Australia fires offer searing warning about climate change (USA Today editorial)

Global warming skeptics used “to mock environmentalists and climate scientists as Chicken Littles, forever frantic that the sky was falling.” But horrific Australian fires are spoiling the story.

“. . . hellish images of a fire-ravaged Australian continent. The spectral image of the Sydney Opera House, lost behind smoke so thick that breathing it is like inhaling a pack of cigarettes a day. A scorched region across Australia nearly the size of South Carolina. *** Nearly 30 people dead since fires started in September; 2,000 homes destroyed. *** A staggering total of up to a billion lost kangaroos, koalas, livestock.”

OK, climate change doesn’t start wildfires, but persistent drought and hot weather “allow wildfires to rage out of control.” And the reason, of course, is that CO2 levels are “greater than at any time in human history and are continuing to rise.”
Does data exist to support claim that current CO2 levels are at the highest point in human history? That means more than wildfires, by the way, it is also resulting in “stronger storms, record floods and rising seas from melting ice caps. Last year was the world’s second hottest on record.” Systematic temperature recording began in the 19th Century; there is indirect evidence, however, of warmer temperatures in human history.

Greenhouse gas emissions must be curbed in the next decade if there is to be any chance of preventing average global temperatures from rising above 3.6 degrees above preindustrial levels, the goal of the Paris accord.

The “independent” Climate Change Performance Index” ranks Australia and America dead last among nations on climate policy. Australia’s sin is to mine and export coal that other countries (like China and India) are burning.
America’s sin is not identified, aside from a reference to President Trump’s comments about global warming being a hoax.

There’s no stopping the reality that the Earth is growing warmer, but Americans and their counterparts Down Under “can demand that their leaders heed the lessons of a burning continent and take the hard steps necessary to prevent even worse from happening.”

Compare: Media narrative questioned as Aussie authorities count 183 fire-related offenses, Andrew Sciascia,, 1/7/20.
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