Category Archives: Wild Fires

Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning

Rome is scorching hot. This beautiful city is becoming unbearable for other reasons, too. Though every corner of the beaming metropolis is a monument to historical grandeur, from the Colosseum in Rione Monti to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in San Giovanni, it is now struggling under the weight of its own contradictions.

In Via Appia, bins are overflowing with garbage, often spilling over into the streets. The smell, especially during Italy’s increasingly sweltering summers, is suffocating.

Meanwhile, many parts of the country are literally on fire. Since June 15, firefighters have reportedly responded to 37,000 fire-related emergencies, 1,500 of them on July 18 alone. A week later, I drove between Campania, in southern Italy, and Abruzzo, in the center. Throughout the journey, I was accompanied by fire and smoke. On that day, many towns were evacuated, and thousands of acres of forests were destroyed. It will take months to assess the cost of the ongoing destruction, but it will certainly be measured in hundreds of millions of euros.

Additionally, the entire southern Europe is ablaze, as the region is experiencing its worst heat waves in many years. Greece, Spain, Turkey, and the Balkans are fighting fires that continue to rage on.

Across the Atlantic, the US and Canada, too, are desperately trying to battle their own wildfires, mostly direct outcomes of unprecedented heat waves that struck North America from Vancouver to California, along with the whole of the American northwest region. In June, Vancouver, Portland and Seattle all set new heat records, 118, 116 and 108 Fahrenheit, respectively.

While it is true that not all fires are a direct result of global warming — many in Italy, for example, are man-made — unprecedented increases in temperature, coupled with changes in weather patterns, are the main culprits of these unmitigated disasters.

The solution is more complex than simply having the resources and proper equipment to contain these fires. The impact of the crises continues to be felt for years, even if temperatures somehow stabilize. In California, for example, which is bracing for another horrific season, the devastation of the previous years can still be felt.

“After two years of drought, the soil moisture is depleted, drying out vegetation and making it more prone to combustion,” The New York Times reported on July 16. The problem, then, is neither temporary nor can be dealt with through easy fixes.

As I sat with my large bottle of water outside Caffettiamo Cafe, struggling with heat, humidity and the pungent smell of garbage, I thought about who is truly responsible for what seems to be our new, irreversible reality. Here in Italy, the conversation is often streamlined through the same, predictable and polarized political discourse. Each party points finger at the others, in the hope of gaining some capital prior to the upcoming October municipal elections.

Again, Italy is not the exception. Political polarization in Europe and the US constantly steers the conversation somewhere else entirely. Rarely is the problem addressed at a macro-level, independent from political calculations. The impact of global warming cannot and must not be held hostage to the ambitions of politicians. Millions of people are suffering, livelihoods are destroyed, the fate of future generations is at risk. In the grand scheme of things, whether the current mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, is elected for another term or not, is insignificant.

Writing in the Columbia Climate School website, Renee Cho highlights the obvious, the relationship between our insatiable appetite for consumption and climate change. “Did you know that Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, sending an additional one million tons a week to landfills?” Cho asks.

This leads us to think about the existential relationship between our insatiable consumption habits and the irreparable damage we have inflicted upon mother earth.

Here in Via Appia, the contradictions are unmistakable. This is the summer sales season in Italy. Signs reading “Saldi” – or “Sale” – are everywhere. For many shoppers, it is impossible to fight the temptation. This unhinged consumerism – the backbone and the fault line of capitalism – comes at a high price. People are encouraged to consume more, as if such consumption has no repercussions for the environment whatsoever. Indeed, Via Appia is the perfect microcosm of this global schizophrenia: people complaining about the heat and the garbage, while simultaneously consuming beyond their need, thus creating yet more garbage and, eventually, worsening the plight of the environment.

Collective problems require collective solutions. Italy’s heat cannot be pinned down on a few arsonists and California’s wildfires are not simply the fault of an ineffectual mayor. Global warming is, in large part, the outcome of a destructive pattern instigated and sustained by capitalism. The latter can only survive through unhindered consumption, inequality, greed and, when necessary, war. If we continue to talk about global warming without confronting the capitalist menace that generated much of the crisis in the first place, the conversation will continue to amount to nil.

In the final analysis, all the conferences, pledges and politicking will not put out a single fire, neither in Italy nor anywhere else in the world.

The post Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drought Flood Fire

The world is on fire like never before: “Wildfires Have Erupted Across the Globe Scorching Places That Rarely Burned Before” (CNN headlines July 22, 2021) but not only is fire raging, Biblical floods are destroying entire communities; e.g., 9,000 homes swept away in central China (BBC News) as towns were nearly decimated in Germany, “Europe’s Deadly Floods Leave Scientists Stunned” (Science, July 20, 2021). All of that with worldwide droughts at a fever pitch.

Is the sky (actually) falling?

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, the current drought cycle is worldwide. Only Antarctica is spared. In some corners of the world water reservoirs are dangerously low, big hydroelectric plants sputter, as long-standing verdant forests morph into dried-out firetraps.

This shocking coincidence of three major catastrophic events hitting at the same time is likely unequaled in modern history. Why are the most serious threats to 21st century civilization; i.e., drought, fire, and floods simultaneously ravaging the planet from east-to-west, north-to-south?

Answers can be found in a new book:  Drought, Flood, Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes by Chris Funk (Director of Climate Hazards Center, UC Santa Barbara) Cambridge University Press, August 2021.

Funk provides a very accurate description of the linchpin of climate-related trouble in one brilliant paragraph:

We hang isolated in space, with only an incredibly thin layer of atmosphere standing between us and oblivion. If we could drive our car straight up at highway speeds, we would approach the edge of the atmosphere in a matter of minutes. And into this thin membrane we are dumping about 28 million gigatons of carbon dioxide every day. The rational decisions of nearly 8 billion people are resulting in collective insanity as we choose to destroy the delicate balances that support Earth’s fragile flame.  (p. 21)

Moreover:

Climate change is making climate extremes more frequent and intense… Not in the future, but right now… Over the past few years (2015-2020) the fingerprints of climate change have seemed more like a slap. Extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires have exacted a terrible toll on developed and developing nations alike. These extremes have impacted hundreds of millions of people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, all across the globe. (p. 5)

Early on in Funk’s book a chart of weather-related losses (1980 to 2018) clearly shows a four-fold increase in less than 40 years, which is foreboding and demanding of attention. Funk educates readers how and why such huge increases have occurred in such a short time:

One goal of this book is to describe how energy moves through the Earth’s energy system, so you can both better appreciate the beauty of our life-sustaining complex planet, and how human-induced warming is altering this system in a dangerous and alarming way. (p. 12)

Drought Flood Fire delves into the onset of complex life, as well as the rudimentary basics of the mechanisms by which greenhouse gases warm the planet, to wit:

Even most people who believe in climate change don’t really understand the basic mechanism of why adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere has to increase the amount of energy reaching the surface of the Earth.  (p. 65)

This book serves as a tutorial and, as such, a compelling asset for students and advocates and world policymakers. It’s an authoritative teaching tool with occasional fun images that depict the ironic fragility of our enduring planet, e.g.,

Imagine an egg painted blue. The atmosphere is as thick as the blue paint. (p. 67)

Ever wonder how tropical storms originate or hurricanes or cyclones via understanding the intricate details behind the reported facts, in plain English?

Is Earth uniquely fragile or steadfast and how is it that humans disrupt its ecosystems?

Indeed, Drought, Flood, Fire is a primer on the most elemental developments of all aspects of the universe and solar system and the origin of complex life itself. This seminal book is essentially a lecture series about the remarkable features and development of the universe ultimately devolving into today’s anthropogenic distortion of nature. It’s well worth the read.

Funk personally describes his approach, as follows:

Some aspects of climate change are complex and hard to fathom. Some are fairly straightforward concepts and facts that everyone really needs to understand. This book is mostly about the latter. Some of the most important mechanisms of climate change can be understood by everyone: Why do greenhouse gasses have such a direct warming effect on our planet? How does this warming intensify the impact of droughts and fires? How can this same atmospheric warming, paradoxically, also increase the frequency of extreme precipitation events and floods? This book approaches these questions with a Do-It-Yourself  (DIY) attitude.  (p. 59)

He explains the dynamics of extreme events, as for example, the interrelationship of California fires, warmer air temperatures, and drier vegetation like the infamous Thomas Fire of 2017, which was for a brief period the biggest most damaging fire in California history with flames roaring six stories into the sky.

Interestingly enough, along with that California example, Funk spells out warning signals for all of humanity, to wit:

By looking carefully at both weather data and disaster statistics, we can see with our own eyes that a 1°C warming is already having dire consequences.  (p. 64)

That one fact alone “dire consequences” at only 1°C, especially in the context of a world currently at 1.2°C above baseline, should alert policymakers around the world to the inescapable gravity of today’s scenario with worldwide firestorms, floods, and droughts bordering on the apocalyptic, which are broadcasts on TV for all to see.  These are unprecedented, out of control real time scenes of climate destructiveness never witnessed before. And, it’s happening around the world, and it’s happening now. It’s unvarnished reality!

According to Funk:

The intent here is serious. California just experienced a large increase in fire extent, due in part to an exceptional increase in temperatures. We will likely see this happen again, and again, over the next forty years. (p. 65)

Statements like that are backed up by scientific data that needs to be front and center for policymakers. His book should be on the desks of every policymaker because immediate remediation measures have never been more urgently crucial, especially with so much destruction at today’s global temperature of only 1.2°C above baseline. Whether they thoroughly read the book or not, policy wonks need a reminder of Drought Flood Fire on their desktops. It’s essential.

The rate of increase of global warming, as detailed in Funk’s book, sends a clear message of deep concern. Figure 5-3 in the book demonstrates “exceptionally warm” ocean and air temperatures throughout the planet. It’s the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s monthly temperature data set of sea surface and land temperatures. In true Michael Mann fashion the graph is parabolic!

The graph shows the fraction (percentage) of Earth that’s exceptionally warm over time, as explained by Funk:

This time series should deeply disturb you. The fraction… is increasing very rapidly. When I was born, it was about 2%. By the time I started graduate school it was around 5%. When my children were born, it hovered around 7%. Since that time the area of exceptional warmth has doubled again to around 17%, increasing rapidly just between the beginning and end of our focus period (2015-2019). Now almost one-fifth of the globe experiences extreme temperatures at any given time. (p. 99)

Those extremes result in severe health impacts, including death. For example, China has reported “at least 300 deaths” as a result of recent record-making floods whilst the same flooding traps passengers in subway trains standing in neck-deep water in the provincial capital Zhengzhou; meantime, hundreds of people died in the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, according to estimates; there were at least 486 deaths in British Columbia, 116 in Oregon, 78 in Washington… there were more than 3,500 emergency department visits for heat-related illness this past May and June in a region that includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, which is normally a very cool region.

Funk’s research group has developed a methodology to provide accurate estimates of maximum air temperatures called the Climate Hazards Center Infrared Temperature dataset.  His accomplishments at U of Calif. Santa Barbara involve satellites and computers used to identify and predict climate hazards. Because of the planet’s berserk climate system of late, Funk’s work should be mandatory for nation/state policy wonks.

Funk’s Extreme Event Attribution methodology identifies “the fingerprint of climate change” well ahead of time.  For example, his research group explains the mechanisms or observations by which extreme weather events can be anticipated to help formulate humanitarian aid well ahead of a severe drought. As for example:

In late 2016 we predicted the spring 2017 drought that struck Kenya, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia.  (p. 15)

According to Funk, we live on a “Goldilocks Planet” with a life support system entirely dependent upon a “very thin atmosphere and the absolute necessity of maintaining temperatures with a narrow range.” In that regard, Drought Flood Fire focuses on what’s happening to the planet now vis a vis extreme heat, extreme precipitation, and out of control droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes turbocharged by human-generated greenhouse gases.

Of interest, in spite of Funk’s careful examination of the dangers presented by human-generated greenhouse gases and examples of how devastating those have been at only 1°C above baseline, towards the end of his book he discovers an upbeat note by referencing the German and California experiences of effectively mitigating GHGs whilst experiencing rapid economic growth as examples of what the world can do to favorably resolve the climate crisis.

He goes on to tabulate all of the wonderful positives of modern day society, the accomplishments in medicine, science, etc., which are all true.  Yet, it somehow comes across as way too Disneylandish in the face of repeated failures by the nations of the world to uphold their climate mitigation commitments. After all, every world climate conference, like Paris 2015, has failed, horribly failed. This is worse than a tragedy and cause for not holding one’s breath over the outcome of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November called COP26 where 30,000 delegates are expected.

Yes, since 1995 in Berlin, the world has already held 25 COPs! Begging the question: What results? Namely, annual CO2 emissions have skyrocketed (double the 20th century rate), unrelenting global warming (a new heat record, 2020) CO2-e at record levels year-by-year. Meanwhile, Biblical fires, massive flooding, and killer droughts haunt civilization like never before.

What’s to celebrate?

Maybe it would be better if COP26 is cancelled and save the millions spent on 30,000 professionals gathering to chitchat, meaning “lots of smoke but no flames,” except for the long-standing forests of the world, which are burning like crazy.

At the end, Funk comes back to reality, which is crucial for understanding where the planet’s health stands and what must be done, to wit:

Right now we appear to be headed for 3°C of warming or more. This level of warming would almost certainly have catastrophic and potentially irreversible impacts on our planet’s life support system. (p. 299)

But, according to Drought Flood Fire, it’s already happening with just 1°C warming, as Funk additionally queries: Imagine +3°C or +4°C bringing on decimated crops, super storms, and considerably higher sea levels, but yet:

Even the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming will make an incredible difference.  (p. 300)

Nobody knows for certain where climate change/global warming is headed, but one thing is certain, it’s always worse than climate models; it’s always worse than scientists expect. That’s a concerning preamble to yet one more UN Climate Summit.

All of which gives one pause with today’s 1.2°C above baseline as Biblical droughts, floods, and fires scare the daylights out of scientists. They’re publicly admitting it, which is a refreshing bold approach.  Hopefully, their deep-seated concerns override, supersede the bureaucratic nightmarish results of past COPs.

Meanwhile, Drought Flood Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes puts everything into perspective.

The post Drought Flood Fire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse

Photo by Jarr1520;

Strategy of reward and punishment

In the newly coined so-called War on Covid, the arsenal is eclectic. There is not only science, in the form of experimental RNA vaccines hastily developed by giants of the pharmaceutical industry, but also semi-authoritarian or full-blown authoritarian government measures imposed and legally validated by declarations of states of emergencies. The panoply of edicts include mandatory face masks indoor and sometime outdoor, depending on the country; enforced or unenforced social distancing recommendations; limitation of public or even private gatherings; and more drastic measures like lock-downs and curfews.

The crescendo of assaults on personal liberties eased up for a few months, but governments are now using, because of the spread of the Delta variant, the threats of reinstating their coercion as an insidious blackmail to force people to get vaccinated. In other words, if one has the temerity to refuse the salvation brought by Big Pharma’s vaccines, life shall be so extremely problematic and isolated as almost to make one a social pariah. In France President Macron is defining a new ideology that could be called semi-authoritarian neoliberalism, while in the Philippines neofascist Duarte is entirely blunt in his approach. Regardless, both politicians have the same goal: to get their entire population vaccinated. They use a strategy of psychological warfare based on reward and punishment, a bit similar to that used on lab mice.

Photo by Robert Muller

In the case of Macron, the reward for the good and fully vaccinated French citizens is that they will carry, as a badge of honor, a Pass Sanitaire. The misfits, refuseniks, pesky bad citizens who still refuse to see the light and comply, will receive punishments. These bad French apples will be deprived from travel except in their own vehicles, and from cultural events like concerts, movies and museum exhibits.

Duarte’s fascist approach, if more brutal, is in a sense a bit more honest. It is still about manipulating his population with the rewards versus punishments principle, but there are many sticks and basically no carrots. Case in point: Duarte is seriously considering locking up in their homes those Filipinos who refuse to be vaccinated. One can only wonder what will happen to the vast homeless population in the Philippines.

Photo by Grey Area

Vaccines, the universal silver bullet

Covid management styles and policies have been diverse in tone and strategies, but it seems that governments worldwide are all watching, then mimicking, at times, each other’s minor achievements to avoid major failures. Only one question is on their minds, which seems to be the universal governmental panacea, independently of ideology: how do we get the entire population vaccinated?

In the more sophisticated media manipulation of Western democracies, the secondary questions are as follows. How do we convince the citizenry that the coercive measures put in place nearly 18 months ago, in a quasi entirely undemocratic fashion by decrees etc., were gently forced on people for their own good rather than in an attempt to avoid a global economic collapse? And further, how do we persuade them that these measures will be entirely lifted one day to go back to an almost mythological happy pre-Covid world?

Jonathan

In other words, how can leaders, with varying degrees of incompetence and undisclosed ties to giant global corporate interests, make people believe that they are acting for the common good rather than to avoid a global stock market crash? Altruism and the collective social good rarely guide the paths of politicians anywhere, and citizens in large numbers have finally caught on to this reality.

People have become more doubtful about what they are told, either directly by their elected officials, or through mainstream media outlets via so-called experts charged with propagating — yes, like propaganda — the government narrative with powerful bullhorns, and sort of carpet-bombing people’s brains with a relentless coverage of the immense danger of Covid, especially the brand new Delta variant, and the great virtue of vaccines as being almost 92 percent accurate silver bullets against the pandemic.

Unfortunately, a one-note intrusive narrative eventually has an undesired effect on a fragment of the population. This is precisely what is going on in France since Macron made the choice, which could be fatal to his political future, to jam through parliament, in the middle of the summer holidays, a law infamously called Pass Sanitaire, to blackmail French people into mandatory vaccination. Many opponents perceive it as a pass to submission, and they have decided to make their voices heard, loud and clear, in the streets. Will this movement of dissent be long lived, contagious to other countries, or ultimately twisted and hijacked for a political purpose? This is so far a question in limbo.  The large scale protests, however, were unexpected.

Illustration by Mike Finn

A smoke screen to mask climate collapse

A year ago the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for about 75 percent of the media coverage across the board worldwide. This alone, if a virus could have been granted the Person of the Year award from Time Magazine, would have assured it the coveted price. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won person of the year in 2020, but if it had been Creature of the Year, SARS-CoV-2 would have won. As matter of fact, one can easily argue that without the Covid crisis, Donald Trump would have likely been reelected. In political, sociological, and economic affairs, the microorganism has been a game changer.

So far, Covid has not been a seed of much needed social change but instead has been used as a nasty new tool for disaster capitalism to thrive by changing some fundamental economic parameters, as well as serve as a powerful device to concentrate wealth. What could be better for capitalism than to convince taxpayers that their money needs to be injected by the trillions into corporate conglomerates? Across the world, in all the COVID-19 stimulus funding schemes, the lion share went to corporations while private citizens got the crumbs. Wall Street should have crashed but didn’t, because vast amounts of public funds were pumped into the global financial markets. Airlines that were saved from bankruptcy by a Covid bail out should have been nationalized; instead Air France, for example, remained a private company with an overpaid CEO while France’s government became a bigger share holder.

Photo by Jeanne Menjoulet

The bait and switch worked on a global scale. It worked with the financial aspect, just like it worked in the semantic of fear. For the media, it’s all about key words. Some might have noticed that at first it was COVID-19, then it became simply Covid, but now, probably because the word’s traction is wearing off, governments or corporate-controlled outlets have switched to Delta variant. It is today’s winner in the fear factor department, and it is repeated ad nauseam. This element of constant fear has established a nice level of docility in a majority of the global population, as well as a numbing anxiety focused on the narrow topic of the pandemic, and the easy vaccine fix proposed by governments.

The cloud of anxiety has obstructed from many the clarity that WE, as a species, face a threat much greater than a virus. How gullible many of us might be to believe that a pandemic, which so far has killed a quarter of the number of victims of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, is more of an existential threat than the unfolding climate collapse? It is pathetic and ironic for governments and their media servants to use a pandemic as a smoke screen for a much bigger problem, especially when a substantial potion of Earth is currently being consumed by fires.

Photo by Glenn Lewis

Last time I checked, 800 wild fires were burning in Italy, Turkey was scorched, the US northwest was still burning, Greece was baking with a 45 degree Celsius temperature, Siberia had been burning for months, and there were killer floods in Germany and China. Meanwhile, the so-called climate experts on mainstream media hardly connected these climate crisis events. They barely connected the dots between extreme weather events and catastrophic climate change by softly saying “isolated extreme weather events could be a manifestation of global climate change.” It shouldn’t be “could be” but are; it shouldn’t be “climate change” but climate crisis. The global fear of Covid is highly lucrative. By contrast a fear of climate collapse — or actually a recognition of its imminence — would lead people to reject the global capitalist system that is driving our species into the abyss. It would lead human societies away from consumption and toward zero-growth economies and population models that would deal capitalism a fatal blow.

Photo by Ian Sanderson

We have more or less collectively experienced, since March 2020, a life of fear and a sort of lingering collective anxiety. Fear is usually correlated with a reduction of critical thinking and greatly diminished opposition against the abuse of authority.

The protests in France show that fear can lose ground. Citizens do not have to surrender their fundamental rights of freedom and liberty to the whim of governmental authority based on semi-valid cognitive notions, or purely arbitrary ones, at times absurd, which appear to serve an agenda foreign to the common good. Popular resistance, whatever forms it may take in France and elsewhere, is always a viable option. At critical times in history it even becomes a civic duty.

The post Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Apocalypse

Apocalypse is complete destruction of the world as described in some detail in the biblical book of Revelation. Nothing worse can happen to humanity. Interestingly, it has been a recurring aspect of civilization for over two thousand years but every prediction of “End Times” has failed.

Yet, modern day society is proving that apocalypse has multiple possible outcomes. In fact, a case can be made that it’s never been closer to reality because it’s already happening here and there.

At the turn of the new century Frontline aired a two-hour PBS Special, APOCALYPSE! The program traced the evolution of apocalyptic belief from its origin within the Jewish experience after Babylonian exile, to modern times.  Historians and biblical scholars were interviewed to discuss the concept of End Times and doomsday in order to elucidate the ideas of mass destruction and how those ideas shape the cultural world. Indeed, the concept of apocalypse has influenced civilization in a multitude of ways for over 2,000 years.

The Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, is central to Western consciousness of apocalyptic belief, and a considerable portion of Revelation originated in the six hundred year period of Jewish political history involving wars and defeat by foreign invaders, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. As a result, visions of heaven and hell and the eternal battle between good and evil arose, shaping culture for 200 years before the birth of Jesus. Ever since, apocalypse has been on people’s minds as a final reckoning.

The concept of apocalypse remains a very powerful force to this day, especially amongst true believers. Not only that but recently apocalypse has transitioned a new variety known as “Climate Apocalypse,” a term that interestingly enough generates 7,610,000 Google hits in all of 0.58 seconds. Truly, Climate Apocalypse has an audience as well as strong adherents and strong detractors, like Forbes magazine and several mainstream publications. As for those editors, apocalypse is only for doom-and-gloom Cassandra’s that should be discounted and maybe ridiculed.

Yet, some of the Google searches turn up the darnedest doom-and-gloom sources, for example: “Leaked UN Climate Report: The Apocalypse Is Almost Here… The Worst Is Yet To Come….” references the recently “leaked draft” climate report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that allegedly proclaims: “A dire warning that we are on the cusp of planetary destruction thanks to the myriad dangers of worsening climate change.” This references the 4,000-page UN report leaked to Agence France-Presse.1, which isn’t due for publication for some months.

What if the IPCC “doom-and-gloom report,” as alleged, is on target, dead-on but similar to all past IPCC reports, it ends up as way too conservative?

In point of fact, it is not all that difficult to make a case for Climate Apocalypse by simply observing what’s happening today. What are the signs? By definition, normalized climate behavior is not an apocalyptic signpost. It doesn’t count if it’s normal regular ole climate behavior that humans have seen over the centuries. To be apocalyptic, a climate event must be damaging “beyond human experience, and then some.”

Unfortunately the list of actual apocalyptic events is a very long one. A few recent real events make the point, to wit:

The Guardian newspaper recently (July) interviewed Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana. She took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:

Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched. 2

It is instructive, as well as extremely troublesome, to note that her experience took place in a “protected national park.”

Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:

Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death. 3

Diana, an entomologist, is “… no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.” That describes an apocalyptic event on a very personal level.

On a larger scale, Krefeld Entomological Society (est. 1905) issued a report of more than a 75% decline over only 27 years in total flying insect biomass in several protected European nature reserves.4

And, on a larger scale, last year the World Wildlife Foundation in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London issued an eye-popping report that over-exploitation of ecological resources by humanity from 1970 to 2016 caused a 68% plunge in wild vertebrates. Numbers of that magnitude border on the onset of apocalypse, especially considering it happened within one human lifetime. According to the Report, tropical sub-regions were clobbered, hit hard with 94% loss of wild vertebrate life, which is apocalypse in spades.

Throughout the planet, apocalypse is hitting, but on a regional basis, especially where few, if any, people live to see it happening.

That is, until it did started hitting where lots of people live. In China in July 2021, “apocalyptic flooding” trapped passengers in subway trains standing in neck-deep water in the provincial capital Zhengzhou, a metropolis of 12 million where chaos descended as entire neighborhoods were covered in waist-deep water, and a massive unrelenting inordinate rainfall caused a 60-foot crevasse in the structure of the major dam of the region, which could collapse at any time, possibly drowning thousands. 5

According to Reuters in China, several people have died as a result of massive rains and dozens more cities have flooded in the country. Zhengzhou evacuated 100,000. Over three days, two feet of rainfall devastated parts of central China, smashing homes apart. That describes a severely damaging climate system that is not normal, not even close to normal. It’s one more signpost of apocalyptic behavior.

According to Reuters:

Like recent heat waves in the United States and Canada and extreme flooding seen in Western Europe, the rainfall in China was almost certainly linked to global warming, scientists told Reuters.6

According to a recent CNN article:

Scientists have warned for decades that climate change will make heat waves more frequent and more intense. That is a reality now playing out in Canada, but also in many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere that are increasingly becoming uninhabitable. 7

Apocalyptic is the most apt description of formerly inhabitable regions turning uninhabitable. It’s the onset of apocalypse, as hundreds of people died of too much heat, which also triggered 240 wildfires across British Columbia, with global warming turning verdant forests into tinder.

According to the implications within a recent article in Scientific American, the Pacific Northwest just experienced early stage apocalypse:

Hundreds of people died in the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, according to estimates; there were at least 486 deaths in British Columbia, 116 in Oregon, 78 in Washington… there were more than 3,500 emergency department visits for heat-related illness this past May and June in a region that includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State.8

According to Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists who was interviewed about the heat wave, the climate models did not come close to predicting the level of heat in the Northwest. She added: “But then to realize that I am seeing it in my lifetime, and living it right now, is really terrifying.” 3

Early stage apocalyptic events are hitting terrestrial regions of the planet, region by region over time, but it’s much more universal or across the board in the oceans. According to the documentary film Seaspriacy (Netflix, March 2021), which focuses on whether the planet’s fish stock survives and for how long, five million fish are killed per minute. Global fish populations are plummeting and already at apocalyptic levels, to wit: (1) halibut -99% (2) cod -86% (3) Bluefin tuna -97% (4) haddock -99% (5) thresher shark -80% (6) bull shark -86% (7) hammerhead shark -86% (8) total shark mass decimation of 80%-to-99%. Shark deaths (100,000,000 annually) at the top of the food chain bring in their wake the death of almost all other ocean species down the marine food chain. The oceans used to contain 80% of all life. Nobody knows that number now with killings too rapid to keep count of what remains. By all accounts, apocalypse is already rampant in the world’s oceans.

Above all else, the results of a new research discovery must be broadcasts as wide as possible: “Planet Earth is now trapping twice as much heat as it did 14 years ago.” 9

The nations of the planet must get their act together and do something extremely big, very, very major very soon to tame the climate monster, as well as put a halt to the insanity of stripping natural resources like the ocean’s fish stock down to the bone or suffer unfathomable adversity, meaning some advanced stage of apocalypse which unfortunately has already started to strut its stuff.

  1. The Byte/Climate Report, June 23, 2021
  2. Top US Scientist on Melting Glaciers: “I’ve Gone From Being an Ecologist to a Coroner”, The Guardian, July 21, 2021.
  3. Ibid.
  4. PLOS ONE -Public Library of Science, October 18, 2017.
  5. “Unprecedented Floods in Central China, Passengers Trapped in Subway Train With Neck-Deep Water”, Outlook, July 21, 2021.
  6. “At Least 25 Dead as Rains Deluge Central China’s Henan Province”, Reuters, July 21, 2021,
  7. “Unprecedented Heat, Hundreds Dead and a Town Destroyed, Climate Change is Frying the Northern Hemisphere”, CNN, July 4, 2021.
  8. “Why Extreme Heat Is So Deadly”, Scientific American, July 22, 2021.
  9. Norman G. Loeb, et al, Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate, Geophysical Research Letter, June 15, 2021.
The post Apocalypse first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The World on Fire  

Massive uncontrolled unprecedented wild fires are consuming portions of the Amazon rainforest and several regions of the Arctic. Somebody somewhere must be asking why all of a sudden in unison, all over creation, two of the planets largest ecosystems are going up in smoke. It’s eerily spine chilling.

Major fires have hit the Amazon and the Arctic for the second year in a row.1

Where’s the world’s largest fire alarm when so desperately needed?

Sure, all of mainstream press covers the fires and people hear about the fires and read about the fires. But that’s the end of any sort of impact because the sensationalism of reading about and hearing about massive fires thousands of miles away in vast wilderness areas doesn’t move the needle enough for people to express serious concern or even go so far as to panic. Maybe they should.

These are not regular ole run of the mill fires. Rather, these are firestorms so powerful that they create their own wind systems and self-perpetuate. More to the point, the world is on a biblical fire alert that posits the Book of Revelations 16:8 smack dab into contemporary society, to wit: Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the Sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire, and men were scorched with great heat.

For example, recent bushfires in Australia (2019) were not just unprecedented. They were “deadly catastrophic,” thus leaving some ecosystems “forever changed.” The conflagrations obliterated landscapes, not just patches of landscape but entire landscapes.

Why obliteration? Climate change is the villain. It supercharged the wildfires by turning landscapes into tinder. As such, and contrary to political opinions by right-wing whacko nutcases, climate change does not constitute surreal events in thin air, rather, it’s power-packed hard-hitting damage to our “one and only” planet. It’s authentic.

Australia’s wildfires convulsed above and beyond any known scale of normal fires, from which animals are usually able to escape. They didn’t. They couldn’t run fast enough! The fires took out entire landscapes, not patches of landscape that leave behind pockets of safety untouched for scampering animals. Nothing was left untouched by the hot lapping flames.

The wildfires permanently crippled iconic habitats that make Australia an ecological wonder for all to behold. From loss of crucial plant life to decimation of species that serve as a meal for a higher species, the ripple effects remain unaccountable, extensively beyond human calculation.

Now, two of the world’s largest, and most significant, ecosystems are on fire like never before, similar to Australia’s biblical fires of a year ago, as more, and more, precious natural resources suffer waves of obliteration. Of course, normal fires in the wild are healthy; however, these fires are anything but normal. They’re truly biblical in scale.

Six months of record-breaking temperatures have sparked massive fires in the Siberian Arctic this year. Great plumes of smoke were visible on satellite… temperatures more than 5°C above average over much of Siberia… A Met Office-led international study has concluded this period of exceptional weather would have been impossible had the world not been warmed by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 2

What we’re seeing really is unprecedented… we’ve never seen the probability of a change of an event of more than 600 times. We’ve never seen a result like that. 3

Looking at the geologic record, we don’t think we’ve ever seen CO2 levels this high in about 5 million years… We are in uncharted territory. ”4 .

Meanwhile, bad vibes with strong undertones of contempt upend civilized society, as follows: America’s president Don Trump has tweeted 120 posts that variously poke fun at, and ridicule, climate change. Moreover, he has issued dozens of tweets claiming that “cold weather” disproves climate change. It should be noted that 62 million people voted for Trump in 2016 and many “live by his words.”

At the same time, in the real world of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reported 6,803 fires in the Amazon in July 2020 alone, nearly 30% more than July 2019 when the Western world went bananas over the loss of rainforest due to human-set fires, when, in fact, fires are not a regular feature of rainforests.

Now, environmentalists are going batty because August is traditionally the start of the human-generated fire season, but it already has a roaring head of steam. Not only that, but according to INPE data, the first six months of 2020 are already the worst on record for deforestation. Yes, “the worst on record.”

Sure enough, the Amazon rainforest, similar to landscapes in Australia in 2019, is subjected to obliteration forces, and it’s not just deforestation as the root cause. Climate change has kicked into high gear all across the magnificent rainforest with devastating drought conditions galore!

Excessive drought conditions, in part, originate early in the morning in garages around the world as fossil-fueled gasoline engines crank up, spewing out CO2, and the whir of a jet engine igniting, the blast of a diesel train engine cranking up, the murmur of a jet ski, ignition of hot coals for an electricity-generating plant, a furnace blast molding steel, all are the basis, the origin, of greenhouse gases that blanket the atmosphere, in turn, enhancing devastating severe droughts.

According to a landmark Amazonian rainforest in-depth analysis:

Several studies indicate that the region has been suffering severe drought since the end of the last century, as in 1997/1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015. The intensity and frequency of these extreme drought episodes in the AB during the last years, approximately one episode every five years with a significant increase in the coverage area, is remarkable.5

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back 100/year drought events, every 5 years, are not normal, meaning something somewhere is horribly wrong. After all, major ecosystems that profoundly influence all aspects of the planet’s health and well-being are burning, collapsing, melting like there’s no tomorrow. The message is clear.

Along the way, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro feigns attempts to limit rainforest damage, but experts say the government’s response has been largely ineffective, more symbolic than real. In truth, he’s the primary driving force behind record-setting deforestation. Similar to Trump, on the world stage he’s a laughing stock and archenemy of the planet.

According to NASA, this year’s dry season will be more prone to fires than last year’s record-setting affair. Moreover, according to NASA, warmer ocean surface temps in the North Atlantic (global heating at work) create conditions for more extreme drought in the Amazon, as excessive ocean heat brings on far-flung damage. Everything in nature is somehow connected.

“The world on fire” is merely a prelude to a climate “gone berserk” disaster scenario that’s almost certain to eventually take civilization down to its knees, by all appearances sooner than mainstream science suggests, but frankly scientists don’t make such predictions.

Yet, isn’t a climate gone berserk scenario already playing out in real time; e.g., in Siberia, in the Amazon, in Australia?

Meanwhile, climate-related crises on a grand scale never before recorded throughout human history continue building to a crescendo, in earnest, right before society’s “eyes wide shut.”

Postscript: Reports out of the London School of Economics claim one-half of the Arctic fires are peat soil, normally too wet and too cold to burn, but now burning because of powerful intense heat… peat soil is carbon-rich and can burn for months/years, emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).6

Speechless, once again!

  1. NewScientist, June 26, 2020.
  2. “New Warning Over Climate Change From Siberian Arctic”, BBC News, July 15, 2020.
  3. Professor Peter Stott, Met Office, Ibid.
  4. Dr. Katharine Hendry, Ibid.
  5. Beatriz Nunes Garcia, et al, “Extreme Drought Events Over the Amazon Basin: The Perspective from the Reconstruction of South American Hydroclimate”, Departamento de Meteorologia, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, November  7, 2018.
  6. Arctic Fires Released More Carbon in Two Months Than Scandinavia Will All Year, Grist, Aug. 4, 2020.

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.

Incendiary Extinctions: Australian Fires and the Species Effect

Cocooned as it is from the world of science scepticism, the handling of the bush fire catastrophe unfolding in Australia is going to one of the more notable (non)achievements of the Morrison government.  They were warned; they were chided; they were prodded.  But the measures lagged and the flames came.

To a certain extent, this remains unfair.  Australian governments, across colours and persuasions, have found managing the environment a problematic, and inconvenient affair.  Being a country rich in resources readymade for digging and export, environment ministers have become the executing tribunes of mining rights and interests before the preservation of flora and fauna species.  Miners, rights, not Earth rights, are what counts.  Talk of climate change responses is heavily weighted in favour of pro-emission and polluting measures; greening projects look like acts of ecological pantomime.  Australia remains a country transfixed and terrified by Nature, even as it mangles or ignores it.

With that in mind, the flames that continue to consume Australia have not merely destroyed agriculture, property and human life; they have had an impact on animal species that remains hard to measure.  As a general rule, these events now have the makings of the unprecedented, at least in terms of human records.  There are fire fronts that stretch like scars of battle across terrain.  Smoke plumes half the size of Europe have been noted.

Updates on the progress of the flames resemble a relentless disaster narrative.  Over 25.5 million acres of land, or territory the size of South Korea, is a figure that has caught the eye of news outlets.  Images from NASA’s Earth Observatory, its Suomi-NPP satellite and the Himawari 8 Japanese satellite of the Japanese Meteorological Agency, have shown the international print being left by the fires.

Little wonder that the more terrestrial assessments of impacts have turned their focus on species extinction, a point that was bound to happen given Australia’s already unflattering honour of having the highest rate of mammal extinction on the planet.  They are far more than the shrieks and howls of pain coming from koalas as they are incinerated to death, or the charred remains of kangaroos left in a funereal silver-ash landscape.   It is the post-apocalyptic aftermath, when species find themselves in a world of ash and remains, with food and shelter miserably scarce.

The extinction literature, speculative and more solidly grounded, is burgeoning.  Six Australian professors have stuck to the safe, if dark premise by claiming in The Conversation that “most of the range and population of between 20 and 100 threatened species will have been burnt.  Such species include the long-footed potoroo, Kangaroo Island’s glossy black cockatoo and the Spring midge orchid.”

Another unnerving estimate from January 3, and applicable to the state of New South Wales alone, put the toll of birds, mammals and reptiles affected by the conflagrations at 480 million.  (The number did not include insects, bats or frogs.)  “Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes.”

Within five days, an updated assessment from Professor Chris Dickman almost doubled the initial NSW figures.  Across the continent, a billion animals are said to have perished.  In an interview with National Public Radio in the US, Dickman suggested that the figures were exceptionally staggering.  “I think there’s nothing quite to compare with the devastation that’s going on over such a large area so quickly.  It’s a monstrous event in terms of geography and the number of individual animals affected.”

The disaster for such species is one of ongoing affects; the fire leaves the initial destructive mark, with these being particular savage.  According to wildlife rescue volunteer Sarah Price, “We are not seeing the amount of animals coming into care or needing rescuing that we would normally anticipate.”  The implication is hard to avoid: “We think a lot perished in the fires.”

Some animals might well survive the scorching, but insatiable and uninterrupted land clearing coupled with the busyness of introduced fauna varieties does the rest.  The impacts of fire events also remove habitat sanctuaries for wildlife, be they layers of fallen leaves, specific shrubs important as food sources, or log and tree hollows.

Should there ever be an ecological tribunal vested in powers to assess government actions over the years on the subject, the failure to put in measures to protect species from calamity may well have to top the list.  A reckless, occasionally malicious stupidity might count as motivation, but by then, not much will be left to protect.  Any punishment will be left without a purpose.

The management of biodiversity and ecosystems, involving measures taken to bolster and buffer against the next catastrophe – for there will be more – matter far more.  The discussion, as it stands, remains asphyxiated by the smoke and rage, with an overwhelming focus on human suffering, the calls for donations to human survivors, the search for compensation.  The earth and its non-human inhabitants remain the statistics of silent suffering and, after this event, some will go the way of their doomed ancestors. As ever, Australia remains, as Dickman claims, the canary in the coal mine in terms of climate effects and human response.  And the canary is not looking too good.