I just read a great article by Tim Flannery about the bushfires around Victoria and how they relate to the drying of this part of the Australian continent because of climate change. He observes:
I was born in Victoria, and over five decades I’ve watched as the state has changed. The long, wet and cold winters that seemed so insufferable to me as a young boy wishing to play outside vanished decades ago, and for the past 12 years a new, drier climate has established itself. I could measure its progress whenever I flew into Melbourne airport. Over the years the farm dams under the flight path filled ever less frequently, while the suburbs crept ever further into the countryside, their swimming pools seemingly oblivious to the great drying.
Climate modelling has clearly established that the decline of southern Australia’s winter rainfall is being caused by a build-up of greenhouse gas, much of it from the burning of coal. Ironically, Victoria has the most polluting coal-fed power plant on Earth, while another of its coal plants was threatened by the fire. There’s evidence that the stream of global pollution caused a step-change in climate following the huge El Niño event of 1998. Along with the dwindling rainfall has come a desiccation of the soil, and more extreme summer temperatures.
I had not previously appreciated the difference a degree or two of additional heat, and a dry soil, can make to the ferocity of a fire.
It was a disappointment to many Australians who voted in Kevin Rudd, with the hopes that he would push through greener policies, to find that he wussed out and proposed a mere 5% reduction in emissions! I can’t vote in Australia, but i am published here and so I wrote an Arctic Circle cartoon to voice my protest. It goes to print next week.