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December 2019

AUSTRALIA FIRES RAGE ON
By Jeff Stark


As I write this Australia is still burning. Some reports indicate that well over 100 fires in nearly every section of the continent are out of control. Estimates of wildlife loss go as high as 1 billion, including many endemic species which may go extinct as a result of the fires. So far about 15 million acres have burned across the country - an area roughly the size of West Virginia - and there is no reason to believe that these fires won't continue burning and growing for a long time to come.

View from space shows the scope of the fires Australia's fires are, in part, a function of the longest drought in Australia since Europeans first began to settle the continent. For several years the Australia fire season has grown by leaps and bounds and will undoubtedly continue and accelerate. Climate change is making wild fires hotte and more dispersed all the time. As urban development all over the globe continues, more and more habitat for humans is going up in smoke. This trend will continue until the weather moderates or the fires run out of fuel.


Climate scientists have long predicted that climate change will supercharge global responses to naturally occurring climate events. For example, from the Arctic to Antarctica glaciers Australian wildlife in peril from firesand ice caps are melting in front of our eyes. The resulting increase in rising sea levels was predicted. Now those predictions are turning into facts and we are still not capable of mounting the kind of coordinated international efforts which may be our last hope to halt this deadly trend.

Map shows how numerous Australia fires areAnd that's not where the bad news stops. We in the US, as well as people all over the planet, are saddled with a leader whose ability to understand what is happening is eclipsed by most middle school students. Trump's prescription for dealing with wildfires? Get out your broom and groom the forest floor. This represents a level of creative thinking that is truly pitiful. Those of us who are not terrified by Trump and his criminal gang are clearly not paying attention because terror is the only rational response to the worst president the nation has ever seen.

Global demonstrations get youth fired upMost serious observers and participants in the scientific studies of climate change are members of an organization known as the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC). A project of the united Nations, IPCC has sponsored and coordinated responsible climate change studies since 1988. Since then they have published and publicized a yearly report featuring and interpreting the knowledge and information gained during the year. Last year their report was the most alarming ever. In essence they reported that, absent a science-based international effort of nearly unprecedented scope, we will not be able to control climate change. In ten years, at the current pace, we will have reached a "tipping point" where our environmental problems will be insoluble.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Climate change is worsening wildfiresThe other side of this coin is that we still have enough time, just barely, to energize the global effort that is required. Here in the US our history features many examples of seemingly phenomenal efforts in the face of existential threats. In the second World War we were able to convert entire industries, most notably the automobile industry, from making consumer goods to weapons of war. The resulting capability to out-produce our enemies powered our victories over this global threat. In the early 60's US President John F. Kennedy announced the US goal to send a man to the Moon and bring him home, all to be accomplished in less than a decade. Initially the US population was mostly dubious that the goal could be achieved. Then, in less that the time alotted, we shared, with others around the globe, TV beamed from the Moon. Thus Kennedy's vision was validated, and shared, worldwide.

With all of this in mind it seems clear that we need an "all in" effort, a social, political and community movement with a common purpose and goal. We also need to know that we all need to take charge of our organizations and efforts while recognizing that effective leadership will be absolutely vital.

International firefighters on the front linesOne of the most dynamic organizations dealing with community efforts to defeat climate change is the US Climate Action Network. They have created a vital network for 175+ organizations active on climate change. One of those organizations is the Citizens Climate Lobby. This is an organization with over 170,000 citizen volunteers, in chapters in all 50 states. They are leading the campaign to pass a climate change bill that could reduce the production and/or release of greenhouse gases in the US by 40% in ten to twelve years. Click here for information on how to support this important effort.