2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade – The New York Times

“Last year was the second-hottest on record, government researchers confirmed on Wednesday in analyses of temperature data from thousands of observing stations around the world. They said that 2019 was only slightly cooler than 2016 and the end of what was the warmest decade yet.”

David Lindsay,  NYT Comment:

Thank you for this report, and yuck. It is time to panic, breath, and take action, as if your house was on fire, because our earth is in serious trouble. It is time to throw all the climate change deniers and footdraggers out of congress and the white house

The future of the tens of thousands of species, including humans, depends on us turning around our economies and reduse our green house gas emmissions in the next ten years, say the 2000 or so top scientist, who volunteer their time to the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, under the auspices of the United Nations.

 

Some of Australia’s Smallest Species Could Be Lost to Wildfires – By Helen Sullivan – The New York Times

By 

“SYDNEY, Australia — When Tanya Latty, an entomologist at the University of Sydney, started studying a species of velvet worm 18 months ago, she thought it was just a side project.

“It’s an adorable, adorable animal,” she said, speaking on the phone from her home in Sydney. The worms — which comprise the phylum Onychophora, are cousins of arthropods and somewhat resemble caterpillars — have a “beautiful blue velvety texture” and “cute little stubby antenna,” Dr. Latty said. The worms sleep together in a pile, she noted, and for that reason she and her colleagues have been trying to popularize the phrase “a cuddle of velvet worms” as a collective noun.

Velvet worms are predators; they have pairs of clawed legs down the length of their bodies, and they catch prey using glue shot from nozzles on their heads. Often, a single worm will catch the prey and others will then join the feast. Velvet worms are incredibly social; studying them provides clues to the evolution of social behavior in arthropods. And they give birth to live young, which remain with their parents for a period before shuffling off.

They also happen to live in one of the national parks in the Australian Capital Territory, an area badly affected by the recent wildfires. So far the fires have destroyed more than 40,000 square miles, threatening entire species, costing 26 human lives and exacting billions of dollars in damage. Dr. Latty would not reveal the worms’ exact location; people tend to poach them to sell or keep as pets. But she worried that the rotting logs they inhabit had not protected them from the blazes.”

Opinion | Australia Is Burning – By Cormac Farrell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Farrell is an environmental scientist and a certified bush-fire planning and design practitioner.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“CANBERRA, Australia — Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales. I am over a hundred miles away, unable to reach them by phone.

In the middle of this destruction, many Australian commentators in the mainstream and social media peddle a simplistic view: that the fires were caused by excess plant growth and mismanagement of public land.

Opinion | Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide – By Richard Flanagan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Flanagan is a novelist.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“BRUNY ISLAND, Australia — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.

The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.

The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.

Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.”

See Where Australia’s Deadly Wildfires Are Burning – The New York Times

Days into the New Year, deadly wildfires, fueled by wind and scorching summer heat, continued to rage across Australia’s southeast.

Fire detections in the last 24 hours

Fire detections since November 2019

Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System. Data as of January 3.

“Thousands of tourists and residents have been forced to evacuate from areas along the southeast coast so far, and tens of thousands more are fleeing to safer ground ahead of the weekend, with forecasters predicting a new round of dangerous fire conditions.

High winds and temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius, are expected starting Friday.

Australia’s 2019 fire season started early and has been exceptionally brutal, experts say, even for a country used to regular burning.

Wildfires have scorched millions of acres of land across the country since October, destroying more than a thousand homes and killing at least 19 people, including three volunteer firefighters.

The most-affected state, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is having its worst fire season in 20 years.”

Australia Fires Keep Spreading as Military Reservists Called Up – The New York Times

By Livia Albeck-RipkaJamie Tarabay and 

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“Hundreds of people who had spent days trapped by fires along a beach in the town of Mallacoota reached safety more than 300 miles away on Saturday morning, after a 20-hour trip on a naval ship.

Others had stayed behind, even as Australian officials across three states urged anyone who could leave to do so. By Saturday, numerous towns along Australia’s eastern and southeastern coasts were ringed by fire.

This is already one of the worst wildfire seasons Australia has ever endured, and by all measures, Saturday was expected to be even more extreme. High winds and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit were likely to exacerbate fires already raging out of control. Officials in the state of New South Wales said they expected to lose more houses over the weekend.”

Opinion | Apocalypse Becomes the New Normal – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“The past week’s images from Australia have been nightmarish: walls of flame, blood-red skies, residents huddled on beaches as they try to escape the inferno. The bush fires have been so intense that they have generated “fire tornadoes” powerful enough to flip over heavy trucks.

The thing is, Australia’s summer of fire is only the latest in a string of catastrophic weather events over the past year: unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, a heat wave in India that sent temperatures to 123 degrees, another heat wave that brought unheard-of temperatures to much of Europe.

And all of these catastrophes were related to climate change.

Notice that I said “related to” rather than “caused by” climate change. This is a distinction that has flummoxed many people over the years. Any individual weather event has multiple causes, which was one reason news reports used to avoid mentioning the possible role of climate change in natural disasters.

In recent years, however, climate scientists have tried to cut through this confusion by engaging in “extreme event attribution,” which focuses on probabilities: You can’t necessarily say that climate change caused a particular heat wave, but you can ask how much difference global warming made to the probability of that heat wave happening. And the answer, typically, is a lot: Climate change makes the kinds of extreme weather events we’ve been seeing much more likely.”

Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad – The New York Times

By Andy Parsons and 

Photographs by 

“This fire season has been one of the worst in Australia’s history, with at least 15 people killed, hundreds of homes destroyed and millions of acres burned. And summer is far from over.

This week, thousands of residents and vacationers in southeastern Australia were forced to evacuate to shorelines as bush fires encircled communities and razed scores of buildings. Military ships and aircraft were deployed on Wednesday to deliver water, food and fuel to towns cut off by the fires.

The hot, dry conditions that have fueled the fires are nothing new in Australia. Here’s why this fire season has been so calamitous.

A kangaroo rushing past a burning house in Lake Conjola on Tuesday.

Record-breaking temperatures, extended drought and strong winds have converged to create disastrous fire conditions.”

Opinion | Our Cherished Rivers Are Under Threat – The New York Times

By Macarena SolerMonti Aguirre and 

Ms. Soler is the founder of Geute Conservación Sur, Ms. Aguirre is the Latin America program coordinator of International Rivers and Mr. Orrego is the president of Ecosistemas.

Credit…Marcos Zegers for The New York Times

“The rivers of Chilean Patagonia cascade from snow-capped mountains through sheer rock facades and rolling hills, radiating bright turquoise, deep blues and vivid greens. The Puelo. The Pascua. The Futaleufú. Each is as breathtaking and unique as the landscape it quenches.

But these rivers, like many worldwide, have been threatened by dam projects that aim to provide power for distant cities and mining operations. Only one-third of the world’s 177 longest rivers remain free flowing, and just 21 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) retain a direct connection to the sea.

If we are to arrest global climate change, prevent the toxifying of freshwater sources and do right by all those who depend on rivers for survival, we must return more rivers to their natural state.

For decades, rivers have been an afterthought in global climate talks, like the ones that concluded in Madrid this month. New streams of climate finance, like the Climate Bonds Initiative, may soon be available to large-scale hydropower projects. While renewable energy and its financing are an important part of climate solutions, hydropower dams are not the answer.

Hydropower is not a clean, green technology. Rivers help regulate an increasingly volatile global carbon cycle by transporting decaying organic material from land to sea, where it settles on the ocean floor. This draws an estimated 200 million tons of carbon out of the air each year.

As an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientist, Philip Fearnside, has documented, large dams, especially on tropical rivers like the Amazon, are “methane factories,” emitting in some cases more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. This month in Madrid, 276 civil society groups attending the United Nations climate talks called on the Climate Bonds Initiative to exclude hydropower from climate financing.

Hydroelectric dams, when they are built, flood large areas of vegetation. This fuels decomposition and releases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Considered as a whole, hydroelectric dams emit a billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. This is comparable to the aviation industry, which emitted over 900 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2018.”

These 3 supertrees can protect us from climate collapse But can we protect them? – Vox.com

By Eliza BarclayUmair Irfan, and Tristan McConnell
Photographs by Victor Moriyama, Ardiles Rante, and Sarah Waiswa

We traveled to protected areas deep inside these countries to learn the superpowers of three tree species that play an unusually important part in staving off environmental disaster, not just locally, but globally. These trees play many ecological roles, but most impressive is how they produce rainfall, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and support hundreds of other species.

If these ecosystems collapse, the climate effects are likely to be irreversible. And so what happens to these forests truly affects all life on Earth.

This is the story of three trees at the center of our climate crisis that provide big benefits to you, me, and the world. Meet the trees, get to know their superpowers, and learn how scientists are trying to protect them.

This project was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Meet the Amazon’sRAINMAKER

https://www.vox.com/a/supertrees?emci=402d9d87-b61d-ea11-a601-2818784d6d68&emdi=a18960b5-4e22-ea11-a601-2818784d6d68&ceid=1543337