Month: July 2015

UK govt report flags civilisation collapse by 2040! #Auspol #ClimateChange 

New scientific models supported by the British government’s Foreign Office show that if we don’t change course, in less than three decades industrial civilisation will essentially collapse due to catastrophic food shortages, triggered by a combination of climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, and political instability.
Before you panic, the good news is that the scientists behind the model don’t believe it’s predictive. The model does not account for the reality that people will react to escalating crises by changing behavior and policies.
But even so, it’s a sobering wake-up call, which shows that business-as-usual guarantees the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it: our current way of life is not sustainable.
The new models are being developed at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), through a project called the ‘Global Resource Observatory’ (GRO).
The GRO is chiefly funded by the Dawe Charitable Trust, but its partners include the British government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO); British specialist insurance market, Lloyds of London; the Aldersgate Group, the environment coalition of leaders from business, politics and civil society; the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries; Africa Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the University of Wisconsin.

Disruption risk
This week, Lloyds released a report for the insurance industry assessing the risk of a near-term “acute disruption to the global food supply.” Research for the project was led by Anglia Ruskin University’s GSI, and based on its GRO modelling initiative.
The report explores the scenario of a near-term global food supply disruption, considered plausible on the basis of past events, especially in relation to future climate trends. The global food system, the authors find, is “under chronic pressure to meet an ever-rising demand, and its vulnerability to acute disruptions is compounded by factors such as climate change, water stress, ongoing globalisation and heightening political instability.”

Three steps from crisis
Lloyd’s scenario analysis shows that food production across the planet could be significantly undermined due to a combination of just three catastrophic weather events, leading to shortfalls in the production of staple crops, and ensuing price spikes.
In the scenario, which is “set in the near future,” wheat, maize and soybean prices “increase to quadruple the levels seen around 2000,” while rice prices increase by 500%. This leads to rocketing stock prices for agricultural commodities, agricultural chemicals and agriculture engineering supply chains:
“Food riots break out in urban areas across the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America. The euro weakens and the main European stock markets lose 10% of their value; US stock markets follow and lose 5% of their value.”

The scenario analysis demonstrates that a key outcome of any such systemic shock to the global food supply — apart from “negative humanitarian consequences and major financial losses worldwide” — would be geopolitical mayhem as well as escalating terrorism and civil unrest.
The purpose of exploring such scenarios is to prepare insurers for possibilities that are now more likely than previously assumed. The Lloyd’s report points out:
“What is striking about the scenario is that the probability of occurrence is estimated as significantly higher than the benchmark return period of 1:200 years applied for assessing insurers’ ability to pay claims against extreme events.”

That leading insurance companies are now attempting to factor in potential losses from such crises is a major step forward in pushing the financial sector to recognise the dark-side of the current system of fossil fuel dependence.
The report concludes:
“A global production shock of the kind set out in this scenario would be expected to generate major economic and political impacts that could affect clients across a very wide spectrum of insurance classes.”

It would have “major consequences for companies’ investment income,” with the potential to “generate losses that span many years.” It would also result in political instabilities that take “decades to resolve” while imposing “greater restrictions on international business.”


“We ran the model forward to the year 2040, along a business-as-usual trajectory based on ‘do-nothing’ trends — that is, without any feedback loops that would change the underlying trend. The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots. In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.”

Another steering committee member raised their hand: “So is this going to happen? Is this a forecast?”
“No,” said Jones. “This scenario is based on simply running the model forward. The model is a short-term model. It’s not designed to run this long, as in the real world, trends are always likely to change, whether for better or worse.”
“Okay, but what you’re saying is that if there is no change in current trends, then this is the outcome?” continued the questioner.
Jones nodded with a half-smile. “Yes,” he said quietly.
In other words, simply running the Agent-Based Model forward cannot generate a reliable forecast of the future. For instance, no one anticipated the pace at which solar and wind energy would become cost-competitive with fossil fuels. And the fact that governments and insurers are now beginning to scope such risks, and explore ways of responding, shows how growing awareness of the risks has the potential to trigger change.
Whether that change is big enough to avoid or mitigate the worst is another question. Either way, the model does prove in no uncertain terms that present-day policies are utterly bankrupt.

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No, coal is not good for humanity! #ClimateChange #Auspol #NSWpol #Qldpol 

Tackling climate change and reducing poverty can, and indeed must, go hand in hand. And the role for coal is rapidly shrinking, writes Helen Szoke.
Over the past year, the coal industry has become increasingly strident in mounting its case that coal is the beacon of hope for the more than one billion people living in poverty who still lack access to electricity.
If the rhetoric of the industry is to be believed, exporting more and more of our coal to countries including India will provide safe, reliable electricity to poor people, as well as continued prosperity for Australia.
But its argument does not stand up to even the most basic scrutiny. And here’s why.
Firstly, emissions from coal are the biggest contributor to climate change. As a leading international agency working around the world, Oxfam is already seeing the world’s poorest people pushed deeper into poverty through the increasing risk of droughts, floods, hunger and disease due to climate change.
Secondly, there are serious limitations to the viability and cost effectiveness of coal and other fossil fuels to actually deliver electricity to those who still live without it. Over the past year, Carbon Tracker, Vasudha Foundation, The Australia Institute, Overseas Development Institute, Oxfam and many other organisations have explored the challenge of increasing energy access, with each providing robust evidence that distributed, renewable energy solutions are best suited to tackling energy poverty.
About four out of five people living without electricity are in rural areas that often lack connection to a conventional energy grid. The prohibitive cost of grid extensions, coupled with buying grid-based electricity, eliminates the cost advantage that coal may otherwise have.
In India, the coal-rich states have some of the lowest rates of electricity access in the country.
Local renewable energy sources – such as mini-grid and off-grid solutions like as small-scale solar PV and wind – not only offer a more affordable and practical solution for many communities, they are free of many other devastating impacts associated with coal.
Air pollution from coal is a cause of hundreds of thousands of premature deaths worldwide. Earlier this year, Oxfam documented how the Benga coal mine in Mozambique had forcibly displaced thousands of people, fractured communities, and left people without enough food and water. The remoteness and poor transport reduced people’s access to employment and other economic opportunities.
On the other hand, renewable energy has proven to be a catalyst for jobs, local economic growth and a more equitable model of development around the world. In Bangladesh, 3.5 million households have gained access to electricity through solar home systems, leading to better lives.
Throughout the Pacific, renewable energy such as solar is liberating communities from the crippling costs of fossil fuel imports.
Under the influence of an ailing coal industry, the Australian Government has been too busy distorting critical discussions about climate change and poverty alleviation to notice the striking shifts in energy and climate policy around the world.
It is here that the Government is risking Australia’s own future. Coal consumption in China fell 2.9 per cent in 2014 and has continued to fall precipitously through 2015 as the country funnels billions of dollars into renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government’s assessment of the Indian coal market doesn’t adequately take into account recent dramatic changes in India’s energy policies. India has dramatically scaled up its renewable energy ambitions and aims to install 100GW of solar energy by 2022 in order to ensure universal energy access.
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis recently labelled the coal industry the poorest performing sector in today’s global economy. Failure to recognise these rapid shifts in the global energy landscape and to begin embracing our abundant renewable energy opportunities will damage the Australian economy and cost Australians dearly.

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We’re already committed to 6 meters of sea level rise. #ClimateChange #Auspol

The climate change discourse rarely looks beyond 2100, writes Pete Dolack. Maybe that’s because even at current levels of CO2, we are committed to thousands of years of warming and polar ice melt that will raise sea levels by at least six meters. However the implacable imperatives of capitalism mean there’s little prospect of change for a long time to come.
Even if humanity were to stop throwing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere today, a catastrophic rise in sea levels of six meters may be inevitable.
Two previous prehistoric interglacial periods, in which the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was believed to be about what it is today, resulted in dramatic rising of the oceans.

High-latitude ice sheets are melting, and given that global warming is most pronounced in the Arctic, it may already be too late stop a rise in sea levels that would flood out hundreds of millions around the world.
Two new papers, the latest in a series of scientific studies, paint a picture considerably less rosy than conventional ideas that major damage can still be avoided.
One of these papers, a nine-scientist report led by geologist Andrea Dutton at the University of Florida published in the journal Science, found that modest rises in global temperatures of 1-2C in the past led to sea levels rising at least six meters, ranging up to 13 meters (see figure).
For the ice, there’s nothing ‘safe’ about a 2C temperature rise
Referencing the widely held belief that catastrophic damage can be avoided if global warming is held to no more than 2C from pre-industrial levels, she summarized the findings to Climate Central:

“Even if we meet that 2°C target, in the past with those types of temperatures, we may be committing ourselves to this level of sea level rise in the long term. The decisions we make now about where we want to be in 2100 commit us on a pathway where we can’t go back. Once these ice sheets start to melt, the changes become irreversible.”

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10 Things We Learnt From Reddit About Understanding Climate Change #Auspol 

Two professors of cognitive psychology – Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, and Klaus Oberauer, from the University of Zurich – did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) this week.
The topic up for discussion was: “The conflict between our brains and our globe: How will we meet the challenges of the 21st century despite our cognitive limitations?”
Climate change was (unsurprisingly) brought up repeatedly. Here are 10 things we learnt about understanding climate change:
1. Climate change is a BIG problem
Let’s face it: even the most optimistic among us can be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what it means to tackle climate change. How can we push past this barrier?
“I think [this is] a core problem about climate change: Even people who are willing to accept the scientific evidence are paralysed by the enormity of the task,” Lewandowsky said.
“If you scare people without offering a solution then they manage their fear by denying the problem. So, the most important thing is to reinforce that there are solutions and that little steps do add up to something in the end. The situation is serious, yes, but in my view it is not hopeless.”
But what about the notion that yes, climate change exists, but we don’t need to worry because we’ll find ways to ‘live with it’?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are certain aspects of climate change that will affect us all and “transcend boundaries,” Lewandowsky answered. This includes sea-level rise, extreme weather events such as flooding and drought, along with the spread of vector-borne diseases and mass migration.
But, as Lewandowsky explained: “There is evidence that if people construe climate change as something that affects them personally, they are more likely to take it seriously and act on the consequences.”

2. Trust the scientific consensus
Given many people may not have the time or scientific background to distinguish between misinformation and fact, one Reddit user asked: what’s the best way to have “a relatively logical opinion of things?”
Oberauer acknowledged that it can often be difficult to distinguish reliable information from propaganda, “given that the propagandists… are often very skilled at pretending to have all the features that characterise reliable information.”
So, what should we do? “On factual questions, I think by and large it is a good idea to trust scientists more than non-scientists,” Oberauer said, “and among the scientists, to trust the predominant consensus (if there is one) more than the maverick position.”
Why is this the best course of action? “That is because a broad consensus among scientists is most likely the result of converging opinions of very clever people who come from very different backgrounds (different personal interests, different biases and prejudices, different knowledge),” Oberauer explained. “It is extremely unlikely that the majority of scientists in a field could be biased or corrupted in the same direction.”
3. Talk about solutions and values
Many of us have been in the situation where a family member insists climate change isn’t real; that it’s just a silly hoax. What’s the best way to respond?
“It is an extremely difficult situation and there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer,” said Lewandowsky. “Chances are, though, that [they] have made up their mind and are committed to their motivated cognition–that is, taking on their beliefs head-on is unlikely to be successful and may just result in anguish and frustration all around.”

So instead, Lewandowsky recommends talking about solutions and values. For example, clean energy helps reduce pollution and thus respiratory diseases, which improves health and the chance to live longer. “So talking about a clean-energy future is often possible without mention of climate change – and indeed I have met people who love their solar panels and are dreaming of electric cars but think climate change is a hoax.”
He adds that there is some evidence pointing to how “Conservatives (who are most likely to oppose the findings from climate science) have strong values relating to ‘purity’, which entails a responsibility to look after the environment.”
4. Cognitive limitations do exist
As Oberauer explained: “The limited capacity of our cognition becomes manifest in many ways. One is that we can remember only a limited amount of new information (for instance, try to remember the names of 10 people newly introduced to you), and that there is a limit on the amount of information that we can juggle with in solving a problem (e.g., solving a complicated algebra problem without external aid such as paper and pencil).”
He continued: “Our research points to interference between mental representations as one major cause: Trying to keep many ideas in mind at the same time we risk that they interfere with each other.”
5. But these limitations can be overcome
While probabilities, and weighing risks, can be difficult to understand, Lewandowsky argues that “it is going too far to say that the brain isn’t capable of understanding probabilities.”
“It is certainly true that people (sometimes) underestimate the probabilities of rare events,” he explained. “However, that does not need to prevent us from acting rationally: One of the great things about being human is that we can self-reflect and identify our own weaknesses and then take corrective action.”
(Recommended reading: Gigerenzer, G.; Gaissmaier, W.; Kurz-Milcke, E.; Schwartz, L. M. & Woloshin, S. Helping Doctors and Patients Make Sense of Health Statistics Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2008, 8, 53–96.)
6. Politics is a barrier
One Reddit participant raised the issue that when it comes to climate science, many of us aren’t skilled at understanding statistical probabilities, risks and margins of error, and subsequently, climate deniers can then use this to their advantage to sow seeds of confusion.
Lewandowsky agreed this can be a problem: “the very nature of climate data makes them susceptible to misleading interpretation by bad-faith actors.”
But he argued the broader issue is one of politics rather than statistical knowledge.
As he put it: “People also don’t understand lung cancer statistics and yet we were able to legislate tobacco control measures. In the same way, there is no reason why we couldn’t also deal with climate change without everybody understanding the statistics.”
Lewandowsky also added that when it comes to politics and climate change, a person’s world view (ideology) can be a “powerful predictor of attitudes towards science.”
“I can ask people 4–5 questions about the free market, and that tells me 66 per cent of the variance in their attitudes towards climate change. Nothing else that I know of comes even close.”
7. Understand personal bias
Are humans inherently biased towards personal gain? Well, sure. “If you want to motivate people, offering them a reward is usually a good idea!” Lewandowsky said. “However, that is far from the whole story.”
“There is a plethora of research that shows that people are far more altruistic than classic economic theory expects.” (Recommended reading: Fehr, E. & Fischbacher, U. The nature of human altruism, Nature, 2003, 425, 785-791)
But let’s take this one step farther. Let’s look at those who receive funding from fossil fuel companies to undermine action on climate change, or those whose profits rely on fossil fuel extraction: how does cognitive bias play into their understanding/acceptance of climate science?
And, how does the mind reconcile the two opposing things (fossil fuel extraction must continue in order to earn money, but it can’t continue if action on climate change is taken)?

“I think often those people appeal to ‘future wealth’ and ‘helping poor people in Africa’ to justify their actions,” Lewandowsky answered.
But politics aside, he argues this attitude is not a priori absurd or immoral. “It is indeed possible to construct economic scenarios that favour continued business as usual. In my view, those scenarios are flawed but they are not inherently absurd – they are, however, Trojan horses for moral travesties.
“Specifically, the issue is whether the benefits of not cutting emissions now (i.e. lower petrol prices) are directed to the same people who later on pay the cost (e.g., from sea level rise). Now, it’s quite clear to me that this will not happen: Western countries currently benefit disproportionately from Business as Usual, but the future cost of climate change will be borne by other countries. Thus, even seemingly ‘rational’ economic considerations can become highly unethical if they do not consider this fact.”
(Recommended reading: Singer, P. Climate Change: A Commentary on MacCracken, Toman and Gardiner Environmental Values, 2006, 15, 415–422; Posner, E. A. & Sunstein, C. R. Climate change justice The Georgetown Law Journal, 2008, 96, 1565–1612.)
8. Technology can help debunk misinformation
The internet is a source of endless information – and, with that, comes an infinite source of myths and misinformation. Countering it may seem impossible; this is where technology might be able to help.
For example, Google’s idea to rank websites based on facts when you search is one option Lewandowsky supports “in principle”.
Technology can also be used, in combination with social science, to identify “sock puppets” (a fake internet persona created by an unknown person) and “people who seek to scam online fora via multiple identities.” It can also be used to help keep trolls out of comment streams, Lewandowsky suggests.
As he explains: “There is evidence to suggest that comment streams are important and can unduly shape people’s perception of an issue (i.e. not by the facts or arguments but by the emotive quality), and so this is a real challenge to deal with that’ll require both technology and clever social architectures.”
9. Nudge and inoculate
There have been many advances in understanding flaws in human rationality – one user asked: how do we prevent this from being exploited by propagandists?
“Psychological knowledge can be exploited for good and for bad goals, just like any other scientific knowledge,” acknowledged Lewandowsky.
“Concerning resistance to propaganda, we know from work on inoculation theory that warning people ahead of time can help them not be unduly swayed by propaganda”. (Recommended reading: Banas, J. A. & Rains, S. A. A Meta-Analysis of Research on Inoculation Theory Communication Monographs, 2010, 77, 281–311.)
He continued: “Another way in which we can ensure that psychological knowledge is used appropriately is by following the ‘nudge’ approach, which entails the design of choice architectures to nudge people’s behaviour without removing their freedom of choice. Those architectures can be designed by free democratic debate (e.g., whether to opt in or opt out of organ donations).”
10. Dictatorships are not the answer
Do we need a more ‘totalitarian’ style government to enforce the policies needed to address climate change? Short answer: no.
Lewandowsky’s longer answer, however, turns the question on its head: “Concerning the future, I would be far more concerned about the totalitarianism that may threaten us if we do nothing about climate change.
“Imagine the current number of refugees in the Mediterranean multiplied by a factor of 10 or 100: How much stress would that put on our democracies? Indeed, there is evidence that climate change and violent conflict are strongly associated… and violent conflict and democracy don’t exactly go together well.” (Recommended reading: Hsiang, S. M. & Burke, M. Climate, conflict, and social stability: What does the evidence say? Climatic Change, 2014, 123, 39–55.)
He continued: “By contrast, pricing externalities (by putting a price on carbon) is a trivial stressor for a functioning democracy.
“So if we act before the problem becomes unmanageable then I see no conflict between climate mitigation and democracy – it is only if we leave it too late that we will have created a serious threat of totalitarianism by our inaction. Bottom line: to avoid totalitarianism, act on climate change now.”
“I personally believe that to master future challenges we need a lot more democracy than less of it,” Lewandowsky added. “Whether we will achieve that is an open question but it’s ours to address and answer by our actions.”

Press link for more: Kyla Mandel |

On the economics of the end of the world as we know it. #ClimateChange #Auspol

In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved. Here, Christoph Rheinberger (pictured right) and Nicolas Treich (at left) of the Toulouse School of Economics explain why quantifying the cost of global climate change is so difficult.

CLIMATE change puts humanity at risk. The Pope’s celebrated encyclical letter on the subject released last month emphasised this risk “for our common home”, arguing that “doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain”. But apocalyptic predictions are often made by religious groups. So, how serious is this claim?
Perhaps for the first time in history, there seems to be a broad consensus among scientists. They claim that our planet might face a frightening future if we cannot agree to take decisive actions here and now. Changes to how seawater circulates in the Atlantic, the melting of glaciers on Greenland and in the Antarctic, and rising sea levels might all result from inaction. Accounting for these catastrophic scenarios is a huge challenge for scientists and economists alike.
So, what should we do in the face of existential risks? One, perhaps extreme, view is that the mere possibility of massive human extinction should inspire us to do everything we can to avoid it. The counterargument goes that we face several other existential risks and focusing on one may be shortsighted. In his fascinating book “Catastrophe: Risk and Response”, published in 2004, Richard Posner argues that we do not do enough to hedge against catastrophic risks such as climate change, asteroid impacts or bioterrorism. In light of the “competition” of existential risks, how much should humanity invest in the mitigation of climate change?
Conventional wisdom holds that we should limit global warming to 2°C. To justify this target, economists seek to compare the cost of reducing current emissions with its benefits. Indeed, there is a trade-off: investing more resources today in climate-change prevention leaves less to combat other immediate risks. Interestingly, the Pope’s letter recognises that “decisions must be made based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives”.
However, estimating these benefits means that we need to determine the value of a reduction in preventing a possible future catastrophic risk. This is a thorny task. Martin Weitzman, an economist at Harvard University, argues that the expected loss to society because of catastrophic climate change is so large that it cannot be reliably estimated. A cost-benefit analysis—economists’ standard tool for assessing policies—cannot be applied here as reducing an infinite loss is infinitely profitable. Other economists, including Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University and William Nordhaus of Yale University, have examined the technical limits of Mr Weitzman’s argument. As the interpretation of infinity in economic climate models is essentially a debate about how to deal with the threat of extinction, Mr Weitzman’s argument depends heavily on a judgement about the value of life.
Economists estimate this value based on people’s personal choices: we purchase bicycle helmets, pay more for a safer car, and receive compensation for risky occupations. The observed trade-offs between safety and money tell us about society’s willingness to pay for a reduction in mortality risk. Hundreds of studies indicate that people in developed countries are collectively willing to pay a few million dollars to avoid an additional statistical death. For example, America’s Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a value of around $8m per fatality avoided. Similar values are used to evaluate vaccination programmes and prevention of traffic accidents or airborne diseases.
Mr Posner multiplies the value of life by an estimate of Earth’s future population and obtains an illustrative figure of $336m billion as the cost of human extinction. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, argues that this approach ignores the value of life of unborn generations and that the tentative figure should be much larger—perhaps infinitely so.
The value of life as a concept is a natural candidate for a tentative estimation of the benefit of reducing extinction risk. Yet the approach seems somewhat awkward in this context. The extinction risk here is completely different from the individual risk we face in our everyday lives. Human extinction is a risk we all share—and it would be an unprecedented event that can happen only once.
A lack of reliable data exacerbates the profound methodological and philosophical difficulties faced by climate change economists. Extinction is a threat to future generations, while evaluating and designing prevention policies is an urgent challenge today.
The United Nations conference in Paris this December offers a chance to take appropriate steps to protect future generations from this risk. Many economists do not believe in the current pledge-and-review mechanism, and favour the implementation of a generalised carbon-trading system instead. While the Pope dismisses that solution out of hand, his attacks on technological innovation and capitalism, however, may not be very effective in overcoming the current inertia that climate negotiations suffer from. 

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 Fire seasons getting longer, more frequent. #ClimateChange #Auspol 

A new analysis of 35 years of meteorological data confirms fire seasons have become longer. Fire season, which varies in timing and duration based on location, is defined as the time of year when wildfires are most likely to ignite, spread, and affect resources.

The analysis, led by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly, focused on four meteorological variables that affect the length of fire season: maximum temperatures, minimum relative humidity, the number of rain-free days, and maximum wind speeds. A combination of high temperatures, low humidity, rainless days, and high winds make wildfires more likely to spread and lengthens fire seasons. Jolly and colleagues used data from NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Prediction Reanalysis, NOAA’s NCEP-DOE Reanalysis, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Reanalysis.
The researchers found that fire weather seasons have lengthened across one quarter of Earth’s vegetated surface. In certain areas, extending the fire season by a bit each year added up to a large change over the full study period. For instance, parts of the western United States and Mexico, Brazil, and East Africa now face wildfire seasons that are more than a month longer than they were 35 years ago.
The authors attribute the longer season in the western United States to changes in the timing of snowmelt, vapor pressure, and the timing of spring rains—all of which have been linked to global warming and climate change. On the other hand, the easing of droughts in Western Africa and the Pacific coast of South America likely contributed to the shortening of fire seasons in those areas.
In some parts of the world, tough fire seasons have also become more frequent. “The map at the top of the page depicts steady trends in season length, while the map below shows changes in variability,” explained Jolly. “In other words, the map below shows where long seasons are becoming more frequent, even if they aren’t becoming steadily longer.”

While many of the same areas that saw fire seasons grow progressively longer also faced more frequent fires seasons, the two measures differed significantly in some areas. Australia, for instance, has not experienced an increase in the length of fire seasons. However, eastern Australia has seen the years with long and severe fire seasons become more frequent.

Overall, 54 percent of the world’s vegetated surfaces experienced long fire weather seasons more frequently between 1996 and 2013 as compared with 1979-1996, according to Jolly. This amounted to a doubling in the total global burnable area affected by long fire weather seasons. (For this calculation, “long fire season” was defined as a length that was one standard deviation above the historical mean.)
It is important to note that although the study shows many environments have become more prone to fires, it does not demonstrate that the wildfires burned more intensely or charred more acres. That’s because even with longer and more frequent fire seasons, other factors can affect whether fires occur and how they behave, such as: whether lightning or human activity ignites the fires; whether humans attempt to suppress them; and whether there is enough fuel to sustain them.

Press link for more: Adam Voiland |