This 31 January 2020 video says about itself:
Carer Risks Life to Save One of Australia’s Deadliest Snakes
This 17 January 2020 NASA video from the USA says about itself:
The local impacts of the Australian bushfires have been devastating to property and life in Australia while producing extreme air quality impacts throughout the region. As smoke from the massive fires has interacted with the global weather, the transport of smoke plumes around the globe has accelerated through deep vertical transport into the upper troposphere and even the lowermost stratosphere, leading to long-range transport around the globe. The smoke from these bushfires will travel across the Southern Ocean completing a global circumnavigation back around to Australia and is particularly pronounced across the southern Pacific Ocean out to South America.
By John Mackay in Australia:
18 January 2020
Health experts continue to issue warnings about the negative effects of the high levels of air pollution. Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Tony Bartone warned in a press release early this month that the duration and intensity of smoke exposure presents “a new and possibly fatal health risk that most of us have never faced before.”
The denser smoke haze and longer periods that people inhale it, Bartone said, means “there is a much higher risk that previously healthy people will face developing serious illness.” The AMA also stressed that respiratory health may not be the only health issue, predicting the mental health burden from the disaster on the community will be considerable.
The high level of smoke haze is unprecedented. Over the New Year period, air quality in Canberra, the national capital, reached 23 times the level considered hazardous and the worst rating to date in the city.
Canberra was registered as the worst polluted city in the world, beating Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina, Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India. The highest rating recorded was 5,185 on New Year’s Day, more than 25 times above the minimum hazard level of 200.
A few days before these high levels were reached, an elderly woman died after going into respiratory distress as she disembarked from a plane onto the tarmac at Canberra airport.
At its peak the poor air quality forced most of Canberra to shut down, including many businesses, shopping centres, the city’s museums and public galleries. Postal deliveries were cancelled. Canberra Hospital closed some medical and diagnostic procedures due to smoke impacting on the facility and equipment, such as medical resonance imaging (MRI) machines.
At Batemans Bay, 150 kms from Canberra, where hundreds of houses were incinerated on the New South Wales south coast, the concentration of smoke particles was nearly double that of Canberra.
In Sydney, Dr Tim Senior a General Practitioner who works at a medical clinic in the western suburb of Campbelltown, located not far from serious fires to the city’s south-west, told the ABC: “The smoke has hung around and there’s not been any relief.” We’re seeing more people coming in with respiratory symptoms—mainly coughing and a bit short of breath”
He also described how many people attending his clinic were suffering chest pain, sore eyes, runny noses and sore throats. However, it is not only patients with pre-existing conditions that have been affected. Dr Senior stated: “Some people who don’t have a history of asthma are feeling short of breath and [are] actually having to try using inhalers for the first time.”
When asked about how other communities are coping with the effects of poor air quality the doctor said: “I know it’s much, much worse for people I have spoken to down on the [NSW] south coast, where the capacity for [health] services to see people and handle their health problems has been really limited.” He continued: “It’s putting pressure on the healthcare system across a really broad area of Australia”.
The fine particulates from smoke from wildfires has been known to contain a mix of chemicals that are a concern to public health, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, fine particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds.
While some facemasks—such as P2 or N95—have been recommended as possibly helpful for those with existing lung disease, they have significant limitations in being able to provide complete protection and can make breathing more difficult.
A study published last year in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that inexpensive facemasks provided only limited protection against air pollution in Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities, due to poor facial fit. Masks that provide more comprehensive protection are bulky and more expensive.
Sotiris Vardoulakis, a professor of global health at the Australian National University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “[T]he general message is we need to minimise exposure and there are different ways of doing that. On days with high air pollution, it’s better to spend more time indoors.”
Dr David Caldicott, a consultant emergency physician at the Calvary hospital in Canberra, told the media that there have been increased emergency admissions by elderly patients, asthmatics and those with other respiratory problems.
“The psychiatric element associated with the potential threat of fire,” Caldicott added, “is something that’s often forgotten when people are focusing on respiratory disease.” He also warned that staying indoors for extended periods can have a negative impact on mental health.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has raised concerns about the high levels of air pollution on mothers and their unborn children. College president Dr Vijay Roach told the ABC: “Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy has been linked to increased rates of preterm birth, decreased birth weight, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes.”
Health experts are uncertain when the real extent of the effect of smoke exposure will present in the population.
Professor Bin Jalaludin from the Centre of Air Pollution, Energy and Health Policy research at the University of New South Wales told the Sydney Morning Herald: “What we’re finding now is that air pollution tends to affect all parts of the body… There is increasing evidence around air pollution and neurological conditions, for example Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.”
In September last year, the AMA, in line with similar positions taken by both the American and the British Medical Associations, declared climate change a “health emergency.” It pointed to the “clear scientific evidence indicating severe impacts for our patients and communities now and into the future.” In 2015, the World Health Organisation stated that the evidence is “overwhelming” that climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.
Dr Allison Hempenenstall of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine recently told the Guardian newspaper that there was “a united strong voice” demanding government action. “[W]e need to push for governmental change, prioritising climate change policy which is something that the government isn’t doing at present… the health implications of climate change are only going to be fixed by addressing climate change itself.”
Consecutive Liberal and Labor governments have done little to address climate change and deliberately disregarded the warnings of more severe weather events. The parties of big business will continue to ignore the scientific evidence and demands by health experts to address climate change, for the same political reasons in order to defend the profit system.
The author also recommends:
Australia: Toxic air from bushfires rated a “public health emergency”
[23 December 2019]
The World Socialist Web Site recently interviewed Dr Luba Volkova, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne, about Australia’s bushfire crisis: here.
From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:
Australia: Balmoral firefighters say they were “abandoned” and demand better resources
By our reporters
17 January 2020
Balmoral Village Rural Fire Service (RFS) captain Brendon O’Connor told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) this week that authorities had re-directed firefighting equipment away from the community as it came under attack from the Green Wattle Creek fire on December 21. Balmoral is in the Southern Highlands and about 100 kilometres southwest of Sydney.
The ill-equipped local RFS unit, which is entirely manned by volunteers, desperately fought to save the settlement under conditions where it is not connected to the state water supply and quickly ran out of water. Twenty-two houses or 15 percent of the village’s homes were destroyed by the fire.
“On the Thursday and Friday [December 20] we had a great number of resources, but unfortunately a decision was made on Friday evening to remove all resources from Balmoral, including bulk water, and that was replaced with a small water truck,” O’Connor told the ABC.
“We were asked to remove our own trucks from the village, which I refused to do… We were abandoned during the fight on the Saturday until much later and we’ve been abandoned since… We haven’t seen any government agency, and it’s been too hard for them to come into the village and offer assistance.”
World Socialist Web Site reporters revisited Balmoral last weekend and spoke with O’Connor.
“For the first two weeks we were on our own with no official assistance from outside,” he said, “apart from the wider community through donations of water, non-perishable foods, clothing, bedding, toiletries, which was absolutely overwhelming. We’ve had Indian, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants feeding over 150 people so it’s incredible.
“It’s been a very different [response from the authorities]. Our local council didn’t even know that we were part of this shire. They thought we had town water and didn’t know that there was fire in their shire.”
O’Connor explained that most of the water tanks, which the village relies on for its water, were now contaminated with ash and possibly asbestos. Specialised trucks are required to vacuum the tanks, which have been requested but are yet to arrive. The RFS captain described the considerable dangers posed by dead trees and said that the main road through the village was only 80 percent safe with at least 100 more trees to be felled. “It’ll be months of work cleaning up,” he added.
Asked about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii, he said: “None of them [government politicians] were paying attention to what was going on. Everyone dropped the ball. It didn’t bother me that Morrison went on holidays but what did bother me is that he didn’t know about that catastrophic day. He should have put his hand up and said ‘I made the mistake.’
“There needs to be a massive inquiry into what has happened and it should not be allowed to happen anywhere again. There’s been too many failings and areas that need changing.
“They [governments] are definitely not looking after us, there’s too many hidden agendas. Things are not being done to make sure we’ve got adequate power or water. It’s scary where we’re going, and it seems to be happening in lots of countries. It’s a failure to look after the people.
“We’ve got to do what’s right for us as a community, a national community, and a world community. It’s people power that should make the decisions, not a few who live in a world very unrealistic to the rest of us. We’re just political footballs in a lot of senses but without the people moving, and their voices being heard, we will be forever put down.”
Wendy, 36, is a railway shift worker and an RFS volunteer. She had worked for 13 days at a time, on 8- to 12-hour shifts, since the Christmas period and said she was getting four or five hours of sleep and then going to Balmoral as a fire fighting volunteer.
“It’s like a blanket has been drawn over Balmoral. The village has been forgotten about. There isn’t the help that the villagers need and they don’t know who to contact or where to turn. They’re going through an emotional roller coaster because as yet there isn’t any counselling services being offered,” she said.
Asked about the millions of dollars donated to assist fire victims, Wendy replied: “The background story is that with big organisations and government agencies, the money doesn’t pass down to the little man. They’re there to assist themselves. The donations will basically go into a kitty and one percent, maybe a bit more, will actually come down to the brigades that have been out fighting or those who have been affected. They’ll be lucky if they see a cent, let alone a dollar.
“I’m disgusted by what happened here. The RFS captain was told that he and the brigade were not to stay and defend the village. What’s the point in having a rural fire service based here?
“Everybody here is a volunteer. It’s home and you do everything to protect and defend it for as long as you can, even if that means that the flames are coming in every which direction and you’re running out of water. These RFS guys are still standing, and they’ll keep doing it, and going against the wishes of the higher authorities.”
Asked about the government response to climate change, Wendy said: “Politicians are only about lining their own pockets. It’s all about making themselves look good and feeding crap to the public so they can achieve what they want, not what the people want. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Balmoral had been wiped off the face of the Earth, but we’re still here!”
Elisa, another volunteer firefighter, said: “I’m only 24 but I’ve had a lot of experience under my belt with fires for my age. I was on property protection during the fires and helping a fellow firefighter protect his home.” She said that volunteer firefighters had little sleep. Some had not slept for over 24 hours.
“The councils don’t just allow the residents themselves to protect their own homes. We’re not allowed to clear where we think is dangerous or cut down trees. The scientists just do the numbers, but the locals mainly know what to expect, they’ve been here for many years. We need to be able to back burn more often but there’s a lot of red tape with that. Some places haven’t been burnt for 50 or 60 years, that’s probably why it was so bad.
“We need more resources and a lot more access to gear. We have our protective gear but we don’t necessarily get given new ones if they’re wrecked. You have to go down to the headquarters to sign paperwork. We should at least have two sets of boots or two sets of uniforms in case something happens.
Rita, Elisa’s mother, has lived in the Balmoral area for almost nine years. “Six years ago, in 2013 we had a fire but it was nothing like this. So the warning signs were there from 2013 but RFS head office took no notice. They used a simulation to predict what was going to happen and said it’s not going to go through Balmoral.
Rita explained that “Brendon O’Connor, the fire captain, opposed the head office’s view, spoke up and basically went against protocol. He called an urgent meeting on the Tuesday afternoon before the fires. We went up to the station and he was sitting on the chair, hand on his head—a heavy burden on his shoulders. I asked ‘What can I do?’ and he said, ‘Tell people, get out and tell people’ so I went up the road and told people what was going on and that there was a fire coming.”
Referring to the government and media response, Rita said: “The media reporting is just terrible. The premier said this place had been wiped out and they just reported it. We’re the only town that doesn’t have a water supply and we ran out of water in this humongous firestorm. How can you not think about conspiracy?
“Why did Gladys Berejiklian reduce the fire budget? Why did she say Balmoral was wiped out, when she didn’t even come?”
Australia: Balmoral fire captain labels government response a “national disgrace”: here.
By Margaret Rees in Australia:
Australia: Victim of East Gippsland bushfire voices anger over government negligence
10 January 2020
Over the past months, broad swathes of Australia have been hit by bushfires unprecedented in their duration and intensity. Millions of hectares have been destroyed, 25 lives have been lost and over 2,130 homes destroyed.
The crisis has highlighted the refusal of successive governments at every level to heed warnings by experts that fire seasons will continue to worsen. It has underscored the failure of the entire political establishment to take any action on climate change, which is a contributing factor to the blazes, and the dire consequences of the gutting of essential services.
East Gippsland, in regional Victoria, has been among the hardest-hit parts of the country.
Mallacoota, a seaside town in the area, was surrounded by fires on all sides last month, trapping thousands. Scenes of hundreds of residents sheltering on the town’s main beach shocked people around the world. After weeks of being unable to leave, most of Mallacoota’s population was evacuated by naval ships and aircraft over the New Year period.
This week the WSWS spoke with Suzanne Davies, who lives with her husband at the Point Hicks lighthouse in the greater East Gippsland region.
Davies, who lives with her husband at the Point Hicks lighthouse in the greater East Gippsland region. The lighthouse is and about 95 kilometres from Mallacoota and adjacent to Croajingalong National Park, famous for its diverse wildlife.
Three-hundred-and-forty holidaymakers were staying at Point Hicks when a fire warning was issued on December 30, calling for residents to immediately evacuate. The only departure route is a poorly maintained dirt road that spans 45 kilometres to Cann River.
The Davies had to ensure that all those staying at the site, including campers in the sand dunes, left in time. After the road was cut off by fire, the Davies were rescued by helicopter.
Suzanne explained: “With the fire between Point Hicks and Mallacoota, in the morning they were shutting down all the national parks in East Gippsland, but we were told we would be fine. But twenty minutes before 5pm, I was told that I had to evacuate over 340 people, whether in the accommodation at the light station or in camps. The fire wasn’t impacting then, but there was a potential.
“So we had to tell everyone—most of whom had only arrived the day before—that they had to leave. We had people who were upset, some who were angry and others who were refusing to go. We had to be very calm and advise them. They did all go, and we stayed that night in the head light-keeper’s home.
“The next morning, at about 4 a.m., my husband woke me. Usually one of us gets up at 5.30 a.m. to monitor the weather for the government bureau. He told me to look towards Mallacoota along the ocean. Even though we were in the dark, we said: ‘Oh my god, we’re in trouble, and so is Mallacoota.’
“They choppered us out to Orbost. I couldn’t get back to Buchan, the community that I am from. I’ve done a lot of recovery following fires over the years, but nothing as big as this one. This is our whole country, New South Wales, everywhere. It was lucky we got all those people out. After the fire came, the access bridge was just twisted metal. There was no way out. The light station hasn’t been affected, but all the animals have been.
“We got to Lakes Entrance, where we have two grown-up children. Then we had to evacuate from Lakes Entrance. My husband stayed. The others came in a convoy, we’ve all come down to the Mornington Peninsula. I have to go back to Buchan.
“But there were no communications. No landline, no mobile phones, no internet. So I have been here, writing offers of support. When I go back, I’ll be coordinating some of that.
“Everywhere that I’ve gone, they ask me how I am. Everywhere that I’ve gone, everyone—men, women, young people and the elderly—all say: ‘This government has to go.’
“The timber industry blames the greenies. We greenies—people who want this planet and the environment for our children, and our grandchildren and beyond—they can call us whatever they like.
“This fire has shown that it has come to a tipping point. Now people are starting to realise about Rupert Murdoch’s papers and all those Liberal-National Party idiots for coal.”
Suzanne has been a community worker in Buchan, a small town in the forest, 285 kilometres from Melbourne, since the catastrophic fires there in 2003.
“We had no communication in 2003 except landline, so we could have phone trees out to the areas. It played with everybody’s psyche in 2003 in Buchan. The recovery process was very protracted. Some people are still having counselling from 2003. This time will be way more protracted.
“One man, Mick Roberts, perished when the recent fires swept through Buchan. Two friends were helping him paint his house. They left for the river, but Mick went back for something from the shed. There was a pyrocumulonimbus cloud—like an atom bomb—the fires create their own weather. That cloud collapsed and then rained fire down on everything. People don’t stand a chance.”
WSWS reporters noted that the 2003 fires were a warning of what was to come, which went unheeded by the authorities.
Davis replied: “I reckon that’s true. In 2003, I had Country Fire Authority incident control teams from Queensland and South Australia here. They said: ‘We have never seen fires like that.’ We then had fires in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
“The scientists have been telling us for 35 years of the risks. We could have been the leading country for renewables. Every country has to step up. There have to be some leading countries. The US and Australia should be. The way the politics are—it is impacting totally on this climate crisis. It is all the multinationals, big business, money and greed.”
The WSWS commented that despite power lines being a leading cause of fire ignition, in most areas no attempt has been made to move them underground.
Davies commented: “My father was a local electrician in the Dandenong Ranges before the SEC [State Electricity Commission] was privatised. After the 1968 fires there, that’s when dad started to think about it.
“He went to the SEC and asked them to put all the lines underground. They didn’t listen. They never listen. He said: ‘This will cost money, but it won’t cost money in the end.’ My dad was bloody well right. I don’t usually swear but I’m angry.
“People are really hurting—communities, forests, wildlife, and water. Our country is in crisis. The trauma and the stress. In Mallacoota 5,000 people stranded on the beach. We might be able to get this government out. …
“What gets me about the Murdoch press, the Liberals and the Nationals is that they try and instill fear in people about ‘overseas threats’. The amount of money they spend on submarines and fighter planes, and Scomo’s personal plane that costs $250 million. That is taxpayers’ money, it should be spent on internal water bombers and resources. We have an internal threat, we don’t have an external threat.”
XR activists target Australia’s London embassy demanding urgent action on the climate crisis: here.
The catastrophic fires that have engulfed large areas of Australia starkly demonstrate the failure of capitalism and its political servants at every level of government. The indifference and complacency of political leaders, towards the disaster affecting ordinary working people, is a lesson that will not be forgotten. The political establishment defends a social order in which every aspect of life is subordinated to corporate profit and the interests of a wealthy elite, regardless of the consequences: here.
In November of last year, the wildfire that started in California, U.S.A burned areas that amount about the size of Seoul and destructed over 500 buildings for two weeks. In 2018, six fires started simultaneously in southern California and spread out to the neighboring areas, burning total of 405 km2 with 86 fatalities and 200,000 victims for three days. Also, large-scale wildfires often occur in the northern inland of Russia. The forest fire occurred in July 2018 burned the total area of 3,211 km2 which is 5.3 times bigger than the city of Seoul and, the wildfire, in May 2019, started to spread out and burned down even greater land. So far, extensive wildfires such as the mentioned events are believed to be mostly caused by dry wind, however, the recent study explains that global warming is the kindling that starts such fires: here.
This photo shows anti-climate change demonstrators in Sydney, Australia. The banner on the left says that right-wing Prime Minister Scott Morrison was bad at science at school.
Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:
In Australian cities, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand that the government do more against climate change. They are particularly opposed to Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison, simply called ScoMo, who at the most reluctantly recognizes that there is a possible link between climate change and the devastating forest fires in the country.
An area of 100,000 square kilometers (about 2.5 times the Netherlands) has since been destroyed by the fires. There are 158 fires in the state of New South Wales, 39 of which are not yet under control. Nearly 2000 homes in New South Wales have gone up in flames.
There are 21 fires in the state of Victoria, which are currently more threatening than those in New South Wales. In Victoria, 240,000 people have been ordered to flee from the fire.
The biggest climate protest today was in Sydney, where about 30,000 people took to the streets. In other cities, such as Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, thousands of demonstrators took part in the Sack ScoMo protest.
“The world is on fire and the future is at stake because our worthless Prime Minister does not know how to solve the problems,” a young woman in Sydney told reporter Roel Pauw. An older woman said: “We have drought, we have forest fires and our coral is dying. We have not done anything for thirty years. You must first accept that climate change is a fact and that action should be taken.”
“You don’t get that concern about the future out of your mind, especially if you have someone like this on your shoulders,” said a young father pointing to his little son.
The protesters chanted slogans such as Our future is burning and The liar from the shire, the country is on fire. By ‘the shire’ the demonstrators mean Sutherland Shire, the part of Sydney where Prime Minister Morrison comes from. Among other things, they blame him for the Australian government’s refusal to tackle CO2 emissions from the coal industry.
The demonstrators in Melbourne wore umbrellas because of the pouring rain. The wet weather is good news for fighting forest fires, but it is not raining everywhere.
“Even with this rain in Melbourne, we still have a long way to go to fight these unprecedented fires,” state prime minister Andrews of Victoria said in a television speech. “The coming hours will be very, very challenging. And we know that the forest fire season will last for many weeks.”
This 8 January 2019 video is called Australia’s wildlife decimated by wildfires.
This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:
Australia bush fires have affected over 1 billion animals, pushing many toward extinction
Australia’s iconic wild animals are being caught up in the nation’s months-long bush fire crisis, with many species now in danger of extinction. The South China Morning Post spoke with Christopher Dickman, an ecology professor at the University of Sydney, who estimates that more than 1 billion animals have been affected by the widespread fires.
Translated from Roel Pauw of Dutch NOS radio today:
“More than a billion animals will not survive forest fires in Australia”
Very carefully vet Jasmin Hunter and her assistants remove the bandage from the legs of a kangaroo. He is lying on a mattress with a towel over his head and is slightly numb. All forms of stress must be avoided. Whether he will make it is still uncertain.
“More than a billion animals will not survive the forest fires in Australia,” said Chris Dickman, professor of ecology at the University of Sydney. That number is actually many times greater because, eg, about frogs and bats we do not know how many occurred in the affected areas. They are therefore not included in the estimates. Just as little as fish, insects and other invertebrates.
Many animals die in the flames, or because of heat stress, and more thousands animals of will die in the coming weeks and months due to lack of food, because their habitat has also been lost. And according to Dickman, the decline will continue for years because, for example, old trees with possible nest cavities have been burned or fallen.
The ecologist fears that this catastrophe could mean the end for a number of rare animals with a small range. The long-footed potoroo, a small marsupial, is an example of this.
There are animals that have just managed to get to safety, but are injured. That is why Wires (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) volunteers drive into the scorched forests of Southwest Australia every day to look for them. According to Christie Jarrett, everything comes in such as birds, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes and squirrels.
Animals with damaged lungs, due to the inhalation of smoke and hot air, have been put to death and are given a syringe to put them to sleep. Animals with burn wounds are treated with great care. Complicated cases and animals classified as endangered go to one of the sites of the Taronga Zoo.
Uncertain whether an animal will survive
“In principle, every animal goes back to where it was found,” says Jarrett. “Sometimes that means that we have to feed it until nature has recovered. But that is not possible with all animals either. That does not work with koalas, for example. So it remains uncertainwhether an animal will ultimately survive, no matter how much time and energy we have there. have put in. ”
“Twenty years ago, scientists warned about this type of large, uncontrollable forest fire,” says Professor Dickman. “For twenty years all our advice has been ignored by politicians. I hope that after this disaster we will be invited again to talk about the policy.”
For Christie Jarrett, it starts with everyone acknowledging that climate change is a fact and that people need to change their behavior. “We need to protect those animals much better, because without them we wouldn’t be there in the end.”
This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:
Paul the koala makes miraculous recovery after rescue from Australian bushfire l GMA Digital
Paul was found burnt and barely alive in the ashes — but look at him now!
HOW TO HELP SUPPORT THE AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRES RELIEF EFFORT: here.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Thursday, January 9, 2020
Victoria state Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville described the demonstrations, set to take place in nine cities as “selfish and reckless,” with today expected to be a high fire danger day. …
But critics have accused the authorities of hypocrisy after the New South Wales state administration refused to cancel a huge New Year’s Eve firework display in Sydney.
Many of today’s protests have been organised under the slogan Sack Scomo – short for Scott Morrison – reflecting widespread anger at his handling of the fires.
“We’re protesting this Friday because we’re outraged about our government’s criminal negligence about the bushfire crisis, exacerbated by climate change,” said one group on Facebook.
“We are protesting to give a voice to the tens of thousands of people who want real action on climate change and real funding for relief services.”
They are organising around five key demands and calling on supporters to donate to fire relief efforts.
At least 27 people are known to have died in the fires and thousands have lost their homes. Millions of animals have also been killed.
This 8 January 2020 video from Australia says about itself:
AUSTRALIAN BUSHFIRE EMERGENCY: We are STILL on FIRE / Yasmin Scott
Didn’t feel like doing a video today. But the heartache of the destruction of what is STILL happening & we have been screaming & begging about climate change for YEARS I made this video.
A year after Australia’s wildfires, extinction threatens hundreds of species. More than 500 species may now be endangered — or extinct — due to the natural disaster: here.
AUSTRALIA ARSON MISINFORMATION UNDERMINES CLIMATE LINK Multiple Australian state police agencies have found limited evidence to suggest the major destructive wildfires in their states were ignited by arsonists, contradicting the international onslaught of misinformation suggesting otherwise. [HuffPost]
Lack of action on climate change leads to warmest decade ever recorded: here.
This 9 January 2019 video says about itself:
Australian Wildfires Prove Denying Climate Change Won’t Save You From It
Climate scientist Michael Mann is in Australia, where the bushfire crisis is unfolding in real time. He says voters there need to look for ‘climate hawks‘ who can counteract the climate-denying policies of politicians like current prime minister Scott Morrison.
From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:
Australian bushfire victims speak-out: “What is our government doing at the moment?”
By our reporters
9 January 2020
A WSWS reporting team recently spoke with residents from Balmoral, a village some 100 kilometres from Sydney, which is among the many communities ravaged by the intense bushfires of the past four months.
Balmoral has a population of just over 400 people and is southwest of Sydney, in the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Between December 19 and December 21, the village was repeatedly hit by fires, resulting in the destruction of 22 houses, or 15 percent of all homes in the community. The area also suffered a widespread power outage.
The defence of the community depended almost exclusively on volunteer firefighters, with little or no assistance from state or federal authorities.
In April last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to hold a meeting with former fire chiefs who insisted that the states were not adequately prepared for the coming fire season and warned that the potential destruction could surpass previous years.
Morrison’s indifference is indicative of the attitude of the entire political establishment, including the opposition Labor Party. Successive federal and state Labor and Liberal-National governments have refused to adequately fund fire-fighting forces or carry out any measures to reduce global warming that may impinge on the profits of the major corporations. As a result, the Rural Fire Service in NSW lacks necessary resources and equipment.
The contrast between the responses of the government and that of ordinary people could not be starker. Workers and volunteers in Balmoral and around the country have courageously sought to defend the homes and lives of those around them. Many have taken weeks off from work, using up their sick leave and holidays to fight the fires. Volunteers have to purchase their own equipment if they want items such as proper fitting gas masks and portable radios.
Balmoral does not have a connection to the state water supply and relies on tanks and private reserves for water. So intense were the fires that the village ran out of water on December 21 and tanks were brought in from other towns to assist, but they quickly ran out as well. The experiences in Balmoral are a microcosm of the conditions facing communities across the country as a result of the current bushfires.
Brendan O’Connor is the Balmoral fire captain and works for the local council. He has taken at least four weeks off from work to fight the fires and called a meeting to warn residents of the fire danger and organise for people to evacuate.
O’Connor commented on the lack of payments for volunteers, stating: “There’s got to be something new. There’s thousands of firefighters on the ground every day and their businesses are suffering. I was supposed to be going to my niece’s wedding in Queensland in April but I don’t have holidays to do that now. It’s hard because we all want to do what we can, not only for our local community but for the greater community.”
The impact of the fires, he continued, “is a drain on every part of the nation, not only NSW, but we’re thinking, what is our government doing at the moment? The recovery is hard. Everything we have known and loved, most of it’s been turned upside down. About 90 percent of our bushland has gone now.”
As WSWS reporters were speaking to residents, a group of school students from the Sydney Children’s Choir gave a performance at the Balmoral fire station to raise money for one of their members and his family whose house had been incinerated. The children have raised almost $10,000 for the family, who are not insured.
Residents described how they have received multiple donations of food and water, including from a Lebanese community in Sydney who drove down to Balmoral with supplies.
Rosemary also lost her house and everything in it on December 21. She praised the firefighters and denounced the lack of resources provided to them by the government.
“The volunteers are supposed to have the most modern masks and gear and they don’t! It’s very frustrating. The prime minister said, the volunteers ‘want to be there’. These people want to save their community, that’s why they are here. That is no justification for them not being properly resourced and certainly no justification for us not to pay them,” she said. “Where in the world does this happen like it happens in Australia? We seem to take the volunteers for granted?
“They were even told to stand down and to leave the village but they wouldn’t go. In the end, other firefighters were stopped from coming in because the risk was too high. Later that night, when they finally did get through, I saw them speaking to Brendan, the captain, and crying because they tried to get here, and they couldn’t in time. It is very traumatic for lots of people.”
Referring to the 2009 Victorian bushfires that claimed 173 lives and destroyed over 2,000 homes, Rosemary said, “Did we learn anything from what happened in Melbourne? If they made recommendations it shouldn’t be for just one state, it’s a national issue.
“If the premier declared a state of emergency, why doesn’t she pull out all stops? We’ve seen a few suits come down to the station over the last week but they didn’t go and talk to anyone, they were just there for the camera. Politicians talk about fire plans and we are all supposed to have them but I’m not too sure that they had a very good fire plan. They didn’t plan for the worst-case scenario for this village. They just did the bare minimum.”
Rosemary and other residents were forced to take shelter in the local fire station. “The firie [firefighter] who had told me that they couldn’t save my house was standing there [in the station]… They walked me across the road and I saw my house burning down. And with what little water they had left they were trying to save the two houses on either side of mine. They [the authorities] didn’t even take into account that the village runs on tank water.
“The scariest part was being told to get some towels, wet them down and start covering the edges. I was telling myself ‘this isn’t good.’ Then the smoke started to come in and you looked up at the windows and it was just red. We could hear the fire and felt it and saw it coming towards the station. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my life.
“The generator went out, which not only operated the lights but also the sprinkler system on the roof. I heard that we had to be water bombed. It may well not have burnt down but I don’t know how well we would have survived with the smoke and the heat.”
Paul, a Balmoral resident, school principal and veteran firefighter who volunteered during the 2001 and 2013 fires said, “Nothing compares to what we saw. We were attacked by fire from every direction possible. It was determined to get us.”
“My plan was to stay at all costs. I had a sprinkler system on the house, I have a fire pump, and I had done preparation around the house. That would have worked if it was a normal bushfire but the conditions we had on Saturday were just unbelievable. I dread to think how high the flames were.
“At that point I thought this is not defendable so I went to plan B and jumped off the veranda, put the sprinkler system on, and ran up to the Landcruiser. As I drove up both sides of my driveway were on fire and that was within 20 seconds of the fire coming out of the gully.
“When you think about 140 houses and two trucks, the resources just aren’t there. I saw footage of choppers waiting their turn to drop their bucket into a dam and fill it up. On that Saturday afternoon, we ran out of water. There wasn’t enough to fight the fires.”
Paul, 51, described the frustration of many residents over the authorities’ failure to mitigate the effects of bushfires. “The fuel load in the bush was nearly knee-high so when you get really hot days and there’s a fire you can’t stop it. There’s only one way you can get rid of that fuel, you’ve got to burn, there’s absolutely no choice in that.
“I know people have been trying to burn for years, they have been approaching the local fire brigade, but they have to go further up the food chain, so in the end it’s bureaucracy and red tape preventing it happening.
“I’m disgusted with it. I’ve come this close to losing everything. I’ve lived in the surrounding district all my life and they always back burn. Every year the firies have their set routines but that doesn’t happen anymore. The last time would have been 10 years ago in Tahmoor…
“It’s a whole host of events all rolled into one creating catastrophic conditions, climate change, global warming, whatever they want to call it. We’ve been through tough times before but nothing like this. The size of fires is unprecedented. All the resources are stretched to breaking point.”
This 10 December 2019 video says about itself:
By James Cogan in Australia:
Ruling class bereft of answers while catastrophic fires escalate across Australia
4 January 2020
Catastrophic fire conditions exist today throughout much of Australia, from the southwest of Western Australia, across South Australia, to Victoria, the island state of Tasmania, and New South Wales (NSW), to the southeast of Queensland and areas of the tropical north. Another severe heatwave is moving across the continent, generating temperatures that may breach historical records that were broken only a few weeks ago. New fires are expected to ignite, while strong winds are predicted to fan the hundreds of blazes that are already burning. Hundreds of thousands of people were urged yesterday to evacuate the most-at-risk areas.
Summing up the situation in a large swathe of NSW, stretching virtually the entire length of the state, the deputy commissioner of the largely volunteer Rural Fire Service (RFS) told a press conference: “We can’t stop those fires. We can’t stop the fires we already have.”
The unfolding catastrophe has utterly discredited the Liberal-National Coalition government headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which just months ago was boasting of its refusal to accept that Australia should take greater action to reduce carbon emissions.
In September, Morrison condemned teenager Greta Thunberg, and the climate protests she led, for “raising the anxieties of children in our country.” Even as the fires worsen, he has continued to downplay the undeniable relationship between long-term global warming and the vastly increased fire risks facing the country (see: “Australia: Climate change and the bushfire crisis”).
Anger will not, however, be limited to Morrison and his government. The opposition Labor Party has held office for 19 of the past 37 years and, despite all the scientific warnings, likewise sought to delay or block responses to climate change that would impede on corporate operations and profits. State governments, both Coalition and Labor, have left firefighting almost exclusively to volunteer services, while cutting their funding and refusing to provide them with the necessary vast expansion of equipment.
At all levels, government policy has been preoccupied with reducing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, driving down wages and working conditions, abolishing restrictions on profit-making and fueling the speculative rise of the stock market and property values. Military spending, in preparation for new conflicts and war, has been boosted, while expenditure for essential health and emergency services has been strangled. This criminal indifference of the Australian ruling elite to the threat of climate change has its parallels around the world.
In an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Thursday, former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins made a damning indictment of both Morrison and, by implication, the state authorities.
He declared: “We have tried since April to get a meeting with the prime minister… We had some pretty simple asks that we wanted to talk to the government about. Funding for large aerial fire tankers. People would have seen the images the other day of the Hercules coming in and dropping in 15,000 litres of retardant at Turramurra. I watched that with great interest because I was in charge of the fire there in 1994 where 17 homes were lost. That cut the fire off immediately. We’re only going to have seven of those this year. I’ve just come back from California and they had about 30 on one fire.”
Mullins continued: “[T]his was going to be a horror fire season. They [aircraft] can be a decisive weapon. If they [the government] had spoken to us back then, maybe they could have allocated more money to have more of those aircraft, but they didn’t and they’re probably not available now.”
Since the unprecedented beginning of the fire season in September, up to five million hectares has already been burnt out in NSW alone. In just the past four days, an estimated 500 houses have been destroyed in the South Coast region of the state, including in the township of Cobargo, where furious residents denounced Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday.
Today, lives and properties are under threat in the South Coast, the Mount Kosciuszko national park region, the Snowy Mountains, and the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. The RFS has issued warnings that wind conditions could result in fire and ember attacks, reaching into outer north-western suburbs of Sydney itself.
The state government of Victoria has used “state of disaster” powers to order over 100,000 people to leave southeast Gippsland—the largest evacuation of civilians since World War II. The region is proudly promoted by tourist authorities as offering “a host of wilderness and wildlife, great drives and gourmet treats”, with “the largest lake system and one of the longest beaches in the Southern Hemisphere.” Today, Gippsland and its natural beauty is ablaze, along with much of the rest of eastern Victoria. An estimated 600,000 hectares has been burnt out in the past week.
Two people have lost their lives in the Gippsland fires this week, and 21 are listed as missing. Vehicle access into a number of coastal communities has been cut off. The Navy was deployed on Thursday to evacuate some of the residents and tourists trapped in the town of Mallacoota, where a firestorm forced some 5,000 people to seek safety on the beach.
Two people lost their lives yesterday in the fires on Kangaroo Island—off the coast of Adelaide in South Australia, and advertised as “one of the world’s great nature-based destinations.” The island is ablaze with “virtually unstoppable” fires that have burnt out 100,000 hectares, or the bulk of its bushland.
Once again, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and other major population centres will be blanketed in smoke and endure “hazardous” air quality. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) issued an alarmed warning yesterday. It stated: “The length and density of smoke exposure is a new and possibly fatal health risk that many people within our community have not previously had to face.” Chris Moy from the AMA told the Guardian: “There are people who are going to probably die from these conditions.”
Nationally, the 2019–2020 fires have so far caused 24 known deaths and destroyed over 1,500 homes. Hundreds of farm buildings and other structures have been lost. Agriculture and stock losses are enormous. Over six million hectares have burnt out and scientists estimate that 500 million native animals and birds are likely to have been killed. And this is before the hottest summer months and the historically worst period of the fire season.
As with all “natural disasters” around the world, the working class and poor are paying the greatest price. Tens of thousands of workers and contractors in the agriculture and tourist industries have already been stood down or lost their jobs. The extreme temperatures and hazardous air pose the greatest threat to those with medical conditions who live in the low-income suburbs of the cities and regional towns, which are also generally the most heat-affected and have the most under-resourced and overstretched health services.
The capitalist ruling class and its political apparatus are bereft of any answers to the consequences of a climate crisis that their indifference and inaction have created.
In its latest, desperate attempt to portray itself as doing something, the Morrison government today announced a call-up of a few thousand Army reservists, who are not trained for either firefighting or emergency service provision to civilian communities.
Climate change and its consequences are, in fact, a global emergency: a reality now well understood by hundreds of millions of workers and young people around the world. It demands a global response that ends the subordination of every aspect of economic and social life to the accumulation of private profit for a capitalist minority.
The fire catastrophe in Australia should further motivate the fight to develop an international and independent movement of the working class, unified across national borders and with the perspective of forming workers’ governments that will implement the most far-reaching socialist policies.
The major banks and corporations, especially the fossil fuel-based energy conglomerates, must be brought under social ownership and democratic control. The resources must be committed to both preparing society for the wide range of predicted impacts of long-term global warming, while drastically reducing carbon emissions and stemming further threats.
This 3 January 2019 video says about itself:
Australia fires: Morrison heckled by bushfire victims – BBC News
Australia is grappling with massive bushfires fuelled by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought.
In the worst-affected state, New South Wales, fires have burned more than 4 million hectares (40,000 sq km or 9.9 million acres) destroying more than 1,300 houses and forcing thousands to seek shelter elsewhere.
Across the country, 20 people have died – including three volunteer firefighters – with most of the casualties in New South Wales.
By Frank Gaglioti in Australia:
Australia: Climate change and the bushfire crisis
4 January 2020
Australia is currently experiencing catastrophic bushfires throughout much of the country and bushfire smoke is enveloping towns and major cities. While the Australian countryside has always had fires that have shaped the landscape in many ways, the current fire season is qualitatively different to those in the past.
Climate scientists, who have been warning of the impact of climate change since the 1980s, are highlighting the influence of global warming that is increasing the ferocity of bushfires.
Devastating forest fires are an international phenomenon. Last year has seen major forest fires in Sweden, Portugal, Italy, California, Alaska and Siberia, as well as in Africa and South America.
The driving force to the changes in the climate is the steady increase of greenhouse gases into the environment.
According to the State of the Climate 2018 report for Australia produced by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the concentrations of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have continued to increase.
Scientists estimate that the concentrations of greenhouse gases have not been so high for 800,000 years. The increases are mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels.
The steady rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased global temperatures. According to the State of the Climate 2018 report: “Globally averaged air temperature has warmed by over 1 degree Celsius since records began in 1850, and each of the last four decades has been warmer than the previous one.”
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies estimates that global temperatures in 2018 were 0.83 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean. The past five years to 2018 have been the warmest in the modern record.
“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one… The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean,” Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said.
The steadily increasing temperatures are causing major shifts in the world’s climate.
University of Canberra climate scientist and lead author on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report Sophie Lewis assessed that the fire danger rating trend in Australia has been on the rise for half a century.
“There is something in the climatology that has changed; it’s a very clear trend,” Lewis said.
The current intense fire season points to two indicators of the shift in climate: there is no El Niño weather pattern as occurred in the severe 2009, 2003 and 1994 bushfire seasons, and this year’s season started early.
El Niño or the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle involves fluctuations in ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the east-central Equatorial Pacific that tend to bring about hotter, dryer conditions in Australia.
A study conducted by senior research scientist at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Chris Lucas, and the manager of research and development at the Country Fire Authority, Sarah Harris, have identified the central drivers of the Australian climate.
The two scientists examined seasonal fire weather history for 44 years at 39 different weather stations in order to reveal the long-term trends affecting fire weather. They found that while El Niño is the most important cause of extreme fire conditions, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) also have a profound effect on climate.
The IOD are fluctuations in sea surface temperatures in the tropical western and eastern Indian Ocean. SAM describes the north south movement of the westerly wind belt circling Antarctica and is an important indicator of rainfall in southern Australia.
“Long-term climate change in Australia is an undeniable reality,” Lucas and Harris state.
El Niño, IOD and SAM control the natural variability in the environment and the Australian climate. The impact of global warming on these weather patterns has created the conditions for the current catastrophic bushfire disaster.
The State of the Climate 2018 notes strong land surface temperature increases and a 10 to 20 percent decline in cool season rainfall across southern Australia since the 1970s. These changes are closely associated with increasing human greenhouse gas emissions, as well as natural variability.
A report published by the Climate Council in November 2019 entitled ‘This is Not Normal’: Climate change and escalating bushfire risk pointed out that rainfall for NSW from January to August has been the lowest on record for most of the state. Climate change has exacerbated the record dry conditions.
The increase in temperatures enhances plant transpiration leading to significantly dryer vegetation that can be set alight with the slightest spark. It has also led to the unprecedented situation where wet rainforests in NSW and Queensland have been burnt out this fire season.
“Heat is a factor too, both exacerbating dry conditions and enabling sparks to take hold. For instance, virtually the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin has experienced record-breaking heat this year (2019),” the ‘This is Not Normal’ report stated.
Global warming is also causing an increase in the length of the fire season. The Australian fire season usually takes place in the height of summer in January and February, but this year the season started in early spring. The lengthening of the fire season has led to an overlap with the northern hemisphere season, making the international sharing arrangement for expensive firefighting gear, such as aeroplanes and helicopters that dump fire retardant, far more difficult.
“We’re all feeling it… As fire seasons ramp up and get longer—and they definitely seem to be doing that, the science tells us that—it places more demand on aircraft to support the firefighting,” general manager of Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre Richard Alder told the New York Times.
One of the most devastating and tragic aspects of global warming is the increased intensity of the forest fires with many being assessed as at the catastrophic level. These fires are so fierce that firefighters are powerless to put them out.
This category of fire was first developed after the 2003 Canberra fires and the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria that killed 179 people. It was the first time in Australia that fires were known to produce their own weather pattern—a supercell thunderstorm known as a pyrocumulonimbus cloud.
According to Australian Capital Territory (ACT) emergency services, this produced horizontal winds of 250 km/h (160 mph) and a vertical air speed of 150 km/h (93 mph), and the resulting pyrocumulonimbus cloud produced a flashover covering 120 hectares (300 acres) in 0.04 seconds. A flashover is a near simultaneous combustion.
Last year on 12 November the greater Sydney area, including surrounding districts of the Blue Mountains, the Greater Hunter and Central Coast, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions, confronted catastrophic level fires. It was the first time the category applied to such a large populated area, consisting of six million people.
Such firestorms are known to occur in unstable weather conditions accompanied by low humidity, strong winds and high temperatures. According to the ‘This is Not Normal’ report, with the greater Sydney fire “the atmosphere was relatively stable and therefore shouldn’t have been conducive to these wildly unpredictable and dangerous events. Yet it happened.”
Global warming is also producing an increased frequency of lightning strikes that start fires. A paper published in the Science magazine in 2014 entitled Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming estimated a 12 percent increase in strikes for every degree Celsius of warming.
According to an article published in the Scientific American in October 2017, Here’s What We Know about Wildfires and Climate Change, bushfires set up feedback loops. Trees and plant life in general are stored repositories of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. When the plants are burnt the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere increasing greenhouse gases and increasing global temperatures. In fires such as those in Alaska, Siberia and Sweden, metres in depth of peat can burn in a single fire.
“One good fire that burns a metre or two [deep] could release many thousands of years of carbon accumulation in one blast,” director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta in Canada, Mike Flannigan, told Scientific American.
Scientists predict that the number and ferocity of bushfires will increase in the future. The ‘This is Not Normal’ report predicted that from 2019, the number of “very high” or “extreme” fire days could increase by 4 to 25 percent in 2020 and 15 to 70 percent by 2050. The report cites several studies that all indicate that fire conditions in NSW and Queensland will “increase substantially by the end of the century.”
Australia is facing a bushfire season of horrendous proportions due to climate change. Scientists know what needs to be done in order to halt the steady increase in greenhouse gases but this cannot occur under the capitalist system dominated by short-term profit and the outmoded division of the world into rival nation states. Governments around the world are unable to agree on an international plan and to offer anything more than cosmetic measures.
Only a planned socialist society can end social inequality while at the same time implement an international plan to reverse the ravages of climate change.
This 3 January 2020 video says about itself:
Australia is bracing for what is expected to be the worst weekend yet in an already devastating climate-fueled wildfire season that has ravaged the southeastern part of the country, killed at least 18 people and nearly half a billion animals, and destroyed 14.5 million acres of land. As thousands of evacuees fled to the beaches, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing growing outrage for his inaction on climate and close ties with the coal industry. As fires blazed in December, the prime minister went on a holiday to Hawaii. He told reporters this week that fighting the fires — not climate change — was his top priority. On Thursday, Morrison was shouted out of the town of Cobargo after being confronted by angry fire victims. We go to Melbourne, Australia, to speak with Tim Flannery, chief councilor at the Australian-based Climate Council.
By James Cogan in Australia:
As Australia burns, anger turns on climate change-denying Prime Minister Morrison
3 January 2020
With fire engulfing entire swathes of the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison—who built his political reputation by denying the reality of global warming and rejecting the need for any reduction in fossil fuel use—has become the legitimate target of mass popular anger. In the eyes of millions, he personifies the responsibility of the ruling elite for the social consequences of the climatic change underway and the drastic impact it is having on their lives.
The first days of 2020 have witnessed harrowing scenes. Fire has threatened lives and property across the continent—from Western Australia to Queensland in the northeast, to South Australia and the southern island state of Tasmania. Communities in the eastern region of the southern state of Victoria and the adjoining South Coast region of New South Wales (NSW), have suffered some of the greatest destruction.
Captured in graphic footage that has travelled around the world, some 5,000 residents and stranded tourists in the Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota were ordered, on December 31, to seek safety on the beach and instructed to await a siren signal that would mark the necessity for them to flee into the ocean. With all access roads blocked by fire, a Navy troop transport has now been dispatched to evacuate Mallacoota’s population.
At least 450 homes have gone up in flames since Wednesday. Since late August, when the fire season began months earlier than usual, some 1,300 houses have been destroyed. At least five million hectares of bushland have been incinerated. Hundreds of millions of wild animals are believed to have been killed, including up to one-third of the koala population. Stock losses have not yet been tallied.
Mallacoota is only one of dozens of communities in Victoria and southern NSW that have become inaccessible by road. In many areas, electricity and mobile phone reception has been lost, due to the destruction of power lines and signal towers.
And the human toll is growing. Three volunteer firefighters in NSW have been killed combatting the blazes. In total, at least 19 people have lost their lives in the fires. Sydney and its sprawling suburbs are ringed with fire to the northwest, west and southwest. Fires have affected the outer reaches of Melbourne. The most populated areas of Australia are blanketed with toxic smoke and the air contamination is expected to cause large numbers of premature deaths.
Temperatures are predicted to soar past 40 degrees Celsius across most of the continent this weekend. Combined with strong winds, which will exceed 100 kilometres an hour in some regions, the latest heatwave will exacerbate the fires and the pressure on already under-resourced and increasingly exhausted volunteer firefighting crews. The Victorian state government has declared a “state of disaster”, giving it the power to order evacuations and impose what effectively amounts to martial law. The NSW government has declared another seven-day “state of emergency”, providing it with similar powers.
Under these conditions, Prime Minister Morrison made an unannounced visit yesterday to what remains of the small southern NSW township of Cobargo, which was ravaged by a wall of flame early on January 1. Two people were killed there trying to defend their home.
This 2 January 2020 video is called Residents Confront Australian Prime Minister Over Wildfires.
Morrison was greeted with unconcealed hostility by traumatised residents. A young woman refused to shake his hand, demanding that he increase support for the volunteer firefighting services and provide “help” to those who had lost their properties. Another resident shouted that the prime minister “should be ashamed of himself” for having abandoned the “country to burn”. Others shouted that he was “not welcome.”
Last month, the prime minister left Australia for a holiday in Hawaii, as the fire situation worsened. He provoked further fury and incredulity on New Years’ Eve, with a statement that the blazes were the “backdrop” to a cricket match between Australia and New Zealand.
When Morrison and an accompanying media pack strode into the Cobargo fire brigade building, a firefighter refused to stand up to greet him or shake his hand. Later, Morrison attempted to rationalise the man’s actions by stating he was probably “tired”. He was bluntly told that the reason was more likely that the firefighter’s own home had burnt down the day before.
The local member of parliament, part of Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition government, told journalists: “To be honest with you, the locals probably gave him the welcome he probably deserved.”
Morrison’s reception in Cobargo was only one indication of the outrage that exists toward federal and state governments and the Coalition and Labor parties that dominate official politics. For decades, climate scientists have warned that global warming would drastically intensify the impact of weather-related disasters around the world, including the scale and destructiveness of the fires that break out each year across the Australian continent.
The warnings were simply ignored, even as the evidence of climate change was being registered in the rise of average temperatures. Between 2005 and 2019, Australia experienced ten of its hottest years on record. The drought conditions affecting much of the continent, and giving rise to the current fire emergency, are no aberration, but a long-term trend. At the same time, the tropical north of the continent is experiencing increased rainfall, bringing with it more frequent and devastating flooding and cyclone intensity.
Like their counterparts around the world, Australian governments, on behalf of the financial and corporate elites, have turned a blind eye. Australian capitalism, the largest exporter of coal in the world, has, in many respects, led the way internationally in resisting any serious reductions in global carbon emissions.
Nothing has been done to prepare the population for the consequences. While tens of billions of dollars have been squandered by successive governments, equipping the military with everything from new warships to jet fighters and armoured vehicles, the largely volunteer, state-based firefighting services have faced further funding cuts. A well-resourced and highly-trained professional emergency service does not exist to carry out the necessary preventative measures required each year to contain fires, or to respond to the type of emergency now unfolding.
Australian federal and state governments do not even own their own substantial fleet of firefighting aircraft and helicopters. Instead, during each fire season it contracts them, mainly from the United States. More than a decade after the catastrophic 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria, a national policy has still not been enacted to place the powerlines, which sparked many of the fires, underground.
The relationship between the corporate profit that flows to the capitalist class and the criminal refusal of the ruling elite to take action to stem climate change was summed up last week by Bob Dudley, retiring chief executive of energy conglomerate British Petroleum (BP). Dudley declared: “Some say, ‘we’d like you to move from oil and gas quickly to renewables.’ We say ‘OK, do you want us to cut the [stock] dividend?’”
The answer of the stockholders, Dudley observed, has been “no, don’t do that.’” He predicted that, with the current profit-driven prerogatives of corporations and governments, the world would “not even come close” to phasing out fossil fuel use over the next 20 years or, by implication, achieve the emissions reductions necessary to avoid further severe global warming.
As millions of working-class people pay the price, the anger already being vented at politicians such as Morrison will only intensify, and begin to focus ever more sharply on the financial and corporate interests they serve.
Searched for and found: climate researchers can now detect the fingerprint of global warming in daily weather observations at the global scale. They are thus amending a long-established paradigm: weather is not climate — but climate change can now be detected in daily weather: here.
This 2 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
Exxon‘s CLUELESS New Year’s Tweet
Get off social media, ExxonMobil. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.
“ExxonMobil sent out a heartwarming tweet yesterday, wishing the good people of Australia a “safe” and “fun” New Year. Well, maybe heartwarming isn’t the right word. Perhaps “idiotic” is more appropriate, given the fact that large parts of Australia are currently on fire thanks in part to ExxonMobil’s history of climate change denial.”
Read more here.
TOURISTS ORDERED TO LEAVE AUSTRALIAN COAST Tourists in Australia’s New South Wales are being ordered to evacuate the state’s South Coast region before this weekend as the country battles more than 200 wildfires that have killed at least 17 people. Heavy winds mixed with dry temperatures are expected to create an “extreme fire danger” for NSW’s South Coast by Saturday. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil Australia faced international backlash for the tone-deaf tweet: “Stay safe and have fun this new year”, with people pointing out how the oil giant has contributed to the climate crisis exacerbating the deadly wildfires. [HuffPost]
Governments are paving the way for our extinction, campaigners say as Australia burns and Indonesia sinks: here.