finding Your Roots.”