The first rain in over three months has finally put an end to the Victorian bushfire crisis. It has now been a month since Black Saturday when thousands of homes were destroyed and over 200 people lost their lives.
I think it is now time to talk about what created the conditions that led up to a series of the worst firestorms Australia has ever seen.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Victoria of 46.6°C (115.9°F) occurred on Black Saturday the 7th of February, 2009. There had been over a decade of drought and it had not rained for three months previously. Just a week before Black Saturday, between the 28th and 30th of January there were three days in a row over 43°C (110°F), something that has never happened before in Melbourne.
I believe these three days were the biggest contributors to the perfect fire conditions on Black Saturday. These three over 43°C days caused severe heat stress and outright killed many plants. Many of the trees survived one of these days, but after two they were dead and after three they looked like they had been baked in an oven. The leaves on many of these plants did not have a single drop of moisture left in them and would crumble in your hand. Like a tree that had been dead for some time, but these plants had been very alive just a few days before. These trees became perfect fire Material. I’ve spoken to many people who’ve lived their entire lives in Melbourne and have never seen heat damage on this scale ever.
These extraordinary days also had a terrible effect on the wildlife. Ringtail possums were falling dead out of the trees. Koalas entered backyards desperately seeking water – koalas rarely drink water receiving most of their moisture from the eucalyptus leaves they eat. Koalas also usually steer clear of humans – as far as I know this behaviour is unprecedented.
Very low humidity coupled with very dry forests and gale force winds created a perfect firestorm.
All these events proved to me that global warming is a fact. Anyone who denies it is either a liar or an idiot and should be ignored. If only a few degrees can help create the worst firestorms Australia has ever seen, what would a few extra do? The extra heat would kill entire forests. When trees die and rot they release carbon dioxide that causes the world’s temperature to increase killing more trees. It is a snowball effect that could have terrible consequences.
If climate change is making such a huge difference I think it is way too late to think about trying to reduce our ‘carbon footprint.’ It will be too little too late. More extreme measures need to be taken. The earth is sick. It is time for it to take its medicine. I think Geo engineering is the only way to fix this without having more catastrophic consequences. Just like an obese person takes cholesterol-lowering medication so they can keep living while they eat healthily, exercise and eventually lose the weight.
Geo engineering is the process of using technology to diminish the amount of heat entering Earth’s atmosphere. One idea is to pump sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere mimicking the way a large volcanic eruption reduces the global temperature. The best thing about this method is something very similar already happens naturally and it is proven to work.
Some environmentalists and those on the far right who believe in global cooling really hate this proposal, but I do not think we have a lot of choice.
There are several problems with geo engineering:
1.) Who controls Earth’s thermostat? Invariably an international organisation would need to be set up to organise geo engineering efforts and to prevent countries and other organisations going it alone.
2.) It may be used as an excuse to keep releasing carbon dioxide.
3.) There will be side-effects.
4.) Geo engineering would do nothing about other problems caused by a high atmospheric carbon dioxide level such as ocean acidification that causes coral bleaching and the death of marine micro-organisms.
I believe the problems of geo engineering will not be as bad as doing nothing or solely relying on greenhouse gas reduction. Diets take time to time we don’t have. Geo engineering efforts must be coupled with other efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or remove it from the atmosphere. It is purely a stop gap measure. Geo engineering would reduce global temperatures and hopefully prevent the death of forests that could cause a runaway greenhouse effect. It would also prevent the melting of ice caps and prevent the altering of ocean currents.
Black Saturday is a taste of what the future may hold if we do not make a greater effort to reduce global temperature.