wildfires climate change

Thu, 2012-07-05 08:36Chris Mooney
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The Politics of Ice and Fire

In late June of 1988, just under 24 years ago, NASA’s James Hansen testified before the U.S. Congress about global warming. He noted that the Earth had been remarkably warm in the months leading up to that moment, and said he was 99 percent certain that the overall warming trend in the temperature data was due to human causes. ''It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” Hansen stated. (His actual testimony is here.)

Hansen’s testimony put global warming on the national agenda—and the reason for its dramatic impact isn’t hard to see. It was given during a time when Washington D.C. was suffering from sweltering heat, just as it is now; when Yellowstone National Park was ablaze due to drought-induced wildfires; and when the Atlantic Ocean would soon serve up Category 5 Hurricane Gilbert, then the most intense storm ever measured in the Atlantic basin.

In other words, events were highly conducive to climate change hitting the national agenda—and Hansen’s testimony was itself pegged to those events. Hansen even stated that the frequency of hot summers in Washington, DC had already increased enough to be noticeable to the average person.

Once again, this was 24 years ago. And I point it out because right now, we are clearly witnessing another of those agenda-setting summers—or at least, we should be.

Mon, 2009-02-09 15:37Mitchell Anderson
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Scientists Link Climate Change and Wildfires

The tragic and deadly Australian wildfires are due in part to climate change. That was the message delivered today by several prominent researchers as Australians reel from their worst natural disaster in more than a century.

Unprecedented heat, high winds and drought contributed to the deadly conditions that have so far claimed more than 160 lives.

“It’s very clear, both globally and in Australia, there has been a warming trend since about 1950,” said leading Australian climate scientist Kevin Hennessy.

“In a nutshell we can say the heatwaves and the fires we’ve seen in Victoria recently maybe partly due to climate change through the contribution of increased temperature.

“Going forward, we anticipate there will be continued increases in greenhouse gases and that locks in a certain amount of warming, and in the case of southern Australia further drying, and this will increase the fire weather risk.”

Gary Morgan, head of the government-backed Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre agrees. “Climate change, weather and drought are altering the nature, ferocity and duration of bushfires,” he said.

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