The firestorms continue unabated in smoldering Australia. If you are a praying person, now would be the time as extreme conditions threaten the lives of thousands of our brothers and sisters down under.
“We know the fires we’ve got already … but what we need to be vigilant about today as well is the prospect of any new fires that might start under these hot, dry, windy conditions,” he said.
In Victoria, where a state of disaster has been declared, there were evacuation recommendations for six fires, emergency warnings for another six, and dozens of others still burning.
“Fire weather on Saturday is predicted to be extreme creating fire storm conditions which may not be survivable,” the CFA warned.
Imagine reading this article and realizing that you, and your town, are on the too late to leave list.
Waking sick at heart this morning for the next 24 hours and so many communities in N/E Victoria and the Sth Coast of NSW. Please stay tuned to your local ABC Radio for emergency updates. #AustraliaBushfires pic.twitter.com/5c0Utb54Xg
— Virginia Trioli (@LaTrioli) January 3, 2020
EMERGENCY WARNING – Border Fire (Bega Valley LGA)
If you are in the area of Womboyn, Kiah, Narrabarba, Towamba, Burragate, Eden and surrounds, you are at risk. It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches. #nswrfs #nswfires #alert pic.twitter.com/fHbAOc9fvg
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 4, 2020
Since 1996 successive conservative Australian governments have successfully fought to subvert international agreements on climate change in defense of the country’s fossil fuel industries. Today, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of both coal and gas. It recently was ranked 57th out of 57 countries on climate-change action.
In no small part Mr. Morrison owes his narrow election victory earlier this year to the coal-mining oligarch Clive Palmer, who formed a puppet party to keep the Labor Party — which had been committed to limited but real climate-change action — out of government. Mr. Palmer’s advertising budget for the campaign was more than double that of the two major parties combined. Mr. Palmer subsequently announced plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia.
🚨 devastating lead:
(Australia’s) aerial firefighting centre called four years ago for a "national large air-tanker" fleet to confront a growing bushfire threat but was turned down in a federal government ruling that the task was one for the states.https://t.co/fQyJjmDcVH
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) January 4, 2020
This posture seems to be a chilling political calculation: With no effective opposition from a Labor Party reeling from its election loss and with media dominated by Rupert Murdoch — 58 percent of daily newspaper circulation — firmly behind his climate denialism, Mr. Morrison appears to hope that he will prevail as long as he doesn’t acknowledge the magnitude of the disaster engulfing Australia.
Mr. Morrison made his name as immigration minister, perfecting the cruelty of a policy that interns refugees in hellish Pacific-island camps, and seems indifferent to human suffering. Now his government has taken a disturbing authoritarian turn, cracking down on unions, civic organizations and journalists. Under legislation pending in Tasmania, and expected to be copied across Australia, environmental protesters now face up to 21 years in jail for demonstrating.
“Australia is a burning nation led by cowards,” wrote the leading broadcaster Hugh Riminton, speaking for many. He might have added “idiots,” after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack blamed the fires on exploding horse manure.
Such are those who would open the gates of hell and lead a nation to commit climate suicide.
I spoke to an obstetrician about delivering babies in smoky birthing suites https://t.co/YsxhPLVcMV "Every single mother-to-be and every single dad-to-be I've seen today has expressed to me anxiety about what the future holds for the child they're carrying." #bushfiresAustralia
— Gina Rushton (@ginarush) January 3, 2020
Joelle Gergis writes in The Guardian on the Australian heat, drought and bushfires: We are seeing the very worst of our scientific predictions come to pass in these bushfires
To avoid sounding like a broken record, instead I will say that as a lead author on the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report of the global climate due out next year, I can assure you that the planetary situation is extremely dire.
It’s no exaggeration to say my work as scientist now keeps me up at night.
As I’ve watched the events of this summer unfolding, I’ve found myself wondering whether the Earth system has now breached a tipping point, an irreversible shift in the stability of the planetary system.
There may now be so much heat trapped in the system that we may have already triggered a domino effect that could unleash a cascade of abrupt changes that will continue to play out in the years and decades to come.
Rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it.
We know this because the geologic record contains evidence that these events have occurred in the past. The key difference is that we’ve never had 7.5 billion people on the planet, so the human species really is in uncharted territory.
This is like a scene from a dystopian scifi space adventure. I even hear ominous music in my head when Australia becomes visible.
— Matias Koivurova (aka Dr Birchill) (@MKoivurova) January 1, 2020
You can see the smoke covering New Zealand in the above clip.
NZ glaciers are now covered in soot and, as result, the ice darkens, absorbing solar heat, leading to more melt on New Zealand’s vulnerable glaciers.
David Wallace-Well writes: Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future
This hypothesis is especially concerning, of course, given the way that climate change will inevitably extend these sorts of horrors in the decades ahead. Today, there are categories of natural disasters, like droughts, we understand can last for months, or even years, and though they should demand our attention, rarely do. Already, we have added to that category disasters like the flooding that walloped the Midwest this spring — lasting many months in some places, preventing American farmers from planting crops on 19 million acres. But wrapping your head around flooding as an enduring, months-long disaster is one thing, however unthinkable it might have been to the average American five or ten years ago. Coming to see the wildfire season as a permanent threat is another terrifying adjustment, though Californians are now doing precisely that. But regarding the fires themselves — which can travel 60 miles per hour or more, creating their own weather systems that project lightning strikes miles away from the blaze, causing more fire — not as a sudden catastrophe but a semi-permanent condition strikes me as another level of normalization entirely. And yet here we are.
When the birds start mimicking fire engine sirens
The Australian magpie is well known for mimicking the sounds it hears most frequently. This is the #AustralianBushfires https://t.co/bFGCNioOhK #ausfires #NSWbushfires #AustraliaBushfires #AustraliaBurns pic.twitter.com/qlakQ7jWrM
— Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) January 2, 2020
The second explanation is perhaps even more distressing. If you had told me, even six months ago, that a climate disaster like this one would strike a place like Australia, I probably would not have expected global wall to wall media coverage — seeing these Sydney opera house against an eerie backdrop of orange smoke makes for spectacular footage, but it’s perhaps less ripe fodder for social media than watching the Kardashians evacuate the valley by Instagram story — but I would have expected a lot more than this. That’s not because of high-minded faith in the media, or public interest in harrowing stories like these. It’s for a more sinister reason: for decades now, in the U.S. and Western Europe, we have paid much, much more attention to even small-scale suffering by the force of natural disaster when it strikes parts of the wealthy west than we ever muster for those suffering already so dramatically from climate change in Asia and especially in the global south.
That set of prejudices is a moral outrage, and an especially concerning feature of the global response to climate change, which is already punishing the developing world in ways almost no one in the wealthy west would consider conscionable — if they let themselves see it. But it has also proven maddeningly stubborn, and I would have expected the same prejudices would bind the sympathy and empathy of millions across the U.S. and Europe to the plight of a mostly white, English-speaking “First World” former colony like Australia, however far away, in the face of disaster.
The global response to the bushfires has suggested, unfortunately, something more like the opposite: that no bind of tribal alliance or allegiance is strong enough that we won’t discard it, if discarding it allows us to see the suffering of those living elsewhere on the planet as insignificant to our own lives. These fires are just one disaster, of course, and the planet has many test cases like it ahead. But it would be among the most perverse grotesqueries of climate change if it brought about the end of these kinds of global prejudices — not to be replaced with a sense of common humanity but a system of disinterest defined instead by ever smaller circles of empathy.
Aussie tennis star from Canberra speaks at the Australian Open. Note that the court is enclosed and air conditioned, that was not the case just a few short years ago.
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