• Chris Harries:
1. No weather event can conclusively be linked to climate change, but it is worth noting that the frequency of extreme events like these from now on will have to be accepted as the ‘new normal’.
In terms of how we can best adapt, Tasmania is a low risk state compared to other places in the world, but increasing incidence of really hot days and wildfires are something we will have to increasingly get used to here. It will change the lives of anyone who lives in or near the bush.
Of much greater concern is the prediction that the World Bank and other institutions are now fatalistically arriving at, that failure of political attempts at global climate mitigation will most certainly deliver 4 degrees of warning this century. That would be really, really serious. The impact of climate change is barely being felt as yet. 4 degrees of warming, if it happens, will intensify wildfire and other risks many times over.
It is these prognoses of total system breakdown that climate science people are fearing, but we humans are not disposed, through our evolutionary responses, to deal with these sort of threats. So we don’t. And probably won’t.
One lesson we must all learn very quickly is that is totally futile attempting to adapt to catastrophic climate change, as is the auto response of government. Mitigation is the only sane response.
(f course, these fires may well have happened regardless of changes to climate, the difference now is that such events will become increasingly normal instead of once in a lifetime.)
• Mike Adams:
10, Chris, I admire your reticence. James, not all bloggers are abnormal. Some have put in many years of Volunteer Fire Brigade service (in my case 21 years), and can talk from experience.
I’m reading Paul Collin’s ‘Burn’ with his researches into the major conflagrations in Australia’s history and the conclusions drawn through Royal Commissions and other enquiries.
The major conclusions are that fire danger conditions are constant when drought conditions hit strong spring growth, allied to high temperatures and stiff north westerly winds. In the major cases, any attempt at fire suppression is futile once the fire is under way. The only chance occurs at the point of ignition or shortly afterwards. The sources of ignition have overwhelmingly been shown historically to be illegal burn off of rural properties, followed by careless extinguishing of campfires and arsonists, and to a lesser extent natural causes (lightning).
What the book demonstrates is the dismissal and denial of the dangers on the part of the general population which continues to build glorious ‘omes on ‘bush blocks’. The other point made is parsimonious governments playing catch up as each disaster follows on the heels of another. Europe and Canada have had airborne fire fighting aircraft since the 1970s. It took until 2003 before a helicopter was used in Australia. Still ‘water bomber’ in Australia means a converted crop duster with at best a 3 tonne payload, where Europe and North America use Canadairs with a six tonne payload and ability to scoop from water sources and fly straight back to the fire.
Interesting discussion, and thanks for the comments re my seeking climate refuge in Tassie (though the dpac.gov.au link doesn’t work)...
I’ve built a self sufficient settlement in QLD, and am intending to do the same (only different because of the climate obviously) all over again.
I’m a firm believer in doing the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. So I’ll be building an earth covered fireproof house! I’m constantly amazed at the idiotic house designs the building industry shoves down our collective throats….... And I’m almost certainly going to Geeveston, mainly because I already have likeminded friends there, but also because it’s a darn nice place.
I’m not at all concerned about Tassie winters, having experienced them more than once (I’m a habitual visitor to your island…) It’s possible to build a house in your climate that never goes below 20C in winter with really minimal heating, maybe even none at all in an earth covered home.
I’m also continually gobsmacked at people who “burn off”. ALL dead plant matter is an asset, a resource. Australian soils are crying out for Carbon content. Dead wood should be ploughed back in the soil or composted, but certainly not burnt off, only making the climate issue worse.
This shouldn’t surprise me though, we are surrounded by total mismanagement, nothing we do is sustainable, and every now and again, we pay the price when the Earth puts her foot down…...
• Mike Adams:
Today’s (Monday) The Australian has a comprehensive article by Geoffrey Luck, page 10, ‘Fire Support From Air Long Overdue’. Worth a reprint, if I may make so bold…
In trials held in 1996, and reported in the local ‘Fireground’ magazine it was found that the penetration of the forest canopy was achieved on all fuel types.
The question, ‘Were the forest canopies damaged? Answer: ‘Very little crown breakage was recorded’. (see below’s transcript)
The CL 415 successfully addressed all of the evaluation objectives and it was found that the CL 415 can operate in Australian weather, fuel, scooping and organisational conditions. It can deliver large volumes of suppressant accurately to incident sites with penetration and footprints that are effective. It can respond quickly and aggressively to new incidents and be integrated within existing command structures. It can use the designated water as scooping sites, including the ocean.
The transcript below shows where the fire services were at, and in many cases still are, as evidenced by the limited use of limited aircraft in Australian bushfires.
• phill Parsons:
It’s official, sea level to rise inexorably, regardless of the opinions of some climate change deniers. Yes, please take offence if it includes you. Read the science, do the math, look at the paleo-evidence.
Former Senator Dr Bob Brown’s statement that sea level would rise by 20m was treated as laughable by some. Below shows what has happened in the past when atmospheric CO2 rises to current levels.
We see on TT that one of the authors of the limits to growth report does not expect the monster fossil fuel industry to be tamed by logic and only when it makes itself socially unacceptable through the clear association with a range of mega disasters it may be tamed. This does not exclude us from going passed new tipping points to see changes in the climate driven by natural processes beyond our control, creating disasters for future many generations of life.
Readers should consider that the recent firestorm on the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulars [04JAN12] contained enough energy to generate storm clouds and lightning. Fortunately it struck in the sea. Were this effect to occur before a fire and over land the chances of managing the incident are vastly reduced. The atmosphere is more energized in a hotter world.
How much treasure is required to prepare for such changes.
I would however recommend one change for the fire-prone south-east of Tasmania. Underground the main supply lines [undersea where appropriate] or establish alternative emergency supplies for evacuation nodes.
Natural Relationship Between Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Sea Level Documented Jan. 2, 2013 —
By comparing reconstructions of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) concentrations and sea level over the past 40 million years, researchers based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton have found that greenhouse gas concentrations similar to the present (almost 400 parts per million) were systematically associated with sea levels at least nine metres above current levels.
The study determined the ‘natural equilibrium’ sea level for CO 2 concentrations ranging between ice-age values of 180 parts per million and ice-free values of more than 1,000 parts per million. It takes many centuries for such an equilibrium to be reached, therefore whilst the study does not predict any sea level value for the coming century, it does illustrate what sea level might be expected if climate were stabilized at a certain CO 2 level for several centuries.
Lead author Dr Gavin Foster, from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton which is based at the centre, said, “A specific case of interest is one in which CO 2 levels are kept at 400 to 450 parts per million, because that is the requirement for the often mentioned target of a maximum of two degrees global warming.” The researchers compiled more than two thousand pairs of CO 2 and sea level data points, spanning critical periods within the last 40 million years. Some of these had climates warmer than present, some similar, and some colder. They also included periods during which global temperatures were increasing, as well as periods during which temperatures were decreasing. “This way, we cover a wide variety of climate states, which puts us in the best position to detect systematic relationships and to have the potential for looking at future climate developments,” said co-author Professor Eelco Rohling, also from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton.
The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO 2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO 2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits. “This strong relationship reflects the climatic sensitivity of the great ice sheets of the ice ages,” said Dr Foster. “It continues above the present level because of the apparently similar sensitivity of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, plus possibly some coastal parts of East Antarctica.” According to the study, sea level stays more or less constant for CO 2 changes between 400 and 650 parts per million and it is only for CO 2 levels above 650 parts per million that the researchers again saw a strong sea level response for a given CO 2 change.
“This trend reflects the behaviour of the large East Antarctic ice sheet in response to climate changes at these very high CO 2 levels. An ice-free planet, with sea level 65 metres above the present, occurred in the past when CO 2 levels were around 1200 parts per million.” Professor Rohling said, “Sea level rises to these high values will take many centuries, or even millennia, but the implications from the geological record are clear – for a future climate with maximum warming of about two degrees Centigrade, that is with CO 2 stabilized at 400 to 450 parts per million, sea level is set to steadily rise for many centuries, towards its natural equilibrium position at around 24 +7/-15 metres, at 68 per cent confidence.
In Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change terms, this is a likely rise of at least nine metres above the present. Previous research indicates that such rises above present sea level may occur at rates of roughly one metre per century.” Based on these results, which document how the Earth system has operated in the past, future stabilization of CO 2 at 400-450 parts per million is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid a significant steady long-term sea level rise.
Excited by the convergence between Gammage’s method of using early colonial landscape painting as evidence the Aborigines had farmed this land for millennia with a breathtaking alchemical expertise, and the potential opening of some similar local portal in the Chevalier picture, I found myself striding out from my home to the spot as eagerly as von Neumayer’s party of 150 years ago might have done - though without the carbines and kerseymere breeches, and definitely minus the intellectual certitude.
In The Biggest Estate on Earth, Gammage demonstrates how by a repeated seasonal mosaic of burning, the landscapes of the continent we now call Australia were maintained in a variety of states advantageous to human habitation. Some places were burnt at more frequent intervals than others, some places nurtured with cooler fires conducive to the vegetation needed for the access required, and other places converted permanently by hot burning from forest to open grassland and heath.
With a sophisticated and judicious reliance on the colonial artistic record, and by making comparisons with what has happened in those precise landscapes since, Gammage shows what Aboriginal people have always known: that the burning was effected with great mastery, predominantly for the purposes of food and water, with nutritious clearings typically bordered by forest to give kangaroo, wallaby and other quarry the shelter they like during the day. What was presumed to be a natural park-like expanse by the first settlers - including the Clarkes of Eastern View - was actually created by the agricultural craft of a people for whom, logically enough, sustainable landcare was the first principle of life.