Government says this is no time to talk about climate. Have some respect for all the koalas that died.
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.
Most of us. Just not the people in charge.
Let's start with good news on climate: In poll after poll, large majorities of Americans say they agree climate is a major concern and that the government needs to do more to reduce carbon emissions. More than three-quarters of adults and teens agree that human activity is affecting the climate, and a majority think it's not too late to find solutions. Some people are shaky on the scientific details; a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this month found that
43 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens cited "plastic bottles and bags" as a "major" contributor to climate change, which is incorrect. That response may echo a recent burst of news media attention to plastic pollution in the oceans.
But the main point is that big majorities know that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet, so if some people drive less and recycle more plastic, that's not a terrible thing. How's this for encouraging? Among Republicans, a majority of millennials and Gen-Z young'uns want more government action on climate, too. Baby steps -- teach your parents well, young Rs.
These people are terrified of garden burgers.
Over the last week or so, right-wingers have been all in a dither over the Burger King Impossible Whopper and not for any reason that could be considered normal. You see, on Christmas Eve, an article titled "DOCTOR: Burger King's 'Impossible Burger' Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper" sent shockwaves through the wingnut-o-sphere, resulting in a whole lot of panic regarding some evil Burger King plot to turn everyone into women through burger HRT.
Gosh who could have seen that coming how very surprising we are astonished.
Last week, Donald Trump unleashed yet another unhinged lie-filled rant claiming wind turbines cause American Bird Carnage. As Wonkette's Liz Dye pointed out, nah, many times more birds are killed by buildings and domestic cats, though generally not at the same time. Then, on Christmas Eve, the New York Times ran a major story on a very real threat to far larger numbers of birds: the Trump administration's decision to gut the Migratory Bird Act in 2017, by changing how the law is enforced.
The report is based on a trove of government documents and emails about the new enforcement priority -- really a policy of nearly complete non-enforcement. The administration has effectively eliminated any penalties for companies that kill birds or destroy their habitats, and is now actively discouraging industry as well as state and local governments from taking actions to protect wild birds.
Wouldn't you know it, Trump's bitter tears about all the poor birds being murdered by wind energy aren't just fake; his own policies pose a far greater environmental risk. Isn't that a surprise.
Wooden shoe like to see other countries do that too?
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday that the country's government must sharply cut national carbon emissions by the end of 2020, the first time a nation's courts have demanded such specific action on climate. The ruling mandates a reduction in greenhouse gases to 25 percent of 1990 levels.
Because of climate change, "the lives, well being and living circumstances of many people around the world, including in the Netherlands, are being threatened," Kees Streefkerk, the chief justice, said in the decision. "Those consequences are happening already."
The Dutch government has already committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, though its environmental agency estimates the planned cuts would come to 19 to 25 percent of 1990 levels. Now the higher end of that target is the minimum that must be met. That could require the complete closure of coal-fired power plants, including some opened in the last decade. GOOD.
And here's an advantage that this and other lawsuits against European national governments have: The group that filed the lawsuit, the Urgenda Foundation, based some of its arguments in human rights laws. Pity the US no longer considers those relevant!
Vote for New Jersey vaccine law postponed at last minute.
The New York Times, the paper of Robin Thicke records, won't stop with the "both sides" nonsense, even when one of the "sides" has measles. The New Jersey legislature tried to pass a law ending religious exemptions to vaccine requirements for students attending any public or private school and college. This seemed a good idea because schools are often buildings containing other people, many of whom don't want to catch infectious diseases. The bill was postponed, however, because legislators faced angry protestors shouting, "Don't touch my child!" To clarify, no one was going to touch anyone's child. That's creepy. The law would merely have prevented parents from unleashing an army of Typhoid Marys on New Jersey schools.
Here's how the Times summed up the debate in a tweet yesterday. It's screen-captured in case it's removed after Dean Baquet accidentally wanders into the Times offices.
The New York Times
They're not about to let Big Room Scheduling push them around.
At the New Jersey statehouse Thursday, hundreds of angry anti-vaxxers packed into a hearing room to demand their voices be heard. It was the wrong hearing room, but they demanded to be heard anyway, because this is America.
The crowd wanted to express their opposition to a bill that would eliminate the state's religious exemption for vaccine requirements, but they somehow ended up in a room where a completely unrelated hearing for New Jersey Transit was scheduled. And no, they weren't going anywhere -- just like ambulances in Fort Lee.
Gosh, you mean to say that even when they were informed of the facts and advised that if they wanted to achieve their aims, they should literally change where they stood, they refused to listen? Seems like that's very on-brand. Good for them, refusing to be told how to live their lives by a bunch of so-called "experts" and "authorities."
Our religious beliefs declare this post brilliant.
Ohio just decided to make their kids dumber. The state House of Representatives passed the Student Religious Liberties Act this week. The legislation will permit students to answer questions with any nonsense they want as long as it's what they think Jesus would do.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House 61 to 31 or eleventy million to zero if you reject Satan's math. It will now move to the Senate, which religious-pandering Republicans also control. This is the relevant crazy-making portion of the text:
No school district board of education (...) shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work.
Ohio Rep. Timothy Ginter insists critics of the law are just possessed by liberal demons. The law will not in fact permit what it clearly says it will allow. Don't worry. Students can't refuse to answer test questions because the material conflicts with their religious views, but they can denounce their teachers as heretics. Gitner offers as a hypothetical Christian and Jewish students who believe (incorrectly) that the world was created just 6,000 years ago and is barely older than The Phantom of the Opera. He doesn't even bother to include anything a Muslim student might believe that also ignores observable scientific evidence.
The Simpsons - Bonerland youtu.be
How high's the water, Mama Mia!
The Veneto regional council, the parliament for the region of Italy where Venice is located, voted against a number of measures intended to take action against climate change Tuesday evening. Literally within minutes, the council's offices, right on the Grand Canal, were partly submerged by the worst flooding to hit the city in 50 years. Around 10 p.m. local time, the council chamber in the Ferro Fini Palace started looking like a set from Titanic, but to the relief of all, without that damn song. Council member Andrea Zanoni documented the flooded chamber and meeting rooms on the Facebook:
It's fine in Siberia and the Amazon though.
Donald Trump doesn't drink, but he sure does all he can to sound exactly like the loudmouth at the local bar who has an expert opinion on every single thing that flashes on the TV screen. Which is why he knows exactly why so many wildfires broke out in California this fall. Has nothing to do with global warming, which is fake, or with too much development in fire-prone areas, because developers are the greatest people in America. And it certainly can't be shitty management or delayed maintenance of the electrical grid, because utilities are businesses and all they need is less regulation.
So really, it should be no surprise to anyone that Sunday, Trump's first mention of the huge wildfires in California complained California has failed to properly manage its forests, when the fires haven't actually been in forests. Because Donald Trump is the smartest man around, and all you need to do to prevent fires is rake the forests and stop the rivers from flowing into the sea, where they're totally wasted, duh.
In a series of tweets, Trump returned to some familiar, completely wrong themes, and once again threatened to eliminate funding for fighting fires in California.
'So they knew.' They sure as hell did.
In testimony before Congress last week, two former scientists for Exxon explained in some detail how the company had initially supported their research into climate change through the 1970s. But in the early 1980s, Exxon (it merged with Mobil in 1999) decided that instead of changing its business -- which was tentatively moving into cleaner forms of energy, like advanced battery research and CO2 reduction -- it would instead suppress its own scientists' work and heavily fund outfits that cast doubt on the science of global warming. It was the first time the scientists, geochemist Ed Garvey and physicist Martin Hoffert, had a chance to testify to Congress about what's already one of the greatest missed opportunities in human history.
If Exxon hadn't decided to divest its clean energy holdings, Hoffert said, the transition to clean energy that's needed to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change could have started 40 years ago, with lower costs and far less human tragedy than such a transition will now.
This would be a good place to add that even now, the cost will still be far lower than the economic disruption, health risks, widespread migration as some parts of the planet become unlivable, and -- just maybe -- some form of civilizational collapse that could result from doing nothing. (And then idiot fact-checkers can jump in and add that at least humanity won't go extinct.)
Do something about global warming? Why would we do something about global warming?
Huge wildfires are causing evacuations and massive destruction in both Northern and Southern California, and the dry, windy conditions that have been driving the fires are expected to continue. In case you were wondering what a future of a warming planet looks like, turn on the news feeds from California. It's not necessarily going to look like science fiction; it's going to be semi-normal much of the time, plus fairly regular non-normal events.
Firefighters in Sonoma County have made some small progress against the state's largest blaze, the Kincade fire, which has forced the evacuation of about 185,000 people so far and featured winds approaching 100 miles per hour. Over the weekend, the Kincade went from 5 percent containment to 15 percent, but hot winds are expected to return today, and that could whip up the fire even more. It's destroyed 123 structures so far, 57 of them homes, and roughly 90,000 structures remain threatened, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. And it's going to be a while before it's out:
Cal Fire officials said they hope to have the blaze fully contained by Nov. 7 but that it could burn for weeks or months afterward.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that firefighters -- some brought in from other states -- had been up against 330 fires on Sunday. And yet, he noted, this is only an "average" fire season. At a news conference after touring evacuation centers in Sonoma County, Newsom said, "I recognize and everybody recognizes, this cannot be the new normal. We cannot absorb this year after year."
Which is a good sentiment, but every indication is that it will be, and this is pretty much what climate scientists have been warning about for decades.
You guys can live without luxuries like 'civilization,' can't you?
The fact checkers at the Associated Press, Washington Post, and FactCheck Dot Org, apparently driven mad by the stress of all Donald Trump's lies, turned both sides of their attention Wednesday to Tuesday's Democratic debate, and they did find some actual errors and exaggerations: Julián Castro flubbed some unemployment data, Tom Steyer got wage growth wrong, and Joe Biden said "Syria," not Turkey, had fired on withdrawing US troops. And in an unusual error, Kamala Harris actually understated the number of assault weapons in circulation in the USA -- she said it was five million, but the gun industry estimates it's 16 million.
But they also indulged in some hellacious nitpicking in their zeal to show that Democrats are somehow just as slippery as Republicans -- and as usual, it was a perfectly true and reasonable statement by Bernie Sanders that got them itching. Let's get our fine-toothed steel comb out and pick those nits right back! (Ew.)
The omissionary position isn't helping.
Congratulations, America! With a giant festering pustule occupying the White House and getting an infectious ooze on everything he touches, America in 2018 achieved a record high number of infections from three sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new report from the US Centers For Disease Control. The CDC reports more than 2.1 million combined cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia! Way to go! Now that the Trump administration's gag rule on family planning funding for groups that so much as mention abortion has led Planned Parenthood to drop out of the Title X program, we can certainly look forward to a quick end to STD outbreaks, as crisis pregnancy centers take up the slack and tell people not to fuck, ever.
Heart eyes emoticon!
Elizabeth Warren is out with another of her darn plans, this time a proposal to pursue environmental justice as part of her overall commitment to fighting climate change. This is the seventh Warren policy proposal to touch on some aspect of addressing the climate crisis, and she vows to devote at least a third of federal climate funding to communities that have been screwed over by the fossil fuel economy. That's roughly a trillion dollars over ten years. Warren would make sure those communities that have borne the brunt of our messed-up climate have a say in how the cleanups and the green manufacturing of tomorrow will go forward -- a topic she brought up while visiting voters in Charleston, South Carolina, yesterday.
The timing of the new plan coincides with California's biggest electric utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, choosing to cause a huge blackout because its antiquated equipment and grid risk sparking wildfires. PG&E's crappy management and haphazard maintenance caused multiple California wildfires in recent years, made worse by the climate change caused by burning coal and oil for electricity for a century. More and more parts of the country can look forward to that kind of disruption becoming the norm.
Quick, somebody tell us we can't afford clean energy.
Oh, yes, and he agrees with the Bundy family that the federal government can't own land.
We suppose it shouldn't be the least bit surprising anymore to learn that the Trump administration's pick to be the (acting) director of the Bureau of Land Management turns out to be a standard-issue rightwing wackaloon with a long history of statements claiming science is fake, that immigrants are a "cancer" on America, and that all Muslims are at war with US America. We suspect it may actually be in the job description. Still, we can remember the olden times when that sort of thing might have been a problem for somebody running an entire federal agency. Now, thanks to a CNN backgrounder published yesterday, let's get to know (acting) BLM Director William Perry Pendley, appointed in June by (actual) Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. No, don't get too close, he's frothing at the mouth, and that can't be good.
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