Traveling to reality: Australia Part 3.

This story is adapted from a BBC report dated 9 November 2019.
THE PRESENT. In early November 2019, concurrent wildfires were raging in eastern Australia and California. This is unprecedented because its Spring in Australia and Fall in California – the wrong seasons for wildfires, let along wildfires that are this intense.

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A wildfire geyser in eastern Australia. Eruptions like this occur more often due to extra heavy undergrowth. Click on image to source.

I was in Australia in August 2019 and reported on a massive drought that stretched from Sydney west into the state of South Australia. We saw no blade of green grass for two whole days of four-wheeling in the northern Flinders Ranges. We saw dozens of dead kangaroos by the roadside. And we saw pitiful dry holes in the sandy bottom of a creek bed – scratched out by desperate kangaroos looking for water. It brought tears to my eyes.

At least six people were dead and four missing in “unprecedented” bushfires in Australia in the past month. There were 1,300 firefighters tackling about 100 blazes.

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Contrails of smoke from separate wildfires along the east coast of Australia. Click on image to source.

Thousands of people spent the night in evacuation centers while officials assessed whether it was safe for them to return home. Meanwhile fire officials confirmed that more than 500 homes had been destroyed.

One blaze burned though 2,000 hectares of bush which contained a koala sanctuary. Hundreds of the animals were feared to have died.

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Koala lucky to escape wildfire: hundreds didn’t. Click image to watch video, or source, then hit back-arrow to return to blog article.

THE FUTURE. Its Spring in Australia and Fall in California. It’s not summer wildfire season in either place. This appears to be the new normal – deadly wildfires all year round.

Hard not to blame global warming – especially when we look at the data collected from the northern Rockies a few years back. In a 2006 peer-reviewed publication, it was shown that a recent warming — of less than 0.9°C — caused the wildfires in western USA observed in spring and summer during recent decades. The explanation was that higher temperatures in spring and summer cause earlier snowmelt, longer summers, drier forests in summer, etc.

My home state of South Australia is the driest state in the driest country of the world. Fires in the state prompted emergency warnings on Wednesday November 20 as temperatures neared 45C (113F) in parts of the state, exacerbated by winds of up to 90 km/h (55 mph).

Officials switched off electricity to about 10,000 homes and businesses to reduce the risk of new fires. Such blazes are most commonly sparked by winds bringing down power lines.

South Australia has endured its driest first nine months of any year on record, said Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. No significant rainfall is forecast for the coming months.

Australia’s fires last longer and are more intense due to climate change, according to scientists.

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About 1,000 firefighters have been tackling the blazes across New South Wales. Click on image to source (Reuters.) 

Officials have confirmed that 2018 and 2017 were Australia’s third and fourth-hottest years on record respectively.

Even if global temperatures are contained to a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels – a limit set out in the landmark Paris accord, agreed by 188 nations in 2015 – scientists believe the country is facing and may continue to face a dangerous new normal.

In 2018, a UN report said Australia was falling short in efforts to cut its carbon dioxide emissions (CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas). The country mines and burns and exports a lot of coal (coal is the largest earner of all exports).

Australia uses mostly coal-burning (70%) to generate electricity, with much of the remainder being natural gas-burning. Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world, with its 0.3% of the world’s population releasing 1.1% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

All five of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last five years, according to global temperature data released in February 2019 by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last year’s average global surface temperature was 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above a baseline period between 1951 and 1980, according to NASA.

The last five years have been among the hottest in 124 years of record keeping.
“That’s definitely an indication that the world is warming, and things are starting to change,” said the manager of the California Department of Water Resources’ state climate program.

Out of the 1,483 months since records began in 1895, July 2018 was the hottest of all, with an average statewide temperature of 79.7 degrees, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

And notorious hot-spot Death Valley led the way, with an average July temperature of 108.1 degrees. This is an all-time high temperature record for any weather station in the world, NOAA said.
Blame global warming for the concurrent wildfires in Australia and California. Then blame the growing greenhouse emissions into the upper atmosphere. Then blame the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), agricultural practices, and cutting down forests.
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The Gray Nomad …..Understand the climate change debate.
Today I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Oh, that you would choose life; that you and your children might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey him and to cling to him, for he is your life and the length of your days.
[Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30]

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4 years ago

Hi Ian, finally got time to read this very informative blog. An unrepresented increase of substantially more intense forest fires, glaciers melting at an unprecedented rate, and much stronger and more devastating storms are unsettling for rational people. We shouldn’t need the media, or politicians to tell us what we are facing. We do need good science and honest politics to get on our way to solving this problem of Global Warming. The Secretary General of the UN recently said, “Climate crisis and the point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling towards us,” So we can debate, or we can get down to a sensible effort to reduce the effects we are already seeing, and head off the inevitable. I am amazed that there are still people that believe we humans are not the cause of climate change. Denial never solved a real problem.

Garrick Little
Garrick Little
4 years ago

Hi Ian. Thanks for presenting this information. This is a daunting subject with far reaching implications for the planet. We are presented with many challenges: political, environmental, financial.
What are we to make of the positions staked out by the Democratic contenders for the Presidency? The last time I saw these people on stage they all agreed that drastic action needed to be taken for the very survival of humanity. The actions needed and the cost of implementation would make our way of life in the USA impossible I believe. Many of the claims put forward to support the dire place we are in were promoted by junior level politicians with questionable credentials. This is not to invalidate more serious thinkers on the subject but it should cause us to question the value of the information we receive through the popular media.
In our world today an unhealthy reality exists. We have vast amounts of information presented by people or factions that have a skewed point of view with often a political outcome in mind.
There are those who speak for science but whose claims far exceed what the data justifies
(scientism). This relationship between information and how it is processed by most of society is a great source of concern. It is Truth itself which is “on the scaffold”, to quote the poet. As I write this I understand I’m taking an unpopular stance on this question. I don’t want to be numbered with those who refuse to be open to the severity of weather related realities. I just believe the human race has a long and lamentable catalog of questions that failed to be addressed in the manner demanded of them. This does not mean interminable debate inconsistent with the urgency of the challenge. Rather it means to honestly look at the ‘experts” that claim to speak for all us.

Bob Moulton
Bob Moulton
4 years ago

Hi Ian,
I agree that our climate is changing. There is too much evidence in critical areas of the world indicating this change that cannot be ignored.
As you are aware, our home State of South Australia is leading the way in Australia with wind and solar energy with more mega-scale projects about to be commenced. However, our enormous coal resources create a real problem for our government. Do they turn their backs on the billions of export dollars for the sake of the planet? Do we shut down all of our coal-fired power stations before wind, solar and mega-batteries can adequately cope with demand?
Australia has vast areas of uninhabited sun-drenched land, and has always had great potential for solar energy and I believe the government and private enterprise have been very slow to recognise this fact.
Bob Moulton
Melrose, South Australia

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