The End of Australia as We Know It – By Damien Cave – The New York Times

By 

Photographs by 

“SYDNEY, Australia — In a country where there has always been more space than people, where the land and wildlife are cherished like a Picasso, nature is closing in. Fueled by climate change and the world’s refusal to address it, the fires that have burned across Australia are not just destroying lives, or turning forests as large as nations into ashen moonscapes.

They are also forcing Australians to imagine an entirely new way of life. When summer is feared. When air filters hum in homes that are bunkers, with kids kept indoors. When birdsong and the rustle of marsupials in the bush give way to an eerie, smoky silence.

“I am standing here a traveler from a new reality, a burning Australia,” Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker, told a crowd of international executives and politicians in Davos, Switzerland, last month. “What was feared and what was warned is no longer in our future, a topic for debate — it is here.”

“We have seen,” she added, “the unfolding wings of climate change.”

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise.”

David Lindsay:  Horrid, excellent story, and good comments, such as:

Hugh Garner
Melbourne
Times Pick

The gravity of this article is well founded. For me, as an Australian, it is more than heart-breaking. I feel like the burnt countryside, scarred by the inferno. It has changed me forever. An enduring image for me is the picture of the Australian Prime Minister, Morrison, standing in the Parliament with a fatuous grin, holding a large lump of coal, in his apology for a mind, making a point against the environmentalists. This man and his supporters, denying reality, must be thrown out. There is no forgiving. Morrison, the Prime Minister, and his lackeys, are nothing but “fossil fools”.

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Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way – By Thomas Fuller – The New York Times

By 

Photographs and Video by 

“COOINDA, Australia — At a time when vast tracts of Australia are burning, Violet Lawson is never far from a match.

In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.

Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.

These programs, which are generating important scientific data, are being held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.”

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

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

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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

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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.”

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.”

Building a Better Coral Reef – By DAMIEN CAVE and JUSTIN GILLIS – NYT

ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, off Australia — After a plunge beneath the crystal-clear water to inspect a coral reef, Neal Cantin pulled off his mask and shook his head.

“All dead,” he said.Yet even as he and his dive team of international scientists lamented the devastation that human recklessness has inflicted on the world’s greatest system of reefs, they also found cause for hope.

As they spent days working through a stretch of ocean off the Australian state of Queensland, Dr. Cantin and his colleagues surfaced with sample after sample of living coral that had somehow dodged a recent die-off: hardy survivors, clinging to life in a graveyard.

“We’re trying to find the super corals, the ones that survived the worst heat stress of their lives,” said Dr. Cantin, a researcher with the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville.”

David Lindsay:

Scientist are fighting back against the die off of the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs throughout the world, without knowing their chances of success.
Citizens are fighting back.
I am motivated to reduce my carbon footprint. This February, I had Earthlight Technologies put 17 more solar panels on the roof of my house, in addition to the 24 that C-Tec Solar installed three years ago. I can now plug in my new used 2014 Prius Hybrid Plug In, and drive around Hamden in a short-range electric car, that is fueled by the solar panels instead of gasoline. It only has a range of 10 miles, but it is a start. Earthlight also installed a EVSE outside my house, which is sometimes called a car charger. It is actually a Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. It supplies electricity to the car charger built into my vehicle. With a new surplus of solar electricity, I can now start converting the natural gas systems of the house over to electrical systems.

Damage to Great Barrier Reef From Global Warming Is Irreversible-Scientists Say – The New York Times

SYDNEY, Australia — An underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef two years ago spurred a die-off of coral so severe that scientists say the natural wonder will never look the same again.

Scientists said nearly one-third of the reef’s coral were killed when ocean temperatures spiked in 2016, a result of global warming, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.The damage to the reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, has also radically altered the mix of its coral species, scientists said.

“The reef is changing faster than anyone thought it would,” said Terry P. Hughes, the lead author of the study and the director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Queensland.