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Countries from Siberia to Australia are burning: the age of fire is the bleakest warning yet

Countries from Siberia to Australia are burning: the age of fire is the bleakest warning yet

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: the world economy, civilisation, and maybe our survival as a species are on the line

Fire front bushfire in the valley, Blue Mountains, Australia
 Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. Photograph: Andrew Merry/Getty Images

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilisation, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires. It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.

It is the spate of extinctions, the precipitous loss of sea fish, birds and corals, of forests, mammals, frogs, bees and other insects. It is the march of deserts and the waxing of dead zones in the oceans.

It is an avalanche of human chemical emissions poisoning our air, water, food, homes, cities, farms and unborn babies, slaying nine million a year.

It is the probability there will be no Arctic before the end of this century and rising seas expelling 300 million from their homes.

It is the ominous seepage of methane from the world’s oceans, tundra, swamps and fossil fuels, threatening runaway heating of 7 to 10 degrees or more.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

California’s Blackouts Are Part Of A Far Bigger Problem

California’s Blackouts Are Part Of A Far Bigger Problem

California Blackouts

This past weekend, Pacific Gas & Electric had to resume electricity blackouts to 930,000 customers affecting upwards of three million people around San Francisco. Meanwhile, two major wildfires, one of which may have been caused by malfunctioning utility equipment, are burning and evacuations are underway. PG&E has informed customers that power in the affected areas may be out for up to one week.

It would not be overstating the case to talk about an air of crisis or panic in the state. Unfortunately, good ideas to resolve difficult, thorny issues seldom arise in troubled circumstances. And California’s Governor Newsom provides us with a ready case in point.

Yesterday Bloomberg News reported that the California Governor was interested in a takeover of PG&E by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corp. On its face, it sounds logical in several ways. First, Berkshire already owns utilities serving California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah. Wyoming and Idaho. PG&E would fit in. Second, Buffet notoriously has told investors to buy when there is “blood on the streets”, that is, where the investment outlook looks bleak and most investors stay away, fearful of principal risk. Presumably, the governor envisages Berkshire purchasing the PG&E’s equity at a steeply discounted price, replacing a considerable portion of the utility’s outstanding long-term debt and appointing new senior management and a new Board of Directors.

There is one difficulty here in viewing Mr. Buffett as a potential financial white knight riding to California’s rescue. The current crisis is caused by an extensive above-ground high voltage transmission network sparking wildfires in an increasingly arid environment. Stated differently, the world that this transmission system was built for no longer exists. This is a profound operational problem.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Diablo Winds” Are Ferociously Whipping “Out Of Control” Wildfires Across Vast Stretches Of Northern California

“Diablo Winds” Are Ferociously Whipping “Out Of Control” Wildfires Across Vast Stretches Of Northern California

Why does this keep happening to California year after year?  As you read this article, enormous wildfires are ravaging large portions of northern California, and Governor Gavin Newsom has already declared a statewide emergency.  An extreme wind event that began on Saturday evening is pushing the fires along at a staggering rate, and when the winds are howling this ferociously it is exceedingly difficult for firefighters to keep the fires from spreading.  It was being reported that on Sunday morning there were sustained winds exceeding 90 mph in northern California with “gusts that topped 100 mph”.  It was the strongest wind event in several years, and it came at an extremely unfortunate time.  These “hurricane-force Diablo winds” will continue into Monday morning, but that doesn’t mean that things will start to get better.  As you will see below, another extreme wind event is in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Kincade Fire is the largest of the wildfires, and according to ABC News it has now “grown to 85 square miles”…

California Fire officials say a rapidly moving fire in Northern California wine country has grown to 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) and destroyed 94 buildings.

Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox called the conditions throughout California “a tinderbox” Sunday and asked people to continue being vigilant in helping to prevent fires from breaking out.

That is an absolutely massive wildfire, and the extremely strong winds are picking up embers from the Kincade Fire and starting blazes in new areas.

The following is what Cal Fire Captain Robert Foxworthy told reporters on Sunday morning

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

California Fires Spark Massive Mandatory Evacuations; Wineries Burn As Winds Hit 93 MPH

California Fires Spark Massive Mandatory Evacuations; Wineries Burn As Winds Hit 93 MPH

California’s annual wildfires are back despite a series of planned power outages aimed at preventing them – the latest of which is expected to affect as many as 3 million people across huge swaths of the state.

The most intense fires raged through Sonoma County, with some 180,000 residents ordered to evacuate.

“The next 72 hours will be challenging,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday. “I could sugarcoat it, but I will not.”

Josh Edelson/Getty Images

As of midnight, Sonoma County resembled a disaster zone.


Approx 180,000 people under evacuation order due to #KincadeFire. This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other.


Latest Evacuation map. Mandatory evacuations have been expanded and now include much of western and northern Santa Rosa. For most up-to-date map:http://bit.ly/2PlbvDp 

#CAwx #CAFire #KincadeFire

View image on Twitter

Highway 101 was closed indefinitely through Santa Rosa as wind gusts of up to 93 mph were reported by the National Weather Servicein Healdsburg Hills in the northern part of the county. That said, the NWS now reports that the winds will “start to reduce compared to the peak experienced in the last few hours, but remain strong today with a ramp up tonight.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The open Amazon and its enemies: a call for action and optimism

The open Amazon and its enemies: a call for action and optimism

The Amazon, now on fire, has become the central political and geopolitical hot spot for humanity’s right to its own future. Optimism is the gasoline that must feed the fight. 

Tree in the Brazilian rainforest | Photo: Pablo Albarenga, all rights reserved.

June and July have been the hottest months on record in the Western Hemisphere as the climate crisis escalates. This summer, the ice in Greenland has been melting at an unseen rate under an unprecedented heat wave. Droughts and wildfires are on the rise ravaging significant forest surfaces, and the role of the rainforest as a carbon dioxide absorber is being jeopardized by a substantial acceleration in deforestation efforts.

The Amazon basin, which contains 40% of the world’s rainforest, plays a very complex yet central role as a buffer of climate change. It functions as a cooler of the atmosphere through moisture evaporation and it produces its own rainfall in the dry season while also capturing carbon and acting as the Earth’s lungs.

Aerial view of the Amazon River near Manaus, Brazil, at dawn. | Photo: Pablo Albarenga. All Rights Reserved

But lately, the Amazon’s vulnerability has become apparent, as fires have been spreading at an unprecedented rate. As Leonardo DiCaprio put it to his 34 million Instagram followers in a post: “the lungs of the Earth are in flames.” Data released by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows that from January to July, 4.6 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon went ablaze, a 62 percent increase over last year. We are facing a full scale ecocide case here.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Amazon Inferno

The Amazon Inferno

Fires burning the southern region of the Brazilian state of Para. INPE, Brazil, August 2019. Courtesy Wikipedia.

One of the lasting highlights of my teaching at the University of New Orleans in 1991-1992 was  my travel to Brazil in January 1992 for a conference on climate change. This was a rehearsal for the June 1992 Earth Summit on Climate Change in Rio.

My conference took place in Fortaleza, a beautiful town in the state of Ceara in the northeast of Brazil. The conference passed quickly with meaningless speeches while the conference was besieged by indigenous people pleading unsuccessfully for a hearing.

However, I enjoyed a tour of the semi-arid countryside of Ceara. I sensed more than dryness and desert. I saw fragments of the Brazilian Atlantic forest. These moist woodlands are full of golden tall trees, marshes teeming with life, bleeding streams carrying away the red soil. Yet perpetual danger follows the trees, plants and animals. The loggers who devastated the Atlantic forest for more than 500 years keep coming, leaving a trail of plunder after them.

The asphalt road of our tour sliced through a flat region of small trees, bushes, goats and cattle grazing ranchland, and immense cashew plantations, producing Ceara’s number one cash crop.

We stopped in Caninde, a rural town celebrating St Francis, the ecology saint of the Catholic Church. Once in the St. Francis Cathedral, my eyes were immediately glued to banners.

The message in these colorful cloth banners was not what one would see in a church in North America. Here the burning issue was not hell or paradise or the ten commandments but liberation—the liberation of peasants from oppression. One banner said that the organization of the workers was terribly important for their emancipation; and another proclaimed that the concentration of wealth was the root of evil.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rainforest on Fire

RAINFOREST ON FIRE

On the Front Lines of Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon, Brazil’s Forest Communities Fight Against Climate Catastrophe

THE RIVER BASIN at the center of Latin America called the Amazon is roughly the size of Australia. Created at the beginning of the world by a smashing of tectonic plates, it was the cradle of inland seas and continental lakes. For the last several million years, it has been blanketed by a teeming tropical biome of 400 billion trees and vegetation so dense and heavy with water, it exhales a fifth of Earth’s oxygen, stores centuries of carbon, and deflects and consumes an unknown but significant amount of solar heat. Twenty percent of the world’s fresh water cycles through its rivers, plants, soils, and air. This moisture fuels and regulates multiple planet-scale systems, including the production of “rivers in the air” by evapotranspiration, a ceaseless churning flux in which the forest breathes its water into great hemispheric conveyer belts that carry it as far as the breadbaskets of Argentina and the American Midwest, where it is released as rain.

In the last half-century, about one-fifth of this forest, or some 300,000 square miles, has been cut and burned in Brazil, whose borders contain almost two-thirds of the Amazon basin. This is an area larger than Texas, the U.S. state that Brazil’s denuded lands most resemble, with their post-forest landscapes of silent sunbaked pasture, bean fields, and evangelical churches. This epochal deforestation — matched by harder to quantify but similar levels of forest degradation and fragmentation — has caused measurable disruptions to regional climates and rainfall. It has set loose so much stored carbon that it has negated the forest’s benefit as a carbon sink, the world’s largest after the oceans.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ferguson: “The Whole World Is Playing A Massive, Multiplayer Game Of Chicken”

Ferguson: “The Whole World Is Playing A Massive, Multiplayer Game Of Chicken”

From Trump’s trade wars to Brazil’s fires, the world is on the brink

‘Hey, Toreador! . . . We head for the edge, and the first man who jumps is a chicken. All right?” 

In Rebel without a Cause, Jim (James Dean) and Buzz (Corey Allen) play the most famous game of chicken in Hollywood history, driving their jalopies at full speed towards a Californian cliff. At the last minute, Jim jumps. Buzz, his sleeve caught on the door handle, plunges to his death.

Games of chicken are all around these days. Indeed, it starts to feel as if the whole world is playing a massive, multiplayer game of chicken.

Clearly, Boris Johnson’s jaunts to Berlin and Paris last week were part of a diplomatic game of chicken. The prime minister repeated his readiness to go over the cliff of a no-deal Brexit if the European Union is not prepared to scrap the Irish backstop. Contrary to some UK press reports, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, essentially reiterated their commitment to the existing withdrawal agreement. Vroom!

If Mr “Million-to-One-Against” himself were driving, there would be no chance of the Europeans chickening out. But the man at the wheel of the British jalopy is not Boris but the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, and the glint in his eye tells you that he would quite enjoy hurtling over the precipice. After all, for him, Brexit is just a means to a higher end: the revolutionary disruption of Britain’s broken system of government.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

More Wildfires Are Burning In Angola & Congo Than Brazil

More Wildfires Are Burning In Angola & Congo Than Brazil 

Thanks to a concerted effort by American social media ‘influencers’, everybody and their grandmother is now aware of the fact that wildfires – many of which were allegedly started illegally by farmers seeking to clear out more land for farming or pasture – are tearing through the Amazon.

What many don’t realize is that the wildfires in the ‘lungs of the Earth’ – as French President Emmanuel Macron described the Amazon – actually aren’t that uncommon. In fact, they’re a natural part of the rainforest’s process of self-restoration. In total, this year, fires are up by 83% compared with last year.

And while the rest of the world uses the fires as an excuse to slam Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his environmental policies (some have accused him of tacitly condoning the farmers who set the fires), Bloomberg reports that Brazil is actually third in the world in wildfires over the last 48 hours, citing data from the MODIS satellite analyzed by Weather Source.

Weather Source recorded 6,902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 2,127 in Brazil.

Like in the Amazon and in California, wildfires aren’t all that uncommon in Central Africa.

As for the total number of active wildfires, they’re also nowhere near some of the highs recorded in recent years. According to NASA, more than 67,000 fires were reported in a one-week period in June last year, most of which were started by farmers.

Over the past two days, roughly 16,500 wildfires were recorded in the top 10 countries.

Actually, as far as wildfires go, 2019 isn’t out of the ordinary in any meaningful sense.

But we’re sure the Instagram influencer set will soon clarify all of this in a series of sponsored posts putting the Amazon wildfires in context…right?

Why are We Still Logging Our Forests?

Why are We Still Logging Our Forests?

Anyone who accepts true science realizes that today’s big forest fires are driven far more by climate warming than by a lack of “active forest management” as claimed in previous editorial opinions.

Active forest management, more honestly called “logging,” has always been the timber industry’s cure-all for every perceived problem in our forests.Until science confirmed the amazing diversity and value of our old forests, they were deemed to be “decadent,” badly in need of logging and replacement with more efficient tree farms. When there were budworm or bark beetle breakouts, industry said our forests were being decimated and needed logging to “restore” them. Science disagreed, noting that insects and disease were important components of healthy forest ecosystems. When our forests burn, industry claims quick logging and replanting is necessary to salvage their value. Science again exposed their myths, showing the value of leaving burned forests as critical habitat and how forests reseed and recover naturally from fires like the Biscuit.

I kept a cabin within the huge weather-caused and weather-extinguished Biscuit Fire in Oregon. It was years of cutting and burning non-merchantable understories that saved my cabin, not logging. In the aftermath, I witnessed how little difference commercially thinned stands made to fire spread or intensity. I photographed sites where flames consumed thinned stands only to lie down when they hit the cooler, moister, unthinned forest.

To me, as a timber cruiser and broker who’s tracked timber data and sale prices for decades, it’s obvious why industry preaches logging for all that ails our forests. They make grossly unfair profits from logging public timber sales — far more than the environmental attorneys who litigate them. Scorched old sugar pines and Douglas firs from Biscuit salvage sales sold at literally a dime to the dollar of real value. These sales were sold at a net loss to us as the forest owners, as are many federal timber sales.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

California’s Next Calamity: Storms Compounded By High Tides

California’s Next Calamity: Storms Compounded By High Tides

The wildfires that have taken their toll on California could be just the beginning of the state’s calamities. Now, the high tides of winter are coming and if those tides are worsened by an incoming storm, they could devastate entire cities on the coasts.

On December 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report stating there is an 80 percent chance of an El Niño event this winter. Such events are associated with wetter and more intense winter storms. However, NOAA does caution that its data are from September through November and the intensity of the El Niño will not be known for quite some time still.

Tides are determined by the sun and moon’s gravitational pull on the oceans. This warning from NOAA comes as heavy storms bear down on California’s Pacific Northwest.   In central and northern California on Monday,  waves were as high as 30 feet, with 40- to 50-foot breaks. Coastal flooding and erosion were reported. And sn even-more-powerful storm smacked the region yesterday, prompting flood watches, high-wind alerts, and winter storm warnings across nine states.

According to ABC News, holiday travelers along I-5, which runs north to south through Washington, Oregon, and California, can expect to be drenched with heavy rains. Although that storm has mostly passed and is headed to the Rocky Mountains, California is not out of the woods just yet. High surf warnings were issued by the National Weather Service from Point Conception, California, north of the Los Angeles  Basin, to the coast of southwestern Washington, highlighting an especially heightened threat to life and property within the surf zone, reported Weather.com. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Yet Another Trillion-Dollar Unfunded Liability: WHY California Is Burning

Yet Another Trillion-Dollar Unfunded Liability: WHY California Is Burning

The apocalyptic fires that hit California last month have left observers scratching their heads and wondering how destruction on that scale could be possible – and how much it will cost in the future if the causes aren’t addressed immediately.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal concludes that 1) the problems aren’t being addressed and 2) this failure is going to cost a fortune that no government is prepared to cover (emphasis added below).

Why Californians Were Drawn Toward the Fire Zones

Building codes, state grants and low insurance rates have encouraged people to flee expensive cities for their dangerously fire-prone fringes.

California fires
A Nov. 15 view in Paradise, Calif., above, shows charred remains of houses among the trees after the Camp Fire burned down more than 11,000 homes. PHOTO: CAROLYN COLE/LOS ANGELES TIMES/GETTY IMAGES

The historically deadly wildfires that have roared through California this fall, and a string of similarly destructive ones over the past two years, are boosting calls to do more to slow climate change. But another underlying problem has contributed to the fires’ tragic damage: For decades, California, supposedly the greenest of states, has artificially lowered the cost of encroaching on nature by living in the woods.

Permissive building codes, low insurance rates and soaring taxpayer spending on firefighting and other services have provided an economic framework that has encouraged people to flee the state’s increasingly expensive cities for their leafy fringes. The forested exurbs, including places once thought too hilly or too dry to develop safely, have offered comparatively affordable living with jaw-dropping views.

The upshot: More houses have been packed into the fire-prone border between civilization and forest—known among planners as the “wildland-urban interface,” or WUI—in California than in any other state.

…click the above link to read the rest of the article…

Warnings of Doom, Amid a Smokescreen of Denial and Distraction

Warnings of Doom, Amid a Smokescreen of Denial and Distraction

Photo Source reurinkjan | CC BY 2.0

The Trump administration predictably tried to bury the dire warnings contained in the fourth National Climate Assessment by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving, when many people would be distracted by the mass consumption frenzy known as Black Friday. It didn’t work, of course, since the findings were nothing short of warnings of doom if humanity doesn’t radically reduce the production of greenhouse gases caused primarily by burning fossil fuels.

Equally predictable was the response from the Climate Denier-in-Chief that he simply “didn’t believe” the findings. The rays of hope are that, thanks to the Mueller investigation, indictments and convictions, as well as the recent election that erased the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Donald Trump’s “reign of error” on the environment is coming to an end — and not a minute too soon for our nation and the planet.

Considering that the congressionally mandated Climate Assessment was put together by more than 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies, there are plenty of good reasons to heed its assessments and predictions, summarized right up front in the report as: “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”

Here in Montana, the “risks and vulnerabilities” are particularly acute as a warming climate produces longer and more extreme wildfire seasons, less snow and drought-caused water shortages, rivers warming beyond the tolerable limits for our world-famous wild trout fisheries, and a host of impacts to a wide variety of businesses from agriculture to recreation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s the Dire Climate Report the Trump White House Didn’t Want You to See

Here’s the Dire Climate Report the Trump White House Didn’t Want You to See

“The decision to release this damning report when families are beginning to celebrate the holidays and newsrooms are short-staffed is a brazen attempt to bury the truth.”

A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

In a move environmentalists and journalists denounced as a blatant effort to bury facts that conflict with the president’s denialism and pro-fossil fuel agenda, the Trump administration used the Friday after Thanksgiving to quietly release Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which warned “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization” and concluded that “greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the only factors that can account” for planet-threatening warming.

“Climate change is spawning more extreme weather, causing irreparable harm to communities, costing billions of dollars a year, and leading to countless deaths. We can stop climate destruction, but only if we act quickly to end the use of fossil fuels.”
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch

“The decision to release this damning report when families are beginning to celebrate the holidays and newsrooms are short-staffed is a brazen attempt to bury the truth from the public that we must act now to move off fossil fuels and stabilize the climate,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

“Releasing this report when no one is looking, tweeting his annual nonsense about global warming and cold weather, and announcing that he’ll use the upcoming U.N. climate meetings as a fossil fuel tradeshow, Trump is doubling down on his climate denial for the holidays—as many families are still reeling from unnatural climate disasters across the country,” Hauter continued. “The science is way past in on climate change… We must prepare for our climate future in spite of Trump.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who or What Is Really Responsible for the Huge Forest Fires in California?

Who or What Is Really Responsible for the Huge Forest Fires in California?

Who or What Is Really Responsible for the Huge Forest Fires in California?
Once again, faced with the failure of the “press” to educate us on an issue, we decided to go out and research the truth about what appears to be the significant increase in huge forest fires.  Once we did the research, we found out major differences in facts from the random barkings in the MSM.

Let us start with this simple aspect.  Forest fires are a normal thing.  Often caused by lightning or other natural causes, they are God’s way of clearing forests.  In those natural forest clearances, the wildlife that exists in them are threatened or their habitat is destroyed.  What has changed is mankind’s intervention in the natural process.  The question is, what other factors may be causing the change in the intensity of recent forest fires?

We also came armed with a thought.  If you believe that global warming is making life more challenging for forest management, then you should support proper forest clearance. Otherwise we will be left with even more intense fires.

For this column, other than reading everything available, we went to two sources: our national Forest Service and the Union of Concerned Scientists to get different perspectives.

Speaking with Chris French, the Acting Deputy Chief of Forest Service (FS), we received a primer on what is really going on with forest fires today.

When asked what he believes is the primary cause of the intense forest fires, Mr. French’s immediate response was “Forests are overstocked.  There are more trees than 100 years ago.”  He went on to say that part of the problem was the Forest Service’s good work in the recent past stopping forest fires. This meant, however, that their focus was largely directed away from forest maintenance, which caused the elements that fuel a fire like underbrush, dead trees or more density to occur.

The changes French would like to see would be more active forest clearance and clearance of the underbrush.   He also wants to do more controlled fires when the risks are minimized.  If you are wondering why they are not doing that now it is because of budget restraints.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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