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The Future of Fire

by SAUL LANDAU

“Belief In Man-Made Global Warming Is A Lot Like Believing In Santa Claus”

— Rush Limbaugh

“Any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs.”

— Sarah Palin, attacking Clean Water initiative, “Copenhagen’s political science”.

“The major greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere through human activities are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Many of these gases can remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of years after being released. Thus, to get a more complete picture of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, both emissions (how much of a given greenhouse gas is produced and emitted into the air) and concentrations (the amount of a greenhouse gas present in a certain volume of air) are measured. Long-lived greenhouse gases become globally mixed in the atmosphere, reflecting both past and recent contributions from emission sources worldwide.”

— EPA Report on Greenhouse Gassses

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told a press conferece that “there is substantial evidence that some of these fires [in Arizona] have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally. The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

McCain said that illegal immigrants set such fires to send signals, keep warm or distract law enforcement agents. But he did not specify which fires allegedly had been started by illegal immigrants, nor did he identify his sources or provide details of the “substantial” evidence he cited. The Arizona senator offered no evidence to support his claims.

Actual experts disagree with the above quoted intellectuals. For example Princeton University’s Michael Oppenheimer also a lead author of the United Nations’ climate science panel, compared “what we’re seeing” to “a window into what global warming really looks like. It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster. … This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.” The fires in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Utah might sober up some of the climate change doubters.

Few of the former homeowners in Colorado will likely grant much credibility to the deniers. They and their homes have felt the heat and experienced the higher spring and summer temperatures, which contributed to an earlier spring melt. They observed these factors that later drove the ferocity of the large wildfires and the lengthening of the traditional fire season in the western U.S. over recent decades. The record-breaking fires this year in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Region are consistent with these trends. The drought, heat wave and associated record wildfires that hit Texas and the Southern plains in the summer of 2011 cost $12 billion.”

As of late June, more than 32,000 people had fled Colorado Springs, Colorado’s second-biggest city. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, “There is nothing firefighters could do when you get this kind of weather.” Surveying the fires from air on Tuesday, the governor was stunned. “It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine. It’s almost surreal. You look at that, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”

“Climate change is clearly playing a role,” said Kevin Trenberth, who leads the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. “There are wildfires all over the place.”

Trenberth and his fellow scientists — Jerry Meehl, also of NCAR; Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground; and Richard Somerville, of the University of California-San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography — said their review of new research shows a pattern that points to a warmer world and, in the West, a drier, fire-prone one.

“Higher spring and summer temperatures, along with an earlier spring melt, are also the primary factors driving the increasing frequency of large wildfires and lengthening the fires season in the Western U.S. over recent decades,” they summarize. “The record-breaking fires this year in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain region are consistent with these trends.”

The US Chamber of Commerce, however, opined that. “Humans have become less susceptible to the effects of heat due to a combination of adaptations, particularly air conditioning. The availability of air conditioning is expected to continue to increase. Overall, there is strong evidence that populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”

Sean Hannity on Fox, called global warming the “biggest scientific fraud, I think, in our lifetime.”

Unlike Hannity, I’m no scientist, but I also don’t believe in Santa Claus or, like the Chamber of Commerce in ongoing human adpatation to warmer climates. I trust my viscera, which have responded to the heat, fires, draughts, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and tornadoes. “It doesn’t feel right,” my insides tell my brain, as I sit in a smog-filled downtown traffic jam (pick your city) and imagine a similar situation in Mumbai, Bangkok and Shanghai. Fumes and air-conditioners emitting gases. These ill winds blow malice on Nature and cannot help perpetuate human life. Millions of people – even coal, oil and Fox News executives — can imagine disaster scenarios with fires burning homes in Colorado or New England woods. Storms raging fromm the Midwest to the east knocking out power, killing twenty three people! Floods from hurricanes inundating neighborhoods in New Orleans! Food shortages everywhere! Tsunamis overwhelming nuclear plants in Japan and California! Etc…

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens AUG 14, at Washington DC’S Avalon Theater.

 

 

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SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

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