Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Australian Fires

Some have called the horrific South-East Australian fires a symptom of climate change.

Bradford Plummer at on The New Republic's "The Vine" blog talks about the importance of these fires, and how seemingly small changes in long-run temperature can manifest themselves in huge and terrible ways, like this.

We will always have to add the disclaimer that no single, local event can ever be definitively attributed to global climate change. There have always been brush fires in Australia. However, two things have combined to make these fires worse. First, suburban sprawl has encroached into historically fire-prone areas (this is similar to Southern California's fires). Secondly, however, these fires come after a drought that has lasted somewhere close to a decade. In that way, it was clearly attributable to local changes in the climate. The end result is that it doesn't matter to people who've lost their homes whether the fire was caused by carbon emissions, drought, or arson. They have lost their homes, and in the future will only want to make sure that this cannot happen again.

That's why adaptation -- not just in terms of spending, but in terms of our mindset -- to a warmer climate will be so important in the future. Perhaps as we adapt, we'll realize that living in the path of fires is not the best place to be.

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