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Aussie Firefighters Connect the Dots
Adam Stein, 25 Feb 09

Why can’t Americans? Blame the press.

The recent series of bushfires in Australia are being called the continent’s worst natural disaster in over 100 years. The death toll is expected to rise above 200. Over 1,000 houses have been destroyed. 5,000 are homeless.

In response, the firefighter’s union has issued a stern demand to the government: take global warming more seriously. Every part of this story is basically incomprehensible in an American context.

The firefighters union has now joined Green politicians and environmental activists in arguing that the deadly infernos are a climate change wake-up call to Australia.

Coalitions! Strange bedfellows!

In their letter to Rudd, the firefighters cited Australian scientists forecasting a “low global warming scenario” would see catastrophic fire events in Victoria every five to seven years by 2020, and by 2050, a doubling of extreme danger fire days.

Citation of scientific research! A subtle grasp of the statistical nature of extreme weather events!

“Given the federal government’s dismal greenhouse gas emissions cut of 5 percent, the science suggests we are well on the way to guaranteeing that somewhere in the country there will be an almost annual repeat of the recent disaster,” they said.

Pressure for meaningful action! From outside the environmental community!

Contrast this to a recent New York Times article that spilled over 1,200 words on the horrifying drought in California, and not a single one of them was “climate” or “change” or “global” or “warming”.

Look, it’s tricky business writing about the interplay of climate change and individual weather events. RealClimate recently ran several thoughtful posts on this topic, which basically boil down to this conclusion: the links are there, and they’re getting stronger. How much longer can the U.S. media continue to ignore them? (Or, as the case may be, simply lie about them?)

Adam Stein is a co-founder of TerraPass. He writes on issues related to carbon, climate change, policy, and conservation.

Image credit: Flickr/Sandy Austin whanau.

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To be fair(?!) New York and California are a ways apart. It probably doesn't seem quite real to NYT (Murdoch should know better, though!). Perhaps when it happens in the Appalachians...?

The 'recent spate of bushfires' are the latest in a series of catastrophes triggered by a twelve year drought in SE Australia:
Jan 2004: Smoke blankets Melbourne as 2-300 km away, half of the alpine region is laid waste. Firestorms hit Canberra, destroying several suburbs and Mount Stromlo observatory.
Dec 2006: A winter without rain. The Murray Darling system threatens to dry up completely. Melbourne gets the kipper treatment again, as the other half of the Alps goes up in smoke... at the *start* of the fire season. Concerns that this rate of conflagration will cause permanent changes to regional vegetation.

The dots were well and truly connected before the Feb 7 bushfires (which, ironically, were accompanied by massive floods in Queensland). They do act as a reminder to the Rudd government that they were elected for something more than a 5% reduction in greenhouse emissions. (although, to be fair once more, the longer term goal is 60%, and it's far more than the previous government was prepared to commit to.)

It isn't just about the economy, stupid! We had hoped Rudd had grokked this. We can only hope Obama does.

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 25 Feb 09

I am totally agree with global warming, we people are not serious about global warming .We have to take some major steps so that we can prevent these incidents in future.

Posted by: sj on 12 Mar 09

IS this disaster really linked with global warming.
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Posted by: raymonroe on 9 Oct 10

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