How Climate Change Influenced Australia’s Unprecedented Fires

Yves here. This post confirms the suspicions some have voiced about similarities between Australia’s and California’s fires.

By Dana Nuccitelli. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections

Australia’s frightening bushfires, which kicked off an early fire season in September 2019, have already had cataclysmic effects, and the continent is still just in the early months of the southern hemisphere’s summer. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has described the bushfires as unprecedented in size and scale, having burned more than 46 million acres (18.6 million hectares), killed at least 29 people, and destroyed more than 2,200 homes.*

Parts of Australia have had the worst air quality in the world. The air quality in Sydney has literally been alarming, having set off smoke alarms in buildings throughout the city’s central business district and exceeded hazardous levels for more than 30 days. Military assets have been deployed in response to the fires at a scale not seen since World War II. Researchers estimate that more than a billion animals have been killed. Several species will likely be pushed to extinction.

The conditions and climate change-wildfire connections in Australia have been strikingly similar to those amplifying California’s record 2018 wildfire season, but on a much larger scale. Scientific unknowns remain regarding some of those connections, but others are a straightforward result of physics – more heat creates more wildfire fuel.

The politics and climate policy environment down under, on the other hand, more closely bring to mind those at the national level in the U.S. than to the situation in California.

How Climate Change Exacerbated Australian and Californian Fires

Despite widespread conspiracy theories about the bushfires, emerging science continues to find links between global warming and worsening wildfires, with the issue a focus of continuing investigation. As climate scientist Kevin Trenberth explained in a recent interview with videographer Peter Sinclair, global warming directly intensifies wildfires by drying out soil and vegetation, creating more fuel to burn farther and faster. That’s particularly a problem in drought-prone regions like Australia and California.

The Millennium drought in southeastern Australia from 1997 to 2009 was the driest 13-year period on record, according to a report by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The drought was broken by Australia’s two wettest periods on record in 2010 and 2011, but then came yet another intense drought from 2017 to the present. In fact, 2018 and 2019 were Australia’s hottest and driest years on record. On December 18, the continent had its hottest day on record, with an average high temperature of 107.4 degrees F. California experienced a similar “weather whiplash,” swinging from record-breaking drought in 2012–2016 to a very wet rainy season in 2017–2018. That combination generated growth of new plants that were subsequently dried out by record heat, creating fuel for the state’s record 2018 wildfire season.

California’s drought was made worse by a persistent high-pressure system off the coast known as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” That high-pressure ridge diverted storm systems to California’s north, leading to years of low precipitation. Researchers have suggested that climate change may cause such blocking systems to form more frequently. A 2018 study led by UCLA’s Daniel Swain found that as temperatures continue to rise, California will see a shift to less precipitation in the spring and fall and more in the winter, lengthening the wildfire season.

The situation in Australia is again strikingly similar to that in California. Researchers have shown that global warming is expanding an atmospheric circulation pattern known as the Hadley cell. This circulation is caused by hot air at the equator rising and spreading toward the poles, where it begins to cool and descend, forming high pressure ridges. In Australia, this process creates what’s known as the subtropical ridge, which as CSIRO notes, has become more intense as a result of global warming expanding the Hadley cell circulation. A 2014 study, CSIRO’s David Post and colleagues reported that stronger high-pressure ridges have been decreasing rainfall in southeastern Australia in the autumn and winter. The significance? The lack of rainfall creates more dry fuel for fires and lengthens the bushfire season.

Based on this scientific research, the latest IPCC report found in 2014 that “fire weather is projected to increase in most of southern Australia,” with days experiencing very high and extreme fire danger increasing 5-100% by 2050. And a 2015 CSIRO report concluded, “Extreme fire weather days have increased at 24 out of 38 Australian sites from 1973-2010, due to warmer and drier conditions … [forest fire danger index] increase across southeast Australia is characterised by an extension of the fire season further into spring and autumn … partly driven by temperature increases that are attributable to climate change.”

Australia Has Among the World’s Worst Climate Policies

According to the Climate Change Performance Index created by environmental groups, Australia is 56th out of 61 countries evaluated. In the category of climate policy, Australia comes in dead last with a score of zero because “experts observe that the newly elected government has continued to worsen performance at both national and international levels.”

In 2014, the Liberal Party (which, confusingly, is politically conservative by U.S. measures) became the first in the world to repeal a carbon tax. Echoing an approach taken by Oklahoma’s U.S. Senator James Inhofe on the floor of the Senate in 2015, Australia’s current Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal to the floor of the Australian House of Representatives in 2017. The country’s climate negotiators were accused of sabotaging the international climate agreement in Madrid in 2019, as they tried to use old “carry-over” carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet current climate goals.

Australia is the world’s leading exporter of coal and the second-largest producer and exporter of liquid natural gas, and the government recently proposed opening new coal mines and ports in what would be one of the world’s largest fossil fuel expansions. According to a recent report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme, Australia’s fossil fuel extraction-based emissions will nearly double from 2005 to 2030. In November, the Swedish central bank divested from Australian government bonds because of the country’s high emissions. Despite all this, as record bushfires continue to rage, Liberal Party leaders have maintained their position that Australia does not need stronger climate policies.

In short, as the country’s citizens and many visitors get a glimpse at its potentially dystopian future of worsening droughts and bushfires, its political leaders are doing everything they can to increase the fossil fuel extraction and combustion that experts conclude are exacerbating these extreme events. If the Paris climate goals are exceeded, the current record Australian temperatures will become the norm for the country. The public appears increasingly concerned: In a November Guardian Essential poll, 60% of Australian voters said the government should do more to reduce risks posed by the warming climate, and this concern has been clear in U.S. network and cable TV coverage of Australian citizens’ reactions to the fires. But Morrison and his Liberal party nonetheless prevailed in the last federal election in May 2019, and barring an early dissolution, they won’t face re-election until 2022.

Editor’s note: These numbers on impacts of the bush fires increase regularly. A useful resource for keeping track of those changes can be found on this page. Yale Climate Connections in the next few days will post an original video on the Australia bushfires.

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  1. oaf

    …Interestingly; much study of climate change involves lots of flying around in carbon-spewing aircraft, also necessitating multiple fuel-guzzling spaceshots…TINA…

    1. pretzelattack

      geez i wonder if those satellites had multiple purposes. those damned greedy satellites, they aren’t even artificial persons, of all the nerve.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The brain consumes 25% of the metabolic energy of the whole body. But the brain is what allows and directs the body to move around and acquire enough outside metabolic energy replacement inputs ( food) to keep itself and the brain alive. So the metabolic energy invested in keeping the brain alive is a necessary investment in keeping the body alive to keep the brain alive to keep the body and brain alive.

      If the information developed by the airplane and satellite surveillance flights allows us to reduce carbon skyflooding by more than the amount of carbon skyflooding used in the actual flights, then the actual flights cause a net net reduction in carbon skyflooding. And if that is the case, then accusing data-gathering airplane flights and satellite launches of “causing the global warming they pretend to be working against” is the kind of pre-teen/early-teen ” gotcha hypocrisy-spotting” we first learned to amuse ourselves with in junior high school.

  2. Wukchumni

    I don’t know if you could compare California to Australia in terms of wildfires, the current spate of conflagrations in Aussie, would be as if a good portion of the state was on fire in May or June, which rarely happens even in the midst of our recent long drought. If anything it’s the other way around with fires happening in December, after summer has long since past.

    1. JBird4049

      California’s problems don’t really compare with Australia‘s in degree. However, having a town like Santa Rosa having the fires reach downtown and having family fleeing yet again. Then there is Paradise. Add our beloved PG&E following profits over everything regardless of the cost of doing so for even the next year.

      Our state is similar in having forceable results of policies favoring money over existence with the middle, working, poor, and homeless classes getting the consequences; not the c-suite, not the investors, and so far neither the governments of California or Australia earning anything, but money and votes, and certainly not opprobrium or criminal justice.

      1. John Wright

        The Santa Rosa fire did not actually reach the old downtown, but did most of the damage to newer neighborhoods built after the 1970’s.

        The destruction followed a sort of flash flood path as the fire was channeled down many canyons and ravines on the periphery of the city.

        Another interesting piece of information is that the Santa Rosa Tubbs fire of October 2017 followed a similar burn path to the Hanley Fire in 1964.

        But one striking difference was that the 1964 fire took 4 days to reach the northern boundary of the city, which gave firefighters enough time to build an earthen berm with bulldozers to stop the fire.

        In 2017, the same fire path was traversed in FOUR hours, giving little time for the firefighters to contain the multi-pronged blaze.

        After seeing the 2017 destruction very first hand, one can view MUCH of the populated Northern California region north of the Golden Gate Bridge as fire vulnerable, with wood framed hillside homes on hills and in canyons.

        While there may be some city officials and politicians driving changes in building practices, I believe real change will be forced by the insurance industry.

    2. Titus

      The larger weather patterns, particularly the set of where high and low pressure areas are (geolocation) is very similar for California and Australia. Too much rain, then none, then very dry windy air, particularly from the jet stream downslope- meaning air that gets heated up. In this scenario there is no hope, anything that can burn will. Over and over. To be clearer these pressure areas – high and low are in reversals and combinations, intensities and size (large), never seen before. And we’re only at 419 ppm of CO2. Some parts of Africa are at 440ppm.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        How do some parts of Africa get a higher level of airborne CO2 when those parts of Africa are skydumping less carbon than we are? How does that work?

  3. GP

    And yet 2000 miles away in Indonesia they have been having record rainfall amounts, due purportedly to this same climate change. Pick one and stick with it…does it cause increased rainfall, or increased drought? How convenient that no matter the problem with the weather we have a boogeyman to blame.

    1. Plenue

      It’s almost like the planet is a big place, and different areas have different reactions to temperature rise, mister bot.

    2. DJG

      GP: Did you notice the live link to the discussion of the Hadley Cell provided by writer Dana Nuccitelli? Do you see the map? Do you see the red and blue zones? That’s one of the reasons why it is raining in Indonesia, which is also affected by the monsoons off the Indian Ocean.

      To help you gain some minimal knowledge, I’ll paste the link in again:

      Here’s a description of how the Hadley circulation creates the monsoon:

      Also known as the Indo-Australian Monsoon. The rainy season occurs from September to February and it is a major source of energy for the Hadley circulation during boreal winter. The Maritime Continent Monsoon and the Australian Monsoon may be considered to be the same system, the Indo-Australian Monsoon.

      So if, as Nuccitelli describes above, the Hadley Cells / circulation system are affected by climate deterioration, you can expect problems with climate and weather in the areas where they create climate and weather.

      These ideas aren’t that hard to figure out.

      Here’s another fact that will amaze you. Tonight, in Chicago, we expect temperatures of 10 F. But 2000 miles away, in San Diego, it is warm! The weather is different today. And the climate? As noted in the article, California has some of the same patterns.

      1. Titus

        Want to watch it all in real time? Goto → It seems simple but it’s very powerful. Includes real time satellite data. YouTube tutorials as well. It’s how I can see a hurricane headed toward – Antarctica. 14 straights months of hurricanes, another never seen before phenomenon.

    3. Synoia

      Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.

      Jeremiah 5:21

      And I’d add: Which have minds , and think not.

    4. Titus

      If you knew the science, which is accessible everywhere you’d know the answer is both, ususally extreme weather is a signature of climate rebalancing. Weather is not climate. When Greenland loses more ice, thus water in day then in its’ highest year – the entire year AND when Greenland in 3 years loses more ice than projected for 30 years, answers are required. Answers have been found and factually we can expect more of the same. The impact in no definition of ‘good’ is ‘good’.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      How do you “pick one” when the physical reality is oscillating swings from “one” to the “other” to “one” to the “other”?

  4. The Rev Kev

    A bit of context first to what is happening. The article mentions that the fires have burned more than 46 million acres (18.6 million hectares) of land. How big is that? In European terms that is roughly the total area of Scotland, Wales and Ireland combined. In American terms, it is roughly the same size as the great State of Missouri. It’s big. But that is not I want to comment on.

    By this stage I think that it is pretty obvious that we are going to be at war now. For too long we have tolerated the arguments of climate change denialists, even when we knew that what they were saying was total bs. Well now we see the results of this up close and personal. With massive fires on a scale of epic proportions never seen before, we are still seeing the fightback against the truth & doing anything about it and Scotty from Marketing is not alone here.

    Even here on NC I saw one guy try to spread the lie that all the fires were caused by arsonists. It was a coordinated campaign by conservatives making use of bots and social commenters like Paul Joseph Watson. They also drag up articles from the 1890s and try to make it out that it is exactly the same now or blame it all on Greenies. I know enough Oz history to know that cities were never choked by smoke from bushfires back in the 1890s like they are now. No, this is new.

    The army were was not called out until the truth could no longer be avoided. If they had done so a month earlier they would have been able to give a lot of aid but doing so would have admitted that there was a problem so they weren’t. Right now our government is making sounds that an incremental response is needed to this emergency, so no real change is offered. And that is what I meant that we are now at war. People like this will see other people die unnecessarily to deny climate change is happening. It is now us against them. There is too much at stake to let them continue telling their lies and not making preparations for what is to come.

    1. ejf

      And what will happen next? I’m thinking that those who are able will FLEE. Somewhere. Take a look at the ecological destruction that helped push migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to the US.
      But flight is expensive and uncertain. And if one can’t flee, then a long and nasty fight is in the works.

        1. Greg

          Funny you should say that. I’ve been asking fellow kiwis in the last few days how they think we’d deal with Australian refugees.
          General opinion is that they aren’t welcome and can stick to their own mess, but there was that brilliant suggestion of making them feel at home in the finest Australian tradition by setting them up in concentration camps on an island or two.
          I think when the shit hits the fan there’s more in common between aussies and kiwis than not, but for now local opinion seems to be firmly in the “f* those guys” column. A lot of people avoided the lure of moving to Australia for better wages specifically because they didn’t want to have to live with Australians.

          1. Wukchumni

            It was pretty rare to come across Aussies that immigrated to NZ, for it was almost always the other way around. One Aussie import I met was a hut warden on the Rees-Dart track and brewed his own beer there and won my admiration when he poured me a stubbie, nice guy.

            But I get it though, Kiwis & Aussies are way different in their outlook, kind of similar to the USA-Canada relationship, albeit with 1200 miles of open ocean in between.

            1. Greg

              Way different in their outlook, except for every other country in the world ;)
              More similar than different, which is I suspect why we’re each others favourite target. Sibling rivalry on a global stage pretty much.
              Chips are down we’re still family though. I expect NZ’s own RFS will be spending more time across the ditch than at home these next few years.

          2. skippy

            Which is curious as the Kiwis exported a lot of slack labour over to Oz for a few decades, then took exception when they started coming home.

            I still remember the launch of their RE boom back during the first Gulf war as a safe haven response from northern hemisphere anglophones. Now its baked in to their economic base, not to mention an old NC contributor Richard Smiths highlights on their loose business practices.

            1. Greg

              Absolutely! There are almost more kiwis in oz than there are in NZ these days. People don’t necessarily make sense all the time :)
              And yeah, real estate in NZ is just as buggered as its ever been, similar to Sydney and Melbourne I believe?
              Also that whole “knowledge and service economy” drive never really amounted to anything more than financialisation and crapification along with the loose practices you mention, it’s still a country entirely dependent on a few agricultural primary industries.
              P.S. I believe oz was the primary benefactor of the dreaded “brain drain” as well – the smarter people left for oz to make money. Those that couldn’t, didn’t.

              1. Norm de plume

                ‘ – the smarter people left for oz to make money’

                Not according to your own Piggy Muldoon, who said when told of Aussies complaining about the influx of Kiwis.. ‘I dont know what they’re complaining about, it raises the IQ of both countries’

                1. Wukchumni

                  Muldoon was PM when I first visited NZ in 1981, and then went to Australia.

                  NZ seemed to me to be an ultimate cradle to grave socialist economy, with heavy import duties on consumer goods, so everything was kind of old, the cars, appliances, etc. Just keep things going.

                  Australia on the other hand was so vibrant business wise, thriving and open to opportunity.

                  You could see why so many Kiwis made the hop to Aussie.

                  But that was then, and this is now.

      1. The Historian

        No, what will happen next is already happening. The press has had their field day with the fires and now they will drop their coverage to zero. It is already beginning to get hard to find updates on the situation in Australia. And the spinners will begin to spin their tales about how this was all the fault of arsonists. And people will forget what happened and go on with their lives doing the same things they’ve always done and go back to ignoring the big elephant in the room again.

        1. JEHR

          There have been other suggestions for dealing with future bushfires:

          Perhaps one way forward for dealing with future bushfire is to relearn and apply Indigenous burning practices that have largely disappeared from some of our highest-risk bushfire landscapes.

          That knowledge has not been completely lost. Now is the time to revisit a use of fire that put landscape, rather than man, at its centre.

          John Schauble is the author of Australian Bushfire Safety Guide. He worked as a volunteer firefighter for Victoria’s Country Fire Authority for more than 30 years

          1. Titus

            Never work. The conditions which allowed those traditional practices, i.e., the climate have become too extreme. Even going back 45k years go, the earth has not experienced this amount of CO2 or extreme water vapor at the poles for millions of years.

        2. Ibacc

          Except in Australia, where the public dialogue has probably shifted for the better irreversibly already, and the Murdochite global warming deniers and fossil fuel companies are on the defensive. It’s hard to deny what’s happening when your home reeks of smoke for weeks and next year it’s expected to be worse.

          This is how critical mass will be reached: one catastrophe at a time.

          Maybe I’m optimistic, but I expect prosecutions and trials of institutional climate change disinformers to start in the next 10 years, for crimes against humanity, murder, assault, conspiracy, fraud and other criminal charges. If I was working for the Heartland Institute I’d be tiptoeing for the exits.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            In much of non-Western America, the new extremes will manifest as the random occurrence here-and-there of F6 and F7 tornados and Cat 6 and Cat 7 Hurricanes. Picture an F7 tornado with bowling-ball hailstones in it.

            If a few such storms were to kill a million or so people in heavily-majority climate-change-denial areas, the survivors might be educated to the reality of physical fact.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Well . . . maybe enough rain will soak down some areas so as to make them less fire-prone if/when the inevitable arsonist flicks a match “just to see”.

                We take what cheer we can get . . .

                ( By the way, I remember a hailstorm in Knoxville, Tennessee almost 50 years ago featuring hailstones which had contacted eachother and frozen together on the way down. We had some lumpy hailstones which spanned about 3 inches from lump to lump.)

    2. skippy

      Wellie … seems all will be discussed in a royal commission and then edited under the reasoning that “economic” factors necessitate a light touch. I mean its not like Switzerland divested from Oz bonds over climate related issues or anything.

      Most likely we will get another “grocery store code of conduct” bush fire approach, can’t have the government going rogue and punishing virtuous market players seeking profit now can we – Investors are sacred cows thingy.

      Then on the other hand we do have some that have been waiting a loooong time to be vindicated, by hook or crook that has to happen – before people lose interest.

    3. JBird4049

      The climate change denialism has been fed by the fossil fuel industry and their political toadies among others because of profit. Neoliberalism.

      First the conservative political leadership who then gave the devil’s bargain to the leadership of the religious fundamentalists. Then the DNC (Democratic National Committee) started to serve the financial sector, which cares only about money.

      This is a long way to explain that it is not the “conservatives” really, but the business interests that funded the change of leadership in the conservative political, social, and religious organizations. Think of FOX News. Or the extermination of the American left in the 20th century. Or going to another place, think of the Saudi Arabian’s ruling family funding Wahhabism, that ultra conservative and brutally austere religious sect that has taken over much of the Islamic world because of that funding.

      There have people across the political spectrum that decried this for at least half a century. I think that they all shared a love of the community and thought of long term consequences even if they disagreed on everything else. The Financial-Conservatives Republicans, the Neoliberal Democrats, and the various groups that they have corrupted must go. Easy to say, but what will replace them? And how does anyone resurrect those financially drowned people and groups.

    4. Ubietz

      Some further context to non-Australian readers, in regards to Rev Kev’s response as well as the ending of the original article, the incumbent government was elected primarily to retain asset prices.

      Labor (the other major political party in Australia) decided to venture into policy lunacy land. Policies included negative gearing reform, franking credits tinkering, mass immigration floodgates to be opened further to elderly parents of new arrivals and so on.

      Never get in the way of an Aussie and a free pub meal.

      1. JBird4049

        I can see the attraction to Jobs!Jobs! or bread and circuses, but the little I know about the Australian political economy it seems Burn, Baby, burn! is the plan.

        Let me use a comparison to California.

        It looks like opening up all the California reservoirs to water a massive number of those thirsty, but profitable, almond trees and then be surprised when their is no drinking water the next year. I seen multi year droughts and large scale flooding just a very few years apart. You can not rely on the rains, ever. So even at ten million, never mind the current thirty-nine million people, water is both liquid wealth and life and is treated as such; even with a incompetent, corrupt government with powerful water owning and using families, there are somethings you don’t do.

        That is what it appears that Australia is doing. Just like with California, if you do not pay attention to reality, it will pay attention to you.

        1. Fazal Majid

          California’s truly bizarre system of water rights makes things worse, by incentivizing wasteful use of water under the “use it or lose it” principle. Generally, water for agriculture is subsidized and under-priced, which is why efficient irrigation methods are not being deployed.

          1. JBird4049

            Yeah, California certainly has its problems with water usage, but I just think that there is a difference between inefficient and corrupt versus complete insanity. Paying some attention to the future against denying reality.

  5. coboarts

    So from California two questions:
    1. Why aren’t we logging out all the dead and unwanted (Eucalyptus) trees?
    2. Why aren’t we using controlled burn strategies?
    Surely the costs pale in comparison to what is spent fighting these infernos.

    1. Harvey

      So a professor in ecology from the Australian National University says that logging out trees makes an area more prone to fire disaster because it removes some of the canopy and makes the area drier than it would otherwise be. And it takes forests 60+ years to recover.
      As regards removing dead wood, not sure.
      The indigenous people conduct what they call cool fires to remove understory, and this is being looked at as an alternative to how the various fire services conduct their hazard burns.

      1. Wukchumni

        Native Americans did the same thing as the Aboriginals in Australia, it was all about burning out the understory, with the trick being that after you did it the first time, and did it religiously every late fall, there wasn’t much danger.

        We have to get going doing this in some variant, the key difference being that the Indians didn’t have to worry about somebody kvetching in regards to all the smoke, prescribed burns tend to disperse, like we do. Nor did they tend to have much in the way of structures and infrastructure, whereas we’re practically overwhelmed with it.

        We could tailor the burns to do what we want them to, and it’s not cheap preparing an area for a prescribed burn, but it costs a pittance compared to paying any price to put out an out of control wildfire. And a caveat, they used to call them ‘controlled burns’ until a few got away.

        The key for the various Yokuts tribes in the western Sierra foothills, was to not let fire get to what was 2/3rds of their food supply in the guise of acorn bearing oak trees.

        1. skippy

          Sorry Wuk … but this thing is not like the others … anymore than prescribing ice age practices in an AGW setting.

          Would highlight that the early indigenous practices were post ice age, its also is suggested it had ramifications for native wild life in preferences for the indigenous. Which then was put into overdrive by early resource extraction for shipping to the northern hemisphere. E.g. there is a huge difference in entropy between what the indigenous activities, in toto, and that of what the Western late comers – its all apples and oranges.

          Now were at the doorway to proper AGW conditions and sadly the past is not a good reference point for consideration. The only friction to dealing with it is notions of tradition and human superiority over its domain – by some.

          BTW the smoke issue is a classic case not unlike releaving oneself up stream and then wondering why so much illness is about.

          1. Wukchumni

            Past is prologue skippy, and I prefer proven old ways of dealing with keeping things in balance by preventative measures combined with our modern technology, which is a perfect nexus to keep our forests alive & thriving, but only if we decide they’re worth it.

            Much of the work involved in prepping burn zones would require hands on labor, keeping a large work force employed, with a preference of jobs going to veterans here in the states.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I couldn’t find an article I saw about certain land-management authorities in California working with certain Indian Nations in California to experimentally revive and restore certain traditional Indian Burning practices for land rehabilitation and restoration. I found something that just barely touched on it.

              Here is an article claiming to make the case that Aboriginal managed burning may be relevant to some places and conditions in Australia. I suspect a few more megaburn superfires may create a political desperation space in which some very restricted experiments in Aboriginal burning may be conducted to see what happens over time.

            2. Norm de plume

              Part of the problem is the difference between then and now. Not just the additional heat and aridity, but the fact that the aborigines still had topsoil, we hadnt brought our herds to literally run roughshod over the land, turning the loamy surface into runoff. The fuel now accumulates on relatively hard bare ground rather than becoming humus, and is ready for ignition.
              Also, where the aborigines could curate their land care approach by region, or valley or plain, it is all now corralled into a hundred thousand little fiefdoms, so a systemic approach wouldnt work without an eminent domain type regime. Impossible, at least for now.

    2. skippy

      I would suggest you look at a topographical map and consider the challenges with any of your concerns. Off the cuff assumptions are about as bad as some ex ante economic axioms, some then are befuddled about the results.

      Just the observation that conditions at a local level are decades in the making, from tree clearing to industry activity means there is no short term solution or magic bullet.

      It will be interesting to see billions spent on returning too – normal – only to set the stage for the next calamity.

    3. Tony Wright

      Controlled burn strategies are a good idea, the effectiveness of which has been greatly curtailed by stupid, shortsighted state government funding priorities which have denied adequate funding to relevent agencies. The billions of dollars of state funds wasted on new sporting stadiums in NSW could have probably reduced recent bushfire damage significantly if they had been reallocated to hazard reduction burns in a well planned way.
      Logging old and dying Eucalypts is not a good idea as they provide refuge to a myriad of native bird, marsupial and insect species, and will be essential to whatever post fire recovery these decimated species can achieve. These essential microhabitats are simply not present in younger Eucalypt trees or plantations.

      1. Titus

        Not anymore, simply wont work. It’s in the data, thus factual. Those that want to deny then do so. Those that want to act find others raise hell and demand policies for the people, that is us. IPPC has said we must reduce carbon fuels from all sources by 7.6% a yr, start now, till we reach a 100%. Or sadly we get the worst case scenarios and not in 2100 more like 2065. Yes we will have to adopt other living arrangements with reality. The effort estimated is similar to that to mobilize for WW2. Failure is not an option.

  6. Chauncey Gardiner

    Unfortunately those who are disposed to preserve existing conditions and to restrict change – whether for personal pecuniary reasons, a desire to maintain policy influence, or simply because they dislike or fear change – are causing even greater change in their own circumstances and that of their family to occur than if they were to otherwise enable change. Hopefully these horrible and tragic fires will enable them to see this stark fact. The world needs it. What the world doesn’t need are more wars, but instead a well-informed citizenry and allowing representative democracy to work.

  7. WestcoastDeplorable

    The 200 some-odd persons arrested for setting these fires had a helluva lot more to do with these wildfires than did “climate change”. And in California the respective electric utilities coupled with the greenies “no burning underbrush” mandate. The Earth’s climate is ALWAYS changing since our planet is a self-regulating organism.
    Yves, you’re an honorable Woman; please stop trying to spread FAKE NEWS. I’m starting to lose respect….

    1. Wukchumni

      When the first people who noticed an odd growth emanating from the small of their back were concerned, and sought medical attention, doctors were mystified as the growths kept getting longer and everybody was affected-even self proclaimed deplorables who soon related bogus tales, such as 200 arsonists being arrested, and other tomfoolery. While we’re at it please throw down your CAP-gun, as it makes you seem even more foolish than previously thought.

    2. Rod

      Nice curve ball–you should see if Detroit or Baltimore need your help in 2020.
      You and I could’ve talked about that brush issue but I lost all respect for you with that “climate is always changing” trope.
      Maybe you misspoke: meaning the weather is what’s ALWAYS changing.
      That is true.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Suppose all the fires were set by arsonists. Arsonists did not create the conditions that turned California and Australia into tinderboxes ready to burn. That is the work of the long droughts, high temperatures, and dry winds and those are one of many impacts of climate change. [There are other issues of human land management that have done little to help matters.] Tinder does not catch by itself, but when it catches flame it burns fast and hotly and the great fires of our Summers will burn whether started by arson, utility companies, lightning, or Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

    4. Tom Bradford

      Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not. – Jeremiah 5.21

    5. The Rev Kev

      Gawd, not again. Look I already told you that it was about two dozen people who deliberately set fires and they were often people doing their own back-burns. That article you quoted last time around told you about it but you saw the headline and stopped reading there. And I suppose the next rumour to be started is that the Greenies and Lefties were dropping white phosphorus bombs in the bush to start these fires and thus prove global climate change? This all reminds me of a Ray Bradbury quote from “Fahrenheit 451” which is kinda appropriate when you think about it-

      “But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them.”

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Our bloggers themselves, or certainly their system experts, could determine what computer-machine-addresses the comments from Deereemee as against WessCoassDeplurble come from. If its the very same computer machine, it could be the very same commenter.

    6. Bulstrode

      I see no irony in your moniker.

      Complete tripe. Many of the ‘arrests’ were for offences in the negligence category, like dropping a cig butt or cooking in the open. Of the ‘200’ only 24 were actually charged with arson. That’s probably around par for the time of year.

      The ‘climate is always changing’ fudge shows you have no real knowledge of the rapid burgeoning in recent decades of the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its greenhouse effect. But you’ll just shrug off anyone’s telling you that.

    7. Tony Wright

      What! So you reckon that there were greenies up there in the clouds sending lightning strikes to start fires.
      A couple of facts for you to chew on:
      I lived in northern NSW for twenty years until last month.
      I recorded daily rainfall for the last fifteen years.
      During that time the annual rainfall totals varied between 1200mm and 2400mm
      The total rainfall for 2019 was 690mm.
      Areas of subtropical rainforest which had never burned before were destroyed by fire. Google Binna Burra lodge fire images and see for yourself.
      And stop believing Murdoch lies.

    8. La Peruse

      Australia’s ABC put the figure at about !% for this season’s fires. Arson tends to be closer to habitable areas and more accessible, so easier to bring under control… just the nature of the crime

    9. John Wright

      My degree is in Electrical Engineering, which colors my worldview.

      Venturing into a discussion on climate science is a definite stretch for me..


      re: The Earth’s climate is ALWAYS changing since our planet is a self-regulating organism.

      This seems to imply there is some sort of self-correcting feedback system around a mid-point conducive for life.

      But not all feedback loops are stable, for example, electronic oscillators.

      Another example is a bi-stable circuit that has two very different, but stable states.

      The response of a electronic feedback loop system depends on the loop gain and phase of the feedback signal and the circuit topology (linearity/non-linearity of circuit elements).

      The earth could be viewed containing an immense number of different feedback loops, some tied to biological systems (ecosystems) and others connected to geologic and chemical systems (moving plates, volcanoes, glaciers, oceans, pollution, CO2 in the atmosphere).

      The scope of this immensely complex system causes me to be skeptical that the earth can be assumed to be self-regulating in a way that is always hospitable to life, human or otherwise


      We do have the example of Venus, which is described as :

      “Venus is a terrestrial planet and is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet” because of their similar size, mass, proximity to the Sun, and bulk composition. It is radically different from Earth in other respects. It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is 92 times that of Earth, or roughly the pressure found 900 m (3,000 ft) underwater on Earth. Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System, with a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), even though Mercury is closer to the Sun. Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. It may have had water oceans in the past, but these would have vaporized as the temperature rose due to a runaway greenhouse effect. The water has probably photodissociated, and the free hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field. Venus’s surface is a dry desertscape interspersed with slab-like rocks and is periodically resurfaced by volcanism. ”

      Perhaps Venus simply has a vastly different, inhospitable to life, self-regulating point?

      1. Larry Y

        If you’re an electrical engineer, all I have to tell you is that some of the climate feedback loops are positive feedback loops. That should be scary enough by itself…

    10. drumlin woodchuckles

      Does anyone have any actual evidence about the theory that greenies politically prevented PG&E from counter-brush maintenance on their right-of-ways and wire-lines? Because I have seen this hypothesis advanced here and there lately, But I have seen no confirming OR debunking evidence on offer. I suspect this hypothesis will be repeated so often in so many places that eventually it will be seen as important to look into whether it is really true or not. Can someone begin the look-into-it process here and now?

      About arson, not man made global warming . . . a wannabe arsonist can throw a thousand lit matches one by one into a bucket of water and the bucket of water will not catch fire. The same wannabe arsonist can throw one lit match into a bucket of gasoline and the bucket of gasoline will catch fire. Man made global warming dried out some traditionally non-dry forests in Australia and Tasmania so much, that one arsonist match could set these promising fuel beds on fire. The super-flammable forests did not throw a match on themselves in these cases. But the arsonists did not make the forests so very super-flammable. Man made global warming did that.

      Or am I wrong? If the global warming deniers think they can convert me to their global warming denialism, let them try. I no longer feel I need the validation of converting them over to geo-physical reality-recognition.

      1. MichaelSF

        FWIW, I agree with your points but it is possible to put a match out by dunking it in gasoline. It is the oxy/fuel vapors above the liquid that are flammable, so on a cold-enough day (or maybe just using a bucket of gasoline you’ve pulled out of your refrigerator where it sits with the other staple goods) the gasoline won’t be evaporating and creating the approx 14.7:1 air/fuel ratio needed for combustion.

        You can see a similar effect with a gasoline engine that is running very rich (high fuel levels in the fuel/air mix) where unburned gas might drip from the tailpipe.

  8. Rod

    Extinction Rebellion has as its #1 demand:

    Tell The Truth about the climate crises.

    The climate is in crises because of humans activity is the starting point.

    Then remember this nugget:

    If you’re not part of the solution–then you are part of the problem.
    Let it sink in.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      “Tell the Truth” — reminds me of my all-time favorite StarTrek Episode: “Inner Light”.
      “Administrator (speaking to Kamin — Capt. Picard):
      Your observations, your findings, our scientists reached those same conclusions two years ago. … Well, what did you expect us to do? Make it public? Can you imagine the effect?”

      We have been told the Truth about the climate crises, was much as anyone knows to tell — but embedded in jargon and densely reasoned research papers. Those papers are not beyond the capabilities of a layman to understand — though with considerable effort. [I’m still working on it and what I can understand so far is not heartening.]

      1. The Rev Kev

        “Inner Light” – yeah, a very moving story and a favourite of mine as well. When you remember the basis of the story of a planet dying and a doomed people launching a probe so as not to be forgotten by imparting a life time’s memory to the first person it encountered, I did wonder how we would cope as a race-

  9. Synoia

    The love of Money is the root of all Evil

    Who are the most visible lovers of Money? Politicians desiring reelection? (Aka our beloved rulers).

    The US will embrace climate change when the Lovers of Money can profit from Climate Remediation.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The politicians don’t love money for itself. They love money for the election victories it can help them buy.
      If wannabe Climate Remediators can give politicians enough money to win elections with, then those politicians will work for Climate Remediators just as eagerly as for anyone else.

      Or if Climate Remediators can give certain office-seekers so much time and work that certain office-seekers win elections even with less money, then the value of money itself will have been somewhat reduced in politics.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Though I would say there are exceptions. Clinton and Obama did/do indeed love the money itself.
        Their entire Administrations were excercises in gleeful perversionism in pursuit of multi-million dollar rewards upon the leaving of office.

  10. polecat

    To think that anything of merit will be done, either by individual countries, OR, via the accretion thereof through co-operation by multipule sovereigns, to ameliorate whatever energy this chaotic, dynamic system called ‘climate’ has to put forth, is delusional in the least ! No one .. not the U.S., not Austrailia, not Europe … certainly not China …is going to commit national suicide, whilst doing their ‘noble’ part, to lessen their carbon output .. whatever that entails …. while simultaneously giving every other sovereign $ome kind of leading economic edge. It • just • ain’t • gonna • happen !
    So only two ways to go. 1.) Either all the sovereigns, in the main, coalesce into a single legistlative entity, with total control over billions of humans … under the supposition of restoring the climate to a point before it was corrupted by the supposed effects the industrial revolution .. OR … 2.) Acquiesce towards the inevitable devolution to a state where the climate and environment can accommodate whatever local/regional human populations can survive in a New somewhat chaotic state of equal/disequalibrium !
    My personal predilection is for #2 … simply by default of the tsunami that is human interia. If, by virtue of #1, we either kill-off mutiple billions to acheive climate victory …. or cast out various geo-climate engineering schemes … or both, … well, good luck with that !

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      A few countries are so big that if they could semi-seal themselves off from the Carbon Skydumping Free Trade Global Economy, they could pursue their own Greenism In One Country policies without courting suicide-by-Carbon-Dumper import aggression from their trading enemies.

      If America were to reject the Free Trade system and seal itself off against Free Trade Carbon-dumping Aggression; America could up-green and down-emissionize its own economy, and forbid economic contact with every alien nation which refused to adopt the exact same measures in the exact same way. But first we have to take America out from under the Free Trade Occupation Government first.

      Greenism In One Country.

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