One thing people need to understand about climate change is that it is not a steady or gradual change. There are both peaks and troughs in temperature and other measurements of environmental change, such as the growing proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its impact on warming. Other gasses are even more volatile in that they are more efficient in contributing to the heating of Earth.

The candidate for the most dangerous to climate stability is methane – the gas that is short-lived in comparison with CO2 but nevertheless a trigger for catastrophic warming – that demonstrably leaks from fracking. But with the melting of the Arctic, methane that has been sequestered on the bottom of the seas in the Arctic circle is blooming [bubbling to the surface] in, for example, the Siberian Sea as water temperatures rise. The melting of the tundra in Siberia, Canada and Alaska in turn is creating further emissions of both methane and CO2 that has been sequestered in the frozen ground for millennia.

Thus, there are feedback loops that can exacerbate trends with a greater speed of change in the records locked in ice and the geological record than before the dinosaurs. One of the key indicators of human industrialisation has done to the balance of our planet’s systems is the relatively rapid increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere [let alone other forms of pollution].

One factor associated with climate change – longer, hotter summers, for example – has meant dryer forests, conditions that work against safe hazard reduction, and the growth in the incidence of major bushfires in Australia during the past 40 years or so. But this is not exclusive to Australia.

Indeed, as this article points out, the phenomenon of massive bushfires is part of a worldwide trend that adds dramatically to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Other recent reports from NASA indicate that the particles thrown into the air by the massive smoke clouds from our fires will circulate at high altitude for some time to come, perhaps another factor that could help an acceleration of the climate crisis.

On a political note, governments must be held accountable not for the fires themselves, but for their failure to plan for the crisis that is upon us all, as fire service funding was cut by the NSW and Federal Governments in their denialism of responsibility to ameliorate the effects of the inevitable.

Australia lags most of the developed world in government initiatives on the climate crisis and has defied OECD criticism on inaction, using paper accountancy as a substitute for policy that involves real action. You have to ask why, because it seems crazy. And the reason lies in the toxic corruption of democracy and elected representatives in the pay of the public purse whose campaigns are funded by coal, oil and gas industries.

Where are the food security plans and the plans for lowering the carbon cost of food distribution to address the challenges of the climate crisis? Where are the water allocation and preservation plans, with the Murray-Darling plan sabotaged and struggling to deal with the direct and economic extremes of climate change, affecting farming? Where are the incentives for sustainable industry and energy? Where are the government plans at all levels for dealing with accelerating sea level rises from the waterfront estates of Queensland to the suburbs of Melbourne? Where are the plans for efficient low emissions public transport both rapid interstate and intrastate rail and in our huge urban areas? These absolutely necessary plans are abandoned for Adani, other coal mines, resistance to decommissioning coal power stations, and the fossil-fuel stained pockets of the Liberal, National and Labor Parties. It is not merely tin-eared stupidity as successive governments have ignored the scientists, it is corrupt idiocy.

The contribution towards a succession of climate crisis triggers could rest in the environmental impotence of platitudes, token targets, and accountancy evasion of responsibility, the unforeseeable impacts of a plethora of natural responses to global warming and the toxic negativity of climate inaction promoted by the corporate greed of corrupting corporations, and especially their irresponsibility and recklessness towards consequences. The anthropogenicity of our climate predicament remains apparent to those whose world view is governed by the empiricism of science rather than the imperialism of capitalist generated opinions and denialism.

For a comprehensive and accessible account of the link between climate change and Australia’s fire crisis read “The facts about bushfires and climate change“.

James McDonald
14 January 2020