Australia on fire

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Australia on fire

#1  Postby Beatsong » Jan 04, 2020 4:13 am

Well this is it. It's no longer about what's going to happen; it's about what's happening.

Mind you morons will be morons. Morrison and Abbot still denying that man-made global warming is the issue, and the morons will believe them, and vote for them. And even the non-morons don't seem liable to wake up and think there might actually be some urgency required, until it's their OWN house on fire.

I emigrated from Australia to the UK 30 years ago. I do have to raise an ironic smile at all the times during that period that people have said to me "what are you doing here in this dreary cold country, when you could be over there where the weather's so nice!?"

Bit of luck I'll be long gone before the heat gets as far as rendering frosty old Blightly uninhabitable. I cry for my kids though.
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Re: Australia on fire

#2  Postby Hermit » Jan 04, 2020 4:21 am

Well, actually 0.6% of Australia has been on fire at one stage or another since this summer's bushfires started around November.
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Re: Australia on fire

#3  Postby Beatsong » Jan 04, 2020 4:45 am

the point being . . . ?
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Re: Australia on fire

#4  Postby Hermit » Jan 04, 2020 4:48 am

Beatsong wrote:the point being . . . ?

Australia is not on fire.
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Re: Australia on fire

#5  Postby OlivierK » Jan 04, 2020 6:47 pm

As a volunteer firefighter, fuck that.

This season has been brutal and stressful for those, unlike you, who've had the fires at their doorsteps. Where I live, we've been under imminent threat since the second week of September. The oldest, grizzliest, staunchest National Party voting farmers up our way were laughing at the despised Greens calling this unprecendented in October, and are admitting they were wrong to do so now. Guys with 50 years of bushcraft who are gobsmacked that the fires aren't behaving like they've always done before, and who are mad at Morrison for his uselessness (and the Greens, too, because they can't help themselves).

It's not just that there are fires, it's that they're everywhere at once. In New South Wales, the old record for simultaneous fires at Emergency warning level was 4. We hit 6 in September, 17 in October, and this week we're back to 11, with another 8 at the level just below, which still includes out of control fires threatening to life and property. The numbers of threatening fires were a bit lower in November, but not due to a lull in fire activity, but instead because multiple fires north of Sydney merged into one singe, massive fireground with a perimeter of over 200km.

Unlike many previous broadscale fires, which achieved large total areas burned by being allowed to burn through remote, relatively uninhabited grasslands, these fires are incinerating the lush coastal fringe where millions of people live, and where fires of this scale in any one place are rare, and at the scale being experienced, previously undocumented.

Anyone who is under any doubt of what the scale is like, check out our NSW fire service's map of current incidents. The coastal strip contains 90% of the 8 million population of the state (and around 25% of the national population). If there's an area that's not on fire, chances are that's because it burnt in October and has been removed from the list of current incidents. And that's just NSW. Go north into Southeast Queensland, and much of that burned earlier in the season. Go south into Gippsland in Victoria, and at the moment it's as bad or worse, with the Navy sent to evacuate 4000 people from Mallacoota, a remote coastal town surrounded by National Parks and Biodiversity Reserves that are entirely burnt and burning, leaving no route out from a medium sized town that largely doesn't exist any more in any real sense.

I get that it's easy to dismiss this stuff when it's happening elsewhere: the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, or the Canberra or Eyre Peninsula fires of the last few decades had little impact in northern NSW beyond a few bad news cycles. But this has been completely off the charts from those incidents. The Black Saturday fires, horrific as they were, lasted 5 weeks, and were considered Australia's worst ever fires. We're into week 17 of this shit now, and - not to belabour the point - the fires are not petering out in week 17, but in fact back to close to their worst, with the largest evacuation zone in force for any natural disaster in Australian history.

Sorry, but... fuck your minimising shit.
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Re: Australia on fire

#6  Postby Hermit » Jan 04, 2020 7:05 pm

OlivierK wrote:I get that it's easy to dismiss this stuff when it's happening elsewhere

I am dismissing nothing, nor am I minimising anything by saying that the expression "Australia on fire" is false, but I do understand that you're upset at the mention that since the start of this summer only 0.6% of Australia has been on fire at the time I mentioned the figure.

The bushfire are catastrophic enough without tabloid style hyperbole, which that expression is.
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Re: Australia on fire

#7  Postby Beatsong » Jan 04, 2020 9:00 pm

The description of something as being "on fire" doesn't require that 100% of it is on fire. If I throw a match on the jacket of your 1970s flammable suit and flames shoot up your back, I'm pretty sure you'll shout "HELP! My jacket's on fire!" Not, "Phew! Good thing only 17.6% of my jacket is on fire: if it were 100% then it would actually be on fire and I'd have a problem!".

I reject your accusation of hyperbole. On the contrary, the most desperately dispiriting thing about this is that EVEN WITH the unprecedented level of catastrophic destruction taking place, some people STILL don't seem to engage with the emotional and existential enormity of it ENOUGH. The farmers that Oliver talks about only just now starting to think "oh yeah, maybe this is a bit of a problem" will probably be the ones who voted for Morrison and his pledge to open new coal burning plants. Perhaps an emotive appeal to what it means to see "Australia on fire" might have had some chance of penetrating through their thick skulls that facts unfortunately lacked.
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Re: Australia on fire

#8  Postby Fallible » Jan 04, 2020 9:15 pm

So sorry for what’s happening there.
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Re: Australia on fire

#9  Postby OlivierK » Jan 04, 2020 9:43 pm

Nope, Hermit. Not having it.

Sure, the deserts which cover a majority of Australia are not burning with massive intensity - no fucking shit - there's not enough fuel. Sure, the top end above the tropic of Capricorn isn't burning at the same rate as the subtropics - again, no fucking shit: it's the wet/monsoon season up there.

Take the east coast population strip from Gippsland in Victoria to the Sunshine Coast. It's about 1300km long, and the coastal strip and adjoining ranges usually extend about 100km in from the coast. That's an area of around 130,000 square kilometres, or 13 million hectares, which contains around half the Australian population. Of those 13 million hectares, around 40% has burned. In many local government areas, the number is far bigger than 50%. And there are still 160 current fires, dozens of them over 10,000 hectares in size, and the largest over 500,000ha, still burning, so all these numbers will go up.

Yes, Australia's a big continent, so a major region getting 40% burned(and counting) by intense firestorms gets diluted by the vast areas that, due to their entirely different seasonal patters, or lack of similar levels of biomass to burn, are not. So fucking what? It's not hyperbole. In my region, the area burned exceeds the area unburned. In the reqion to my north, and the region to my south, it's worse than it is here.

I've got a an elderly tenant in my mum's old apartment who suffers from emphysema. She's been pretty much housebound for four months, as breathing the air outside most days would put her in hospital, so she sits in the flat with all the windows closed sucking on an oxygen cylinder just to survive. In a normal spring and summer, bushfire smoke might a problem for her between 0 and 5 days. This year? Around 100 days in 4 months and, at the risk of getting boring about this, it's not fucking over yet.
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Re: Australia on fire

#10  Postby Beatsong » Jan 04, 2020 11:35 pm

Fucking hell Oliver. I've got mates in various places I'm trying to keep in touch with an make sure they're OK. Fortunately my mum's in Sydney and any fire would have to get past a lot of urban sprawl before getting to her.

What worries me is that once this has died down - burnt itself out, rained out or just petered out with the seasonal changes - Morrison will announce a few half-arsed measures to be better prepared next time, without in any way dealing with the underlying cause, and next year it will all kick off again, the same or probably worse. And people won't care, cos we can't have all those silly trendy green ideas threatening the economy, right? It seems inconceivable, but that seems to be how they actually think.

The last few times I've been back to visit I've been astounded by peoples' complacency, and I'm not talking about stupid right wing redneck farmers. Smart, informed, educated people I know in Sydney, who know the science and are not in any way climate denialists. I raise the subject and they just look vaguely quizzical like "yeah, that's something I've been meaning to get around to thinking about for a while". And then go see what's on telly and get another beer.

Will this actually get through to them? I don't understand it, but I have a terrible feeling it won't until it's actually their house that's burning.
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Re: Australia on fire

#11  Postby Spinozasgalt » Jan 05, 2020 12:00 am

I've been mostly safe: one or two fires have cropped up nearby but they've been put out quickly. Seems like everyone I know has been impacted though. It's more the smoke than anything else here. It's a near constant blanket. Add the insane heat to it and the inability to go anywhere for fresh air without breathing it in, you feel like you're in a bunker at the end of the world.

Watching it all unfold online has been interesting. You see just incredible levels of anger, dead wildlife, horrible statistics. There was an initial "Blame the Greens! They stopped BACKBURNING!" spreading but that seems to be getting drowned out for once in a lot of places. The attempt seemed to get into the news and got pushback. People I know who are never political are suddenly becoming political and coming out against Morrison and the LNP. I don't know what happens next.
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Re: Australia on fire

#12  Postby TopCat » Jan 05, 2020 12:07 am

If you'll forgive a slight tangent...

Given how much uninhabited land there is in Australia, and indeed the USA, that gets lots and lots of sunny sunshine, I'm often stunned by the fact that the Capitalist types aren't falling over themselves building solar farms... and factories that build solar cells.... on an unimaginable scale that would a) generate lots of power and b) generate lots of money and c) generate lots of employment.

It would be hugely scalable, be hugely fashionable, gain lots of planet-saving brownie points.... yet they don't do it.

What nuance am I missing here? Is it really no more complicated than that the people with the power have lots of rich mates in the fossil fuel and mining industries and they're only interested in a short-term buck and fuck everyone else?
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Re: Australia on fire

#13  Postby Macdoc » Jan 05, 2020 3:51 am

Fair assessment

What you need to know about the Australia bushfires
The timing and intensity of the fires are unprecedented

Image
By Justine Calma@justcalma Jan 3, 2020, 6:37pm EST


continues

https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/3/21048 ... als-damage
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Re: Australia on fire

#14  Postby Hermit » Jan 05, 2020 6:07 am

TopCat wrote:If you'll forgive a slight tangent...

Given how much uninhabited land there is in Australia, and indeed the USA, that gets lots and lots of sunny sunshine, I'm often stunned by the fact that the Capitalist types aren't falling over themselves building solar farms... and factories that build solar cells.... on an unimaginable scale that would a) generate lots of power and b) generate lots of money and c) generate lots of employment.

Our conservative pollies have been bought by the fossil fuel industry and we keep voting them into government. (We have been governed by them for all but four of the past 24 years.)

When our incumbent Prime Minister was the Treasurer of a previous conservative government, he went so far as to break the parliamentary rule against bringing props into the house by brandishing a lump of coal and telling everybody that it is nothing to be afraid about. Then he praised its virtues via the trickle-down theory. It provides prosperity to Australia companies, neatly avoiding the word "profit" and totally ignoring that such profit leaves Australia the moment it is generated, for almost all coal mines are foreign-owned.



To nobody's surprise these arseholes sabotage efforts to develop renewable energy production projects every chance they get. They are bought and paid for, and as I mentioned, there are enough morons whose votes keep them in power. Their animosity towards environmentalists is fucking amazing. A previous Deputy Prime Minister has tried to blame the bushfires on "the Greenies". Apparently, they managed to stop what is (mistakenly) called "backburning" in winter that helps contain bushfires in summer. Some fuckknuckles come up with even crazier propositions, and they also get traction.

Image

Nevertheless, the tide is turning. More than 30% of South Australia's energy needs are covered by rooftop and large scale solar panels and wind turbines. In 2012 it was zero. It has also closed and dismantled its last coal fired electricity plant around 2016. The Australian Capital Territory's electricity consumption has recently become 100% carbon emission neutral. No Australian bank will underwrite loans for the construction of new coal fired electricity generators. The Indian corporation, Adani has been unable to get finance for its proposed $25 billion coal mine in Queensland. It is still going ahead with it, but on a fraction of the intended size because it can't get funding from outside.

I am also quietly optimistic that the conservative government will be out on its ear at the next election. Not so hopeful that the Labor Party will grow some spine at last. In the run-up to the previous election it refused to categorically oppose Adani's project. It did a lot of fence sitting lest it lose the redneck sector of the voters. The idiots lost anyway. Its useless leader has resigned since, but his replacement has yet to prove his mettle. Having done a bit of backpedalling and engaged in mumbling a fair bit of vague platitudes since he became leader of the opposition, I am not sure he will.
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Re: Australia on fire

#15  Postby OlivierK » Jan 05, 2020 8:16 am

Labor is also the party of the coalminers' union, and to see the effect of that one needs to look no further than Joel Fitzgibbon, MP for the Hunter Valley's coal mining region, who blamed Labor's election loss on being insufficiently pro-coal. He's not some fringe nutter in the party, he's seen as a potential future leader.
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Re: Australia on fire

#16  Postby OlivierK » Jan 05, 2020 8:43 am

Beatsong wrote:What worries me is that once this has died down - burnt itself out, rained out or just petered out with the seasonal changes - Morrison will announce a few half-arsed measures to be better prepared next time, without in any way dealing with the underlying cause, and next year it will all kick off again, the same or probably worse. And people won't care, cos we can't have all those silly trendy green ideas threatening the economy, right? It seems inconceivable, but that seems to be how they actually think.

I'm afraid I'm a bit more wearily cynical than that. This season will remove a lot of fuel, and that alone should protect us from anything similar for around a decade, which will lead to policy apathy, and unfounded claims of successful action when it doesn't kick off again next year. Also, we're probably close to the end of the natural drought cycle, so this season is a perfect storm in ways that are unlikely to be repeated soon. No matter the quality of Morrison's response, it will be possible to spin it as a success, but more likely a few quiet fire seasons will drop it off the radar, and they won't be keen to bring up the issue at all one way or the other by the next election.

As far as preparedness goes, I'm a bit wary of that, too. We were actually pretty well prepared for this season. The RFS (volunteer fire service in NSW, of which I'm a member) is well resourced. We've got everything we need, and more. The two trucks at my station have been replaced 3 times in the 14 years I've been a member, and are currently under 2 years old. We get any gear we need by simply going in to our regional office and picking it up for free. Regional support, such as aircraft, is strong. Training is plentiful, high-quality, and free. It's a bit of a different story in National Parks, where firefighting crews are paid, and conservative governments are cutting funding to the National Parks Service because it's a bit too green for their liking. But in general, the RFS is massively well-prepared for big fires from a logistical perspective. Whether that's having large communications control rooms ready to go, to having copious educational resources promoting and facilitating individual bushfire response plans for every rural resident, to having a system in place where the RFS has to sign off every rural building application for bushfire risk management compliance, all the risk management systems that would help in situations like this are already in place. But sometimes the fires are just too big to control, much as floods still get into people's houses despite dams, and regulations against building in predictably flood-prone areas, because some are just bigger than most others.

The biggest criticism is that not enough hazard reduction burning happens over winter, but NSW exceeded its targets (which were appropriate) this year, as we do every year. But much of that was west of the Dividing Range, and not in the areas now burning. But... That's not because of green regulation, and it's not because nobody wanted to do it, it's because we're in a fucking drought, and winter was full of days where the ground was dry, temperatures were above 25C, and most weeks had at least one period of strong wind. While you might get some fuel removed under those conditions, you might - by lighting a hazard reduction burn - also start a fire not hugely different to what we're seeing now. Any idiot who reckons that's not possible is welcome to come for a tour of some unburned bush near my place next winter, and walk through a forest floored with 10-50cm of leaf litter that crackles as you step on it.

Anyway, that's probably a bit disjointed, but I couldn't be fucked going back to edit, so take it for whatever it's worth...
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Re: Australia on fire

#17  Postby Macdoc » Jan 05, 2020 5:19 pm

Informative post - thanks

The US had a similar perfect storm issue in 1910 and the photos looked like a nuclear hit. It led to changes in how forests were managed.

Should sound familiar

Origin[edit]
A great number of problems contributed to the destruction caused by the Great Fire of 1910. The wildfire season started early that year because the winter of 1909-1910 and the spring and summer of 1910 were extremely dry,[9][2] and the summer sufficiently hot to have been described as "like no others."[1] The drought resulted in forests that were teeming with dry fuel, which had previously grown up on abundant autumn and winter moisture.[10] Hundreds of fires were ignited by hot cinders flung from locomotives, sparks, lightning,[2] and backfiring crews. By mid-August, there were 1,000 to 3,000 fires burning in Idaho, Montana, and Washington.[8]

The Big Blowup[edit]
August 20 (Saturday) brought hurricane-force winds to the interior Northwest, whipping the hundreds of small fires into one or two much larger blazing infernos.[6] Such a conflagration was impossible to fight; there were too few men and supplies. The United States Forest Service (then called the National Forest Service) was only five years old at the time and unprepared for the possibilities of the dry summer or a fire of this magnitude, though all summer it had been urgently recruiting as many men as possible to fight the hundreds of fires already burning, many with little forestry or firefighting experience.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_1910

It's a challenge to attribute aspects of this to AGW but higher temps especially at night and longer heat waves are not helping.

I didn't know much about the Indian Ocean Dipole but here is a good explanation

A positive Indian Ocean Dipole this winter is bad news for drought-hit parts of Australia
By Irena Ceranic
Updated 16 May 2019, 5:20am

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-16/ ... s/11120566

it certainly has focused discussion on various aspects of the disaster ....even world wide tho a lot of tabloid and in service of a variety of agendas.
We'll see what comes out of it ...seems Morrison might have a limited horizon.

This has certainly stuck with me ....and others.
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Re: Australia on fire

#18  Postby Macdoc » Jan 05, 2020 7:40 pm

Bitter sweet article.

Australia burns but my son still wants to play outside
By Peter PapathanasiouContributor
Sun., Jan. 5, 2020timer3 min. read

Image



snip

My son’s voice is filled with youthful protest and disappointment as we ride home, but he doesn’t yet understand the emergency that is unfolding. His will ultimately be the generation to properly tackle the challenge of climate change, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, while those who came before them merely bickered as to its existence.
:(
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Re: Australia on fire

#19  Postby Macdoc » Jan 07, 2020 1:25 am

Nine of the 10 warmest years on record in Australia have occurred since 2005 and fire chiefs have said the length and severity of this bushfire season are unprecedented.

Morrison on Sunday stressed he and his government accepted the link between climate change and weather.

"I should stress that there is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change globally, and its effect on global weather patterns, and that includes how that impacts in Australia," he said.

"Because I have to correct the record here. I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government I lead has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute."


somehow I am skeptical of that last bit in regards to the Libs....

https://www.theage.com.au/world/europe/ ... 53pd9.html
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Re: Australia on fire

#20  Postby Hermit » Jan 07, 2020 4:50 am

Macdoc wrote:
Nine of the 10 warmest years on record in Australia have occurred since 2005 and fire chiefs have said the length and severity of this bushfire season are unprecedented.

Morrison on Sunday stressed he and his government accepted the link between climate change and weather.

"I should stress that there is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change globally, and its effect on global weather patterns, and that includes how that impacts in Australia," he said.

"Because I have to correct the record here. I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government I lead has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute."


somehow I am skeptical of that last bit in regards to the Libs....

https://www.theage.com.au/world/europe/ ... 53pd9.html

Sceptical? Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his entire government are utter liars regarding that. Not two months ago Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack commented dismissively: "We've had fires in Australia since time began", then went on to describe criticism of the government's policies as "the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies" and finished up labelling people who campaigned against global warming "inner city raving lunatics". (You can listen to the full interview here.) Did Morrison correct his deputy in any way, or pull him in line? Fucking crickets.

Not that Morrison's inaction comes as a surprise. Far from making a connection between "about the issue of climate change globally, and its effect on global weather patterns" (yes, hopelessly jumbled expression, but we know what he is trying to say). When he was the Treasurer of the party in government is now the leader of, he went on record as saying that coal is all good. Brandishing a lump of it in parliament he shouted: "This is coal. Don't be afraid. Don't be scared. Won't hurt you. It won't hurt you." (0:27 - 0:32 in the video below. I've linked to it already in post #14, but it's worth linking it in this one again.) He then went on to mention the benefits of coal: It creates profit for (foreign owned) and employment for (an unspecified number of) people. To cap his little speech off he said: "Mister Speaker, those opposite (pointing at the opposition in parliament) have an ideological, pathological (thumps table) fear of coal. There's no word for coalaphobia officially, Mister Speaker, but that's the malady that afflicts those opposite. It's that malady, Mister Speaker, that is afflicting the jobs in the towns and in the industries and indeed in this country because of their pathological, ideological opposition to coal being an important part of our sustainable and certain energy future ... On this side of the House you won't find any fear of coal..." (1:06 - 1:34)

You can't get a clearer expression of climate change denialism than that. Neither the Prime Minister nor his deputy have change their stance in regard to what they said earlier.




Back to the bushfires themselves, here's a vivid example of the horror they create:



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