Monday February 3rd… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉
Will Australians Wake Up To Climate Change After Latest Round of Record Heat and Conflagrations?
Dear Diary. The study of human nature can take up one’s entire lifetime with some usual bitter but interesting conclusions. Personally at the end of near six decades of life with four decades residing in adulthood I view humanity as two sides of a coin, one being stubborn and rigid looking backwards towards history, but very grounded and pragmatic to get by during a hard life, and the other fluid and forward looking, open to new ideas and evidential science, but often at the expense of garnering or retaining personal creature comforts due to self sacrifice. The two psychological types tug, pull, and sometimes intertwine, but can’t separate as humanity hurtles through history. Both sides have to live with each other lest there be unending war both in and out of families.
Sometimes circumstances become so dire, though, that the side looking backwards is shaken to its core having to face a reality that in prior years was acceptable by both sides of the same coin in harmonious society. In other words, facts dictated that the forward thinkers would push society in new previously unknown but frightening directions. In history some examples are the French, Russian and Industrial revolutions. The inventions of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440 and telescope by Hans Lippershay in 1570, which was used by Galileo, were catalysts that brought about great change to religion and how we perceive ourselves as a species in relation to the physical universe. Social revolutions occurred because quality of life had deteriorated to the point of being unacceptable by most in individual countries where they occurred. Status quo thinking got overwhelmed by a new reality.
So as of early February 2020 a new reality is facing the people and powers that be in Australia. Prior to this point in time there weren’t enough forward thinkers to change Australian society away from the burning and mining of coal or towards renewables. In order to live there forward thinkers had to accept the will of the majority despite a warming climate and science pointing towards needed change. Now there is a different reality in which both sides of the same coin will probably come into good agreement. This is especially true after the events of late last week, cementing the fact that something must be done:
After the latest heat wave Dr. Michael Mann has stated that there is a silver lining, thinking that good, needed change is coming to Australian society. I am reposting his thoughts from a new Guardian article:
If there’s a silver lining in the clouds of choking smoke it’s that this may be a tipping point
Australia’s horrific bushfires could be the catalyst that pushes the world to a mass recognition that it’s time to act.
Sun 2 Feb 2020 11.30 EST Last modified on Mon 3 Feb 2020 01.18 EST
As a climate scientist on sabbatical in Australia, I’ve had plenty of conversations about the climate crisis lately as bushfires have burned their way to the front of everyone’s mind. Although the Murdoch media make it seem as if there’s plenty of debate, the reality is that most Australians I talk to get it.
And why shouldn’t they? More carbon pollution means warmer temperatures which dry out the landscape, making it easier for fires to spread. The fact that the bushfires tore through Australia as we ended the hottest decade ever recorded is no coincidence.
But those opposed to climate action have tied themselves in knots trying to fool the public into believing that it’s really environmentalists and arsonists at fault.
Yet it’s hard to sell denial when people are busy fleeing the flames. It’s tough to distract from the reality of climate change when plumes of smoke dim the sky, and when every breath of soot-filled air stings your throat. As one climate scientist colleague put it in response to the almost-biblical fires bearing down on Canberra: “This is a stark reminder that climate change seems gradual until it is on your doorstep.”
That’s precisely what happened to Jeremy Wright, a Rotary Club member who came to a lecture I gave the other day at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney. Wright lost much of his family farm that has been around for 180 years, outside Milton in south-east NSW where the Australian author Henry Kendall was born. The bridge that provides access to the farm burned and he lost a herd of steer, several vehicles and his farm shed. Climate change is no longer just a theoretical construct for Jeremy.
Some of the steer that died in the fire on Jeremy Wright’s farm on New Year’s Eve.
Despite the tragedies playing out around the country, I’m hopeful we’re hitting a tipping point. Not a physical one – which we will hopefully avoid, where the global climate undergoes dramatic, irreversible and catastrophic change – but a psychological one.
Here and around the world these fires appear to be pushing us toward a tipping point in public consciousness, a mass recognition that we must act.
But there has always been a disconnect between what the public knows and what their elected leaders choose to do. Ruling political parties in Australia, the US and Britain are particularly intransigent, their denial driven by ties to fossil-fuel interests and bolstered by the Murdoch media’s steady drumbeat of denial.
It’s something I’ve noticed quite clearly in my time here. The Australians I’ve talked to about climate change seem well aware of the science, are very concerned about reducing emissions and, most of all, are frustrated by their leaders’ unwillingness to take meaningful action.
If there can possibly be a silver lining to the clouds of smoke from the bushfires, it is that they are galvanizing public opinion, making it clear that deniers’ and delayers’ rhetoric is a smokescreen to cover for the fossil-fuel industry. Much like how sea level rise and unprecedented wildfires, heatwaves and floods in the US have begun softening the Republican party’s staunch denial, the bushfires have brought the climate crisis to the front and center of Australian consciousness.
For years, fossil-fuel-funded voices have taken to Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets to tell the public that climate change isn’t real, or it won’t be a problem until years from now, at which point we’ll all be so rich we can just buy our way out of trouble. They told the public to ignore climate scientists who are ringing the planetary fire alarm, that all is well despite the increasingly stark warnings from those who have devoted their lives to studying the issue.
Sadly, despite criticism from within the Murdoch empire, and even from Murdoch’s son James, the promotion of denial and delay continues unabated. “Warming is good for us” read the headline on Andrew Bolt’s column in the Herald Sun the other day to widespread derision as climate change-fuelled bushfires continue to engulf the continent. The headline on Paul Kelly’s column in the Australian read “Any climate policy change is going to be slow burn”, with no apparent sense of irony.
But telling people to ignore the fire alarm doesn’t work so well when they can feel the heat, with flames consuming their country and with so much smoke it’s made a full circuit around the globe.
We won’t know if this will be a tipping point for the public’s demand for climate action until we have the benefit of hindsight. But people will have an option: to vote out politicians in denial, and vote in candidates who are honest about the issue.
Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a tipping point, but a flipping point.
Then perhaps she’ll be right, mate.
• Michael E Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book, with Tom Toles, is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, 2016)
We’ve got an announcement…
… on our progress as an organisation. In service of the escalating climate emergency, we have made an important decision – to renounce fossil fuel advertising, becoming the first major global news organisation to institute an outright ban on taking money from companies that extract fossil fuels.
In October we outlined our pledge: that the Guardian will give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. This resonated with so many readers around the world. We promise to update you on the steps we take to hold ourselves accountable at this defining point in our lifetimes. With climate misinformation rife, and never more dangerous than now, the Guardian’s accurate, authoritative reporting is vital – and we will not stay quiet.
You’ve read 25 articles in the last four months. We chose a different approach: to keep Guardian journalism open for all. We don’t have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.
Our editorial independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental emergency.
The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope.
We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support The Guardian Read our pledge
I post nearly every week on Australia these days since that nation is undergoing the worst direct human effects by the climate crisis currently endured on the planet. It will be interesting to see if “Pharaoh’s plagues” are enough for a big change in society, but this time we are not talking about Ancient Egypt, pointing to modern day Australia. I just hope that Dr. Mann is correct as regards to Australia, with the “flip of a coin,” before facts on the ground dictate a horrible future for all.
More from Australia:
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Here is some more weather and climate news from Monday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.)
Here are more “ET” notices from the last couple of days:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”