Australia On F*ckfire
Australia, as we mentioned New Year's Eve, is on fire. Wildfires have burned roughly 12 million acres in the country since September and killed at least 15 people; by comparison, the 2018 wildfires in California, which killed about 100, burned 1.9 million acres. Here's a map of current fires (within 72 hours) on the continent, via researchers at Western Australian universities:
New South Wales has declared a week-long state of emergency, giving authorities greater powers to coordinate disaster and evacuation response, like closing roads and utilities.
Some of the numbers from Australia's bush fires are simply terrifying:
The blazes made breathing the air in Sydney as bad as smoking 37 cigarettes and have killed 480 million animals, environmental officials told the Times in the United Kingdom, including nearly one-third of the koalas in one of Australia's most populated koala habitats in an area 240 miles north of Sydney.
Half a billion animals. Sure, a lot of Australian wildlife wants to kill you, but that's still horrible. On Monday, a volunteer firefighter in New South Wales died when a 10-ton fire truck was knocked on its side by a fire tornado, a term we've learned here in the USA too.
Particulates from the Australian fires have drifted 1200 miles and turned glaciers in New Zealand brown. The ash, since it's darker than the ice, may even accelerate the melting of those glaciers. Not that the planet's warming or anything.
Thousands of people in the hardest-hit states, New South Wales and Victoria, have evacuated; some had to leave burning towns to shelter on beaches.
This amateur photo may very well become one of the iconic images of the new hellworld we're living in, thanks to our addiction to cheap fossil fuels:
The Australian government has dispatched military helicopters to help drop water on the fires, as well as Royal Australian Navy ships to deliver aid and help with evacuations.
An Australian naval ship with a 1,000-person capacity docked off the coast of Malacoota is set to evacuate some of the 4,000 people sheltering on the beach from fires, authorities said. The HMAS Choules, which specializes in responding to humanitarian crises, is set to conduct several sea evacuations.
Authorities told people in areas the size of smaller US states to get the hell out:
And yes, this is definitely related to climate change.
Australia is normally hot and dry in summer, but climate change, which brings more frequent and longer periods of extreme heat, worsens these conditions and makes vegetation drier and more likely to burn. The country recently concluded its driest spring on record. That was followed in mid-December by the hottest day on record, with average highs across the country of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
For you Tucson residents (Hi! I miss Mi Nidito restaurant!) who might shrug and say 107 is no big, note that's average highs, not a high temperature in one place. Imagine a whole continent of Phoenix in July, Jesus.
Too bad for Australia, the country went and elected Scott Morrison, whose very conservative "Liberal Party" is in the pocket of Australia's powerful coal industry. Morrison has repeatedly said now is not the time to talk about climate, because jobs. Apparently entire towns going up in flames has no economic impact. In his New Year's Eve message, Morrison said the real solution is about being brave and tough:
We have stood up to these terrible disasters before, and we have come through the other side [...] We will rebuild and we will stay strong.
Morrison was widely mocked by Australians when, even with Australia already fighting huge wildfires, he left the country to spend Christmas in Hawaii. He returned early from vacation when two volunteer firefighters were killed. Australia's bushfires are mostly being fought by a volunteer force, and even in the current crisis, Morrison has managed to be an asshole:
Australia's federal government announced last week that volunteers in New South Wales — as well as other states, if they requested it — would receive compensation of up to about $4,000. That change in policy was initially opposed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Back in November, before the worst of the fires, Morrison even told a coal mining industry group he thought Australia needs to crack down on climate protests, because rallies and boycotts could be very bad for business:
"The right to protest does not mean there is an unlimited license to disrupt people's lives," Mr. Morrison said, adding, "I am very concerned about this new form of progressivism."
Yesterday, when Morrison went to meet with fire survivors in Cobargo, New South Wales, he found some facts: They fucking hate him there.
'You're not welcome': Australian PM Scott Morrison heckled by bushfire victims www.youtube.com
Other Aussie conservatives have been similarly charming. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, of the rightwing National Party, said in a November radio interview that the fire season had come "a tad early," but downplayed any concerns about climate because Australia has had fires "since time began." What the country definitely doesn't need, said McCormack, are "the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies." He really doesn't like those "inner-city raving lunatics," who are out of touch with Real
Also in November, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who completely rejects anyone talking about "spurious links" between the fires and climate, suggested he was far too polite to gloat over the deaths of those who'd died in fires in New South Wales:
I acknowledge that the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party so I am not going to start attacking them, that's the last thing I want to do.
He was very upset that anyone thought he'd meant they had it coming, because he clearly said he wouldn't do that. As with American climate deniers, like the one in the White House, a lot of Aussie conservatives insist environmentalists are really to blame for wildfires, because they won't allow the logging and dams and other environment-destroying stuff that creates jobs and removes pesky trees.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.