How wildfires affect our likely future

Wildfires and special interest politics in Colorado paint a similar picture to what we see in Australia

This Denver Post article summarizes the longer term impacts and costs of wildfires to society. This applies to Australia as well as the USA and elsewhere. Despite all the political humbug to the contrary, global warming continues to accelerate.

The picture above shows the smoke plume on 30 December, 2022, when hurricane-force winds in Boulder County whipped fires across drought-parched grasslands and suburban neighborhoods, incinerating 991 structures, including part of a shopping center, a hotel, and a town hall. Two people are still missing, presumed dead. (Aqua-MODIS Satellite view. NASA).

Costs and damages due to wildfires will increasingly overlap and concatenate as fire conditions become hotter, drier, and windier. If global warming cannot be reversed, we will sooner or later have no more forests to catch water, and society will eventually be overwhelmed by fire damage and costs.

The only long term solution will be to attack the cause of the accelerating climate emergency by stopping and reversing the warming. Besides stopping all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, this will almost certainly require global geoengineering. I think this is still possible, but it will take global mobilization of the scale of a war effort to save our biosphere from the heat death in the Hothouse Earth.

Stability landscape showing the pathway of the Earth System out of the Holocene and thus, out of the glacial–interglacial limit cycle to its present position in the hotter Anthropocene (Will Steffen et al. PNAS 2018;115:33:8252-8259

Transformation of our capitalist society is needed. We also have to start soon. To achieve these things we must elect an Australian government that puts fixing the climate as the first order of business. No matter what your politics, if we can’t fix this problem, nothing else matters because the wildfires will continue to spread until there is nothing left to burn and there will be no long term survival for the human species.

Posted by William P. Hall

Some call me a 'climate scientist'. I'm not. What I am is an 'Earth systems generalist'. Born in 1939, I grew up with passionate interests in both science and engineering. I learned to read from my father's university textbooks in geology and paleontology, and dreamed of building nuclear powered starships. Living on a yacht in Southern California I grew up surrounded by (and often immersed in) marine and estuarine ecosystems while my father worked in the aerospace engineering industry. After studying university physics for three years, dyslexia with numbers convinced me to change my focus to biology. I completed university as an evolutionary biologist (PhD Harvard, 1973). My principal research project involved understanding how species' genetic systems regulated the evolution and speciation of North America's largest and most widespread lizard genus. Then for several years as an academic biologist I taught a range of university subjects as diverse as systematics, biogeography, cytogenetics, comparative anatomy and marine biology. In Australia, from 1980, I was involved in various activities around the emerging and rapidly evolving microcomputing technologies culminating in 2 years involvement in the computerization of the emerging Bank of Melbourne. In 1990 I joined a startup engineering company that had just won the contract to build a new generation of 10 frigates for Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 I retired from the head office of Tenix Defence, then Australia's largest defence engineering contractor, after a 17½ year career as a documentation and knowledge management systems analyst and designer. At Tenix I reported to the R&D manager under the GM Engineering, and worked closely with support and systems engineers on the ANZAC Ship Project to solve documentation and engineering change management issues that risked the project 100s of millions of dollars in cost and years of schedule overruns. All 10 ships had been delivered on time, on budget to happy customers against the fixed-price and fixed schedule contract. Before, during, and after these two main gigs I also did a lot of other things that contribute to my general understanding of complex dynamical systems involving multiple components with non-linear and sometimes chaotically interacting components; e.g., 'Earth systems'. Earth's Climate System is the global heat engine driven by the transport and conversions of energy between the incoming solar radiation striking the planet, and the infrared radiation of heat away from the planet to the cold dark universe. As Climate Sentinel News Editor, my task is to identify and understand quirks and problems in the operation of this complex heat engine that threaten human existence, and explain to our readers how they can help to solve some of the critical issues that are threatening their own existence.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.