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Australia bushfires factcheck: are this year's fires unprecedented?
Conservative commentators have pointed to a long history of bushfires to suggest there is nothing unusual about this season. Experts disagree
The 2019 bushfires are like nothing we’ve seen before

 Firefighters tackle the Gospers Mountain fire outside Sydney. Parts of eastern Australia have had record low rainfall in 2019, contributing to an unusually ferocious early bushfire season. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA
Australia has suffered a devastating early bushfire season with fires across several states burning through hundreds of thousands of hectares and destroying hundreds of properties with the loss of six lives.
New South Wales has been the most severely hit, with more than 1.65m hectares razed, an area significantly larger than suburban Sydney. All six deaths occurred in there and more than 600 homes were destroyed. At one point firefighters were battling a fire front about 6,000km long, equivalent to a return trip between Sydney and Perth.
In Queensland, 20 homes have been lost and about 180,000ha burned. In Victoria, where the bushfire season usually starts later, 100km/h winds fanned more than 60 blazes during an unprecedented heatwave on Thursday. The most extreme warning, a code red, was issued for the north-western and central regions. The state’s emergency services minister, Lisa Neville, compared it to “the worst conditions you’d see in February or March”.
How Australia's bushfires spread: mapping the NSW and Queensland fires
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Seven districts in South Australia were rated as being at catastrophic risk of fire on Wednesday as temperatures soared into the 40s. A blaze on the Yorke peninsula burned through about 5,000ha, damaging at least 11 properties and injuring 33 people. Western Australia has also experienced early bushfires in several regions, with fears of much worse to come over summer, and there were minor bushfires this week in Tasmania.
Is this unprecedented?
Australia has always had devastating bushfires, a point emphasised by some columnists and newspaper editorials, but scientists say the fire conditions this year are without parallel on several fronts.
Let’s start with the situation in NSW. Over the past 50 years, there have been just two calendar years in which more of the state has burned than this year: 1974 and 1984. With this year, those two were much larger than any other year, as this graph shows, based on data from the University of Wollongong’s centre for environmental risk management of bushfires:
This year, which still has six weeks to run, sits fractionally behind 1984. Both are a long way behind 1974, when more than 3.5m hectares burned.
But scientists says fire conditions today are fundamentally different, and fundamentally worse in many ways, when compared with some of the fires experienced in the past.
Scott Morrison says no evidence links Australia's carbon emissions to bushfires
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The centre’s director, Ross Bradstock, says the 1974 fires burned through largely remote country mostly in the state’s far west, devouring green, non-woody herbaceous plants. The conditions were created by above average rainfall which produced ample fuel in outback grasslands.
By contrast, the fires in the east of the state this year have been fuelled by a lack of rain. The extent of the fires is in significant part driven by the amount of dry fuel available, some of it in highly unlikely places, and the amount of dry fuel is linked to the record-breaking drought.
Rainfall between January and August 2019 was the lowest on record in some areas, including the northern tablelands of NSW and Queensland’s southern downs. Parts of both states experienced record low soil moisture. As temperatures and wind speeds increased but humidity remained low, conditions were primed for small fires to become major conflagrations.
Bradstock says it has put NSW in uncharted territory: “For the forests and woodlands in the eastern half of the state, this is unprecedented.
“Natural features in the landscape which often impede fires, like these wetter forest communities, are just burning. There is likely to be long-term ecological and other environmental consequences.”
The director of the fire centre at the University of Tasmania, David Bowman, says the unprecedented nature of the fires this spring can be seen through their intensity and geographical spread across the country, noting at time of writing there were fires in five states.
The extent of the bushfire risk is illustrated through Bureau of Meteorology data of the cumulative forest fire danger index across winter.
The map shows the overwhelming majority of the country, with a few exceptions in Victoria, central Queensland and western Tasmania, experienced between “above average” and “highest on record” fire conditions in winter when compared with the average since 1950.
Bowman says the extraordinary nature of the fire season is clear on several measures: the extent of area burned, and the underlying dryness and poor air quality affecting people across the country. Smoke in NSW and Queensland has prompted a rise in people seeking emergency treatment for respiratory problems.
But as illustrative evidence he emphasises the areas affected in which fire has never or rarely burned in the past, including rainforests, wet eucalypt forests, dried-out swamps and organic matter in the soil where the water table has dropped.
He says one of the most striking images of the extreme fire conditions in recent weeks were those of a devastated banana plantation at Taylors Arm, west of Macksville, in northern NSW. He lists it alongside the loss of other landscapes – including Gondwana-era vegetation in the Tasmanian world heritage wilderness area that in some cases had not burned for more than 1,000 years – as evidence of change.
“There’s just layer upon layer upon layer of differences,” Bowman says. “If you narrow your frame you can say ‘nothing to see’. But if you broaden your aperture, it’s clear.
“I wrote a book on Australian rainforests. I’ve seen every Australian rainforest biome, and the fact that multiple versions of these ecosystems right around the country are burning all within the same couple of years … This is a really confronting warning light.”
What do other professionals dealing with fire say?
They largely back the scientists.
As has been widely reported, 23 former fire and emergency services chiefs from across the country have jointly warned climate crisis is making bushfires deadlier and the season longer, and called on the government to act.
Neil Bibby, former chief executive of Victoria’s Country Fire Authority and one of the 23, says: “It has been the last couple of years where we have been realising things have started to change and this is the new future … It will only get worse.”
 Climate change makes bushfires worse. Denying the truth doesn't change the facts
Richard Denniss
Read more
The chief executive of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, Stuart Ellis, says this bushfire season already has an “enduring nature”. “[It’s] just relentless,” he says.
Andrew Gissing, an emergency management expert at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and a consultant with Risk Frontiers, says an analysis of building losses from bushfire seasons back to 1925 suggests this season is already the third worst in NSW. In Queensland, about a third of all financial losses from burned buildings since 1925 have occurred this year.
Is this climate change in action?
No fire can be blamed on climate change alone, but Bowman says the rise in higher temperatures, extreme dryness, worsening fire seasons, extreme bursts of fire weather and behaviour and the spread of fire across the country all align with scenarios painted by climate change projections.
Greenhouse gas emissions have a clear impact on rising temperatures and, through that, an indirect link on increased dryness in eastern Australia. A recent study found the extreme temperatures that drove historic 2018 bushfires in northern Queensland were four times more likely to have happened because of human-caused climate change
In short, climate change can and does makes bushfires worse.
Bradstock says a range of published research has found escalating atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are increasing the risk of the type of fires affecting NSW’s eastern forests, but reducing the likelihood of a similar fire to that experienced in 1974.
The elevated scores on the forest fire danger index in winter this year meant not only that the risk of bushfires was significantly heightened as the warmer seasons began, but opportunities for hazard reduction burning had been limited in some parts of the country – although NSW authorities still managed to meet its annual target of 135,000ha of prescribed burning.
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, from the University of New South Wales’ climate change research centre, says studies by the CSIRO and others have found the fire season has got longer, particularly in eastern Australia, where it is starting earlier. This is expected to continue until 2050 at least.
“We know that catastrophic conditions are now more likely to occur, and into spring as well,” she says.
On this year, Bradstock says: “I guess the most concerning thing to emphasise is it’s not over. We’re not even into summer yet.”
As the climate crisis escalates...
… the Guardian will not stay quiet. This is our pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.
We chose a different approach: to keep Guardian journalism open for all. We don't have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.
Our editorial independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.
The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.
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Found on the net FWIW... " My fellow Canadians, you are buying into a lie regarding our energy industry and the global environment. We are a mere 35 million people, just 0.5% of this planet's 7.3 bill

Canada will not meet its targets, not even close.  What I find reprehensible about Liberal values is the showmanship, wing flapping and strident crowing about what is right and what is good when

Canada is a net NEGATIVE carbon producer.  Our Wilderness cleans more carbon from the atmosphere than the population creates.  The government should be paying us if you do the math.

Posted Images

37 minutes ago, Fido said:

+4c today in Edmonton

I love climate change

According to Weather Canada , you are not seeing climate change.😀  1997 was warmer

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Highest temperature (1996-2017)
  • 4.5°C
  • 1997
Lowest temperature (1996-2017)
  • -28.2°C
  • 2017
Greatest precipitation (1996-2017)
  • 5.7 mm
  • 1998
Greatest rainfall (1996-2006)
  • 0.0 mm
Greatest snowfall (1996-2006)
  • 5.7 cm
  • 1998
Most snow on the ground (1996-2018)
  • 35.0 cm
  • 1996
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On 12/31/2019 at 3:36 PM, Marshall said:
Lowest temperature (1996-2017)        -28.2°C

I can't remember the years but I thought there were a couple when we broke -40c 

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22 hours ago, Moon The Loon said:


Bah, humbug....

yes it is so people need to stop blaming a warm winter ofr hot summer on Climate Change.  It just fuels the BS


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Trudeau just doesn't get Western alienation as he inflicts two more hits to the West’s economy

Trudeau reaffirmed Liberal hostility to resource development with two decisions, both of which undermine his avowed mission to combat climate change

The prime minister just doesn’t get Western alienation. Either that or he is so obsessed with his green image he doesn’t care. After rejection by two-thirds of voters, with support from less than 22 per cent of the total electorate and only four out of 62 seats in the Prairie provinces, Trudeau is downplaying regional “frustrations,” saying they do not amount to a national unity crisis.

As if to flaunt his indifference, Trudeau reaffirmed Liberal hostility to resource development with two fateful decisions, both of which — paradoxically — undermine his avowed mission to combat climate change. The first relates to the government’s stance at the failed UN Conference on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid and the second, its commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

As I recently wrote, selling Canadian oil and gas to Asia will reduce net global emissions by enabling importing countries to decrease their use of higher-emitting coal. Canada can be a big contributor to the international climate effort by exporting oil and gas or it can concentrate on domestic emissions and penalize its economy.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson graciously declared “I’m not saying liquid natural gas (LNG) in the future can’t be part of an overall structure” before adding the killer: “but the focus of the climate plan is on reducing our own domestic emissions.”

Follow his self-defeating reasoning: the government will concentrate on achieving its Paris accord commitments even if doing so precludes reducing worldwide emissions. Because in the end the only number that counts is total global emissions, this approach prioritizes bragging rights over a looming threat to humanity. The Liberal scorecard evidently is more important than whether the planet fries.

Those who oppose sharing carbon reduction credits worry about the possibility of double counting but that technical problem is easily resolved. China quite understandably wants to hoard the credit for reducing its own domestic emissions. But why would the Canadian government support a process that disadvantages its own energy industry for no net environmental advantage?

Wilkinson’s approach should be politically toxic for the Liberal government. The reason it is not pervades the discussion of an alleged climate change crisis: facts and rationality about a technical subject are no match for the stultifying conformity of the environmental bandwagon and its intolerance of dissent.

As for UNDRIP, federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti promised it would be adopted into law in 2020, against the opposition of his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Public commentary and the courts respond almost exclusively to Aboriginal people opposed to resource projects. Yet for many Indigenous communities resource development is a transformative opportunity to create jobs, long-term revenue and lasting economic partnerships. Most First Nations support pipelines that traverse their traditional territories. They resent domestic and foreign NGOs that manipulate Aboriginal rights and denigrate Aboriginal benefits in order to advance their own ideological and commercial agendas.

Hard questions abound. When some nations say no and others say yes, whose voices should be heard and on what basis? What are the implications of proven versus unproven rights and titles? How critical is physical proximity to the project? Does population size matter? Should resource companies consult with hereditary chiefs, band councils or the entire community?

Then there is the Canadian national interest, especially the overarching need to access overseas markets for our oil and gas. In a 2016 discussion paper, a team led by Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci outlined the considerations when consent cannot be obtained, including that rights must be adequately protected and impacts mitigated, which may entail compensation. Otherwise, the infringement must be justified by balancing Indigenous rights with the need to respect other human rights, as well as the public interest in “meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.”

We cannot know how UNDRIP will be interpreted by the courts or, crucially, whether First Nations could veto development projects. Inevitably, these complex issues will generate extensive litigation. Regulatory risk, lawfare and political opposition caused project sponsors TransCanada and Kinder Morgan to withdraw from Energy East and Trans Mountain, respectively, at a sunk cost of a billion dollars each. Adding UNDRIP to the new “no pipelines” Impact Assessment Act could seal the fate of new projects, leaving vast energy resources landlocked.

Canadians are left to wonder whether the government considered the full implications of these two decisions for the country or, given its minority situation, whether it even cares.

Joe Oliver was minister of natural resources and minister of finance in the Harper government.

Edited by Jaydee
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Two months ago, Venice was flooding and this was blamed on Climate Change.  So here we are 2 months later:

Venice canals almost dry, two months after severe floods

·        1 hour ago Link to article and video

Media captionVenice's canals look more like mud trenches

Low tides have left canals in Venice almost dry, just two months after severe flooding left much of the Italian city under water.

Boats have been seen almost beached as water levels dip drastically.

The canals look more like mud trenches and getting around has become a problem for many in the city.

In November, Venice experienced its highest water levels in more than 50 years in what some said was a direct result of climate change.

§  Climate change behind highest tide in 50 years, says mayor

More than two thirds of the city was underwater then, with the mayor estimating damage at over a billion euros ($1.1bn; £850m).

Landmarks like St Mark's Square were flooded, while shops and businesses had to close.

The latest low tide - while exceptional - is not quite as unprecedented. The tides here mean water levels can vary by around half a metre, or sometimes even more.




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Anyone who sees Droughts as caused by climate change needs to look in history.  There is a reason we have the word drought.  Because it's not a new phenomenon.

Look back to the 1930's and the dust bowl.  Where was climate change then?

Late 80's early 90's in California.  That lasted like 5 years


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Here's a good "trial run" for all of those Liberals who refuse to answer when I ask "where does that 79 megaton carbon deficit (Paris Accord) come from?" 

This ain't but nothing (and I mean NOTHING) when compared to what's actually required to hit those accord targets.... how do you like it so far?

Taking all tractor trailers off the road isn't near enough either. Shutting down the entire agricultural sector isn't enough. If action on climate change is the number one  concern of most Canadians, why aren't people applauding a minuscule effort like this and demanding more of the same?

 If you think this qualifies as "an emergency," then you really don't want what you say you think you might maybe really perhaps want and you should stick to magic lightbulbs and plastic straws.

It's really a golden opportunity to see what a thin veneer western civilization actually is and it stands as a lesson in comparing what you think you want and what you are likely to complain about not having. Not to be mean about it, but hopefully this will drag out sufficiently long for people to really understand the potential effects of what they have been advocating for. As it (if it) unfolds, keep in mind that this is small potatoes when compared to what is actually required to hit accord targets.

If the temperature in your house right now is above 15C, and you want more action on climate change, you may be in for a surprise if you actually get what you are demanding. Now, try and imagine Bernie at the helm of the USS Green New Deal....

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It gets even sillier than that.

I constantly use those bags for a myriad of things and now I have to buy them. But the ones you buy are between two and three times thicker. In short, when I’m done with them and they finally get recycled, I have increased my plastic consumption/disposal by a factor of three.



Edited by Wolfhunter
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5 hours ago, Wolfhunter said:

It gets even sillier than that.

I constantly use those bags for a myriad of things and now I have to buy them. But the ones you buy are between two and three times thicker. In short, when I’m done with them and they finally get recycled, I have increased my plastic consumption/disposal by a factor of three.



You could always purchase the "Bio-degradable" ones.  😀

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