15 August 2012

Rolling Stone: “Climate Change and the End of Australia”

The firestorm sweeping across the hillside was like nothing she – or anyone – had ever seen before. A wall of flame moving at eight miles per hour was incinerating everything in its path. O'Connor hurried to stuff wet towels under the doors while her husband soaked down the yard with a hose. But within minutes, she heard a deafening roar. Looking out the window, she saw a hurricane of fire – flames shooting 70 feet into the air, fanned by the high winds created by the storm's thermal vacuum. As trees burst into flames, O'Connor and her husband narrowly escaped to a nearby house that was more fire-resistant.

For the rest of the night, she and her neighbors watched the hills burn. We could see houses igniting, diesel tanks exploding, she recalls. Officials later reported that 600 fires broke out in Victoria that day, some with flames 300 feet high capable of killing people nearly a quarter mile away. One researcher estimated that the amount of energy released by the fires in a single day was equivalent to 1,500 atomic bombs of the size dropped on Hiroshima. Jeff Goodell

Continuing with articles about climate change, this one features a daunting account of the changes Australia is currently undergoing: massive drought, firestorms, floods, the slow death of the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps even more concerning that the actual problem is how easy survivors of such extreme events can still dismiss the underlying cause…

You might think that surviving such a harrowing encounter would make O'Connor more attuned to the risks of living on a superheated planet, but it hasn't. I think the jury is still out on the science of climate change, O'Connor says from the safety of her air-conditioned office in Melbourne. Australia has always had wildfires, and this could be just part of a natural cycle. I think it's too soon to tell.

Post a Comment