This is a global problem, and it still isn’t being taken seriously
“Morrison is right about one thing — the only solution is global action,” writes Ross Gittins, the economics editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s oldest newspaper. While Mr. Morrison certainly deserves blame, Mr. Gittins says, nothing Australia could have done by itself would have prevented the current devastation, since the country accounts for only 1.3 percent of global emissions.
“All the big, rich economies — particularly the Americans, less so the Europeans — must share the blame for the continuing rise in average temperatures,” he writes.
“Even the biggest developing economies — China and India, particularly — could have done more to reduce the intensity of their emissions (emissions per dollar of G.D.P.) without abandoning their efforts to raise their living standards.”
“If in the past year (or the past decade) the world began to understand how dangerous climate change is, it certainly didn’t act like it,” Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Sixth Extinction,” writes in The New Yorker. In the past 10 years, she says, more carbon dioxide was emitted than in all of human history up to the election of John F. Kennedy.
“Really waking up, and not just dreaming to ourselves that things will be O.K., has become urgent — beyond urgent,” she writes. She paraphrases fire officials in the Australian state of Victoria: “The world is in danger, and we need to act immediately to survive.”
[Related: “This apocalyptic Australian summer is our Sandy Hook moment.”]
‘Adaptation means change, and change is hard’
Cutting carbon emissions is no longer enough, according to David Bowman, a professor of fire science at the University of Tasmania. “We still have to decarbonize but now we also have to adapt,” he writes in The Conversation.
One adaptation Australians could make, he suggests, is shifting the traditional vacation season — during which schools have their summer break — to cooler months, so that families aren’t heading into the country’s forests and national parks at the peak of fire season.
Rearranging the calendar around risk may meet resistance, he writes, but it could reduce the strain on firefighters and make mass evacuations easier.
California could learn something from Australia’s fire warning system, writes Diana Leonard in The Washington Post. After the disastrous Black Saturday fires of 2009, which killed 173 people, the country developed a more sophisticated, national warning protocol, which the chief executive of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center in Melbourne believes has saved lives.
The National Weather Service provides something of a similar function for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the United States, but in California fire evacuation orders are issued by local law enforcement, a system that hasn’t always kept pace with the most extreme blazes. “A more centralized system, like the one in Australia, could allow the public to access information about the location and spread of a dangerous fire in real time,” Ms. Leonard writes.
‘Climate change is not the only man-made reason’
Australia has an arson problem, writes Paul Read in The Australian Financial Review. A senior lecturer at the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University, Mr. Read notes that as much as 50 percent of Australia’s wildfires are potentially set deliberately. The New South Wales Police Force announced on Monday that it had charged 24 people in connection with bush fire arson.
“If we are to prevent bush fires and save lives, property and wildlife, we will also need to find solutions for the other more complex human dimensions of the causes of conflagrations like the ones we are now witnessing,” he writes.
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