Coal

China to launch nationwide carbon market. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

China is launching the biggest carbon market in the world, which will require power plants to hold emissions permits (Pic: Flickr/V.T. Polywoda)

By Li Jing in Beijing

China’s long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be officially launched on 19 December, starting with the power sector only, according to a document from National Development Reform Commission (NDRC).

It represents a scaling back from the original plan for eight economic sectors to take part in the carbon market: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, power and aviation.

Nonetheless, it will instantly overtake the EU’s carbon market to become the world’s largest. The power sector accounts for 46% of China’s carbon dioxide emissions, of which an estimated 39% will be covered by the ETS, according to data from World Resource Institute.

Explaining the change, Chinese officials said some industrial sectors did not have strong statistical foundations, and the system would involve constant testing and continuous adjustments.

Carbon futures trading will not be available at the launch stage of the scheme, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change, said during the UN climate conference in Bonn last month. It is intended to create a cost for emitting carbon, not a platform for market speculation, he said.

An official at NDRC who asked not to be named said the conservative approach reflected the importance leaders attached to the overall stability of the country’s financial markets.

Liu Shuang, a program director with Energy Foundation China, said the power sector was the most suitable sector for China to start its national emission trading scheme, as it had the most credible and transparent emissions data.

Advocates of emissions trading say it creates an efficient system for cutting greenhouse gases where it is cheapest to do so. Polluting plants must hold permits for every tonne of CO2 they emit and can sell surplus allowances if they clean up their operations.

In existing systems, however, industry has lobbied for free allowances and policies resulting in low carbon prices. Critics say that gives little incentive to invest in cleaner technology for the long term.

Press link for more: Climate Change News

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Cleaner air benefits human health #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Europe’s air quality has improved considerably since the European Union and its Member States introduced policies and measures concerning air quality in the 1970s.

Air pollutant emissions from many of the major sources including transport, industry, and power generation are now regulated and are generally declining, but not always to the extent envisaged.

High concentrations of air pollution still have significant impacts on Europeans’ health, with particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide  causing the biggest harm.

The European Environment Agency’s latest annual air quality report shows that most people living in Europe’s cities are still exposed to levels of air pollution deemed harmful by the World Health Organization. According to the report, fine particulate matter concentrations were responsible for an estimated 428 000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2014, of which around 399 000 were in the EU-28.

Poor air quality also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs, reducing workers’ productivity, and damaging soil, crops, forests, lakes and rivers. Although air pollution is often associated with pollution peaks and episodes, long-term exposure to lower doses constitutes an even more serious threat to human health and to nature.

Reducing air pollution helps tackle climate change

Carbon dioxide may be the largest driver of global warming and climate change but it is not the only one. Many other gaseous or particulate compounds, known as ‘climate forcers’, have an influence on the amount of solar energy (including heat) the Earth retains.

For example, methane is a very powerful climate forcer as well as an air pollutant linked to agricultural activities, closely linked to livestock production and meat consumption. Particulate matter is another pollutant, impacting both climate change and air quality. Depending upon its composition, it may have a cooling or warming effect on the local and the global climate. For example, black carbon, one of the constituents of fine particulate matter and a result of incomplete burning of fuels, absorbs solar and infrared radiation in the atmosphere and thus has a warming effect.

Measures to cut emissions of short-lived climate forcers such as black carbon, methane, ozone or ozone precursors benefit both human health and the climate. Greenhouse gases and air pollutants share the same emission sources. Therefore there are potential benefits, including cost savings, that can be obtained by limiting emissions of one or the other.

However, in the past certain measures have been promoted to benefit, among others, climate change but which have had unintended negative impacts on air quality. For example, many countries  promoted diesel vehicles but which have turned out to emit high levels of air pollutants. Similarly, the promotion of renewable wood burning in some areas of Europe has unfortunately led to high levels of particulate matter in the local air. We must learn from such examples and make sure the consequences of the measures we choose to implement are properly understood and factored in.

The links between climate change and air quality are not limited to common pollutants released into the atmosphere from the same sources. Climate change can also aggravate air pollution problems. In many regions across the world, climate change is expected to affect local weather, including the frequency of heat waves and stagnant air episodes. More sunlight and warmer temperatures might not only prolong the periods of time in which ozone levels are elevated, it may also exacerbate peak ozone concentrations further. This is certainly not good news for parts of Europe, experiencing frequent episodes of excessive ground-level ozone.

Taking coherent action from local to global

Air pollution is not the same everywhere. Different pollutants are released into the atmosphere from a wide range of sources. Road transport, agriculture, power plants, industry and households are the biggest emitters of air pollutants in Europe. Once in the atmosphere, these pollutants can transform into new pollutants and spread. Designing and implementing policies to address this complexity are not easy tasks.

Given the diversity of sources both in terms of geographical distribution and economic activity, action must be taken at different levels from local to international. International conventions can aim to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere, but without local action — such as information campaigns, removing highly polluting vehicles from cities  or urban zoning decisions — we would fall short of reaping the full benefits of our efforts. This diversity also means that there is no one-size-fits all solution to air pollution. To reduce exposure and subsequent harm further, authorities need to adapt their measures to account for local factors such as sources, demographics, transport infrastructure and local economy.

To enhance the cohesion between actions taken at local, national, European and global level, the European Commission brought together different stakeholders from across Europe at the Clean Air Forum in November. The Forum, held in Paris, not only focused on improving air quality in cities, but also on air pollution from agricultural activities. It also highlighted innovation and business opportunities linked to clean air actions.

Information key to minimise exposure

The European Environment Agency works with its member countries to gather comparable air quality information over time. Based on the data collected, we measure progress, analyse trends and look for links between sources such as road transport and actual measurements of air quality.

When needed, measurements from monitoring stations can be complemented by satellite observations. Under its Copernicus Earth Observation programme, the EU launched in October a new satellite tasked to monitor air pollution, which has already started delivering images. This information is then regularly shared with the public and the policy makers. It is important to note that the Agency deals only with outdoor air quality, and not with the quality of the air we breathe at home or at work, which also has direct impacts on our health.

As part of our efforts to provide the most updated information, we developed together with the European Commission a new online service: the European Air Quality Index. Presented at the Clean Air Forum, the Index provides information on the current air quality situation based on measurements from more than 2 000 air quality monitoring stations across Europe. The Index allows citizens to use an interactive map to check the air quality at station level, based on five key pollutants that harm people’s health and the environment: namely particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. This tool allows us to share this information with all Europeans interested in addressing air pollution. We can all check air quality where we are and take precautionary measures to reduce our exposure to pollution.

Information is certainly essential to address air pollution and to reduce its harmful impacts. However, to  improve air quality and to meet the EU’s longer-term low carbon goals, we need to address emissions from all economic sectors and systems like mobility, energy or food, and understand production and consumption patterns that generate these emissions. This is the only way forward. The EEA stands ready, as a knowledge partner, to help achieve these long term goals.

Hans Bruyninckx

EEA Executive Director

The editorial published in EEA Newsletter, Issue 2017/4, 15 December 2017

Press link for more: EEA.Europa.EU

The Oceans make the Earth a habitable planet. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

The oceans make the planet habitable, if we continue to use the oceans as a garbage dump we will quickly make our planet uninhabitable.

Plastics & carbon pollution are real threats to marine life and ultimately to humanity.

Coral bleaching is inevitable as the oceans are heated by global warming.

The science is clear, we know what must be done.

We must demand political leadership.

We have the technology, we must become active it is the challenge for our generation.

First put a price on Pollution. Both carbon & plastic.

We can no longer be complacent.

Time is running out.

Australia quick to action in war has been slow to act on reducing pollution. Future generations will pay an enormous price.

Our carbon emissions per capita are among the highest in the world.

We are amongst the world’s worst when it comes to climate action.

We are literally stealing the future from our children and future generations.

“So reckless it’s terrifying!” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

“So reckless it’s terrifying!” Simon Baker, award-winning actor and director, has an important message for all Australians.

SHARE + ACT: Tell Turnbull to protect our Reef >> http://www.fightforourreef.org.au/simonbaker

#FightForOurReef #StopAdani

Simon Baker’s message should be a wake up call for everyone.

Climate change is causing extreme events all over the planet.

It’s hard to believe Australian politicians from both Labor & Liberal Parties are still not taking the climate science seriously.

Future generations of Australians will never understand how we ignored the warnings.

Scientists, economists, doctors are doing what they can to create awareness.

This week in France leaders from all over the world came together to demand climate action and plan for a carbon neutral economy. The One Planet Summit was ignored by Australian politicians & most of the Australian media.

If we are to limit global warming to 2C we must cease using fossil fuels by 2050.

Investing in new coal mines is reckless, it completely ignores the science & will most likely be the end of the Great Barrier Reef putting 70,000 jobs in Tourism at risk.

The threat to humanity from air pollution is also ignored.

A recent report from the World Health Organization said the 500,000 babies die every year from air pollution a large percentage of that due to burning coal.

Using the atmosphere as a garbage dump for carbon dioxide when we use fossil fuels has to end.

Putting a price on carbon is the most cost effective way to solve the problem.

#ClimateChange link to #CoralBleaching #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

According to a new research report published today in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the 2016 global average temperature and extreme heat wave over Asia occurred due to continued long-term climate change.

The report included research from NOAA scientists.

Additionally, climate change was found to have influenced other heat events in 2016, including the extreme heat in the Arctic, development of marine heat waves off Alaska and Australia, as well as the severity of the 2015-2016 El Nino, and the duration of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

The sixth edition of Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective presents 27 peer-reviewed research papers that examine episodes of extreme weather across six continents and two oceans during 2016.

It features the research of 116 scientists from 18 countries — including five reports co-led by NOAA scientists — who analyzed historical observations and changing trends along with model results to determine whether and how climate change might have influenced an extreme event or shifted the odds of it occurring.

The findings

The new research found climate change increased the risk of wildfires in the western U.S., and the extreme rainfall experienced in China, along with South Africa’s drought and resultant food shortages.

Researchers found that climate change had reduced the likelihood of the cold outbreaks experienced in China and western Australia in 2016.

No conclusive link to climate change was found by scientists examining severe drought in Brazil, record rains in Australia, or stagnant conditions creating poor air quality in Europe.

In the report, 21 of the 27 papers in this edition identified climate change as a significant driver of an event, while six did not.

Of the 131 papers now examined in this report over the last six years, approximately 65 percent have identified a role for climate change, while about 35 percent have not found an appreciable effect.

There could be several reasons no climate signal was found by some papers; it might be that there were no changes in the frequency or severity for that type of event over time or that researchers weren’t able to detect changes using the available observational record or scientific tools and models available today.

Future studies could yield new insights on the climate’s influence on extreme weather.

More about the report

The BAMS annual report is designed to improve the scientific understanding of the drivers of extreme weather, provide insight into how the various weather extremes may be changing over time, and help community and business leaders better prepare for a rapidly changing world.

Press link for more: NOAA.GOV

Where is the food going to come from? #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanet

This is the question everyone should be attending to – where is the food going to come from?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2017

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is the food going to come from?

By mid-century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil.

The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures.

Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss.

In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in South Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree Celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. This could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4°C of warming in the US Corn Belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely-tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with less than 5 hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global seagrab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. Around 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a difference of 100-fold.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other lifeforms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next Green Revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

http://www.monbiot.com

Press link for more: Monbiot.com

2016 Global Heatwaves due to Climate Change #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanet

Global heat waves in 2016 due purely to climate change: study

The findings mark the first time that global scientists have identified severe weather that could not have happened without climate change, said the peer-reviewed report titled “Explaining Extreme Events in 2016 from a Climate Perspective.”

Until now, the contribution of human-driven climate change has been understood to raise the odds of certain floods, droughts, storms and heat waves — but not serve as the sole cause.

“This report marks a fundamental change,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which published the peer-reviewed report.

“For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”

The report included 27 peer-reviewed analyses of extreme weather across five continents and two oceans.

A total of 116 scientists from 18 countries took part, incorporating historical observations and model simulations to determine the role of climate change in nearly two dozen extreme events.

Records shattered

In 2016, the planet reached a new high for global heat, making it the warmest year in modern times.

These record average surface temperatures worldwide were “only possible due to substantial centennial-scale anthropogenic warming,” said the report.

Asia also experienced stifling heat, with India suffering a major heat wave that killed 580 people from March to May.

Thailand set a new record for energy consumption as people turned on air conditioners en masse to cool off.

Even though the tropical Pacific Ocean warming trend of El Nino was pronounced in 2015 and the first part of 2016, researchers concluded that it was not to blame.

“The 2016 extreme warmth across Asia would not have been possible without climate change,” said the report.

“Although El Nino was expected to warm Southeast Asia in 2016, the heat in the region was unusually widespread.”

In the Gulf of Alaska, the nearby Bering Sea, and off northern Australia, water temperatures were the highest in 35 years of satellite records.

This ocean warming led to “massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and one of the largest harmful algal blooms ever off the Alaska shore,” according to the report.

“It was extremely unlikely that natural variability alone led to the observed anomalies.”

Another chapter found that the so-called “blob” of sub-Arctic 2016 warmth “cannot be explained without anthropogenic climate warming.”

Most, not all

Most of the extreme events studied were influenced to some extent by climate change, as in the past six years that the work has been published.

Climate change was found to have boosted the odds and intensity of El Nino, the severity of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, and warmth in the North Pacific Ocean.

Flash droughts over southern Africa, like the one in 2015 and 2016, have tripled in the last 60 years mainly due to human-caused climate change, it said.

“Extreme rains, like the record-breaking 2016 event in Wuhan, China are 10 times more likely in the present climate than they were in 1961.”

The unusual Arctic warmth observed in November–December 2016 “most likely would not have been possible without human-caused warming,” it added.

But not all extreme weather was influenced by global warming.

About 20 percent of the events studied were not linked to human-caused climate change, including a major winter snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and the drought that led to water shortages in northeast Brazil.

The findings were released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU

Planetary Prosperity Means Zero Carbon #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanetSummit

PLANETARY PROSPERITY MEANS ZERO CARBON

DR.MATHIS WACKERNAGEL – CEO OF GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK on December 12, 2017

Mother Nature seems to be in full revolt.

A stone’s throw from the city of Oakland, where Global Footprint Network is based, the seasonal Diablo winds recently reached record intensity, fanning the worst fires that the famous wine-producing region of Napa has known, reducing to ashes vineyards and residential neighbourhoods, and pushing tens of thousands of inhabitants on the roads.

Now Santa Ana winds are wreaking similar havoc in Southern California, causing more evacuations and burning more structures.

On the other side of the continent, the Caribbean islands most affected by the hurricanes of the last weeks – Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Puerto Rico in front – face a tremendous reconstruction project, needing to rebuild access to safe water and electricity.

The time is not for discouragement or defeatism.

More than ever, it is evident that every human community must do its utmost to keep pace with the planet that is hosting us.

The time for transformation is now.

Humanity is not idle.

The root causes are recognized.

On December 12, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, when world leaders came together to commit to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and strive for 1.5 degrees.

Although President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the agreement, leaders around the world are standing firm.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and UN Secretary António Guterres will gather at the One Planet Summit on December 12 to call for concrete action.

Similarly, I am among 31 Blue Planet Laureates who not only want to mark this important anniversary but also remind the world that the climate agreement is achievable and desirable.

We have summarized our position as follows:

Planetary Prosperity Means Zero Carbon

The resource hunger of the human enterprise has become too large for our planet.

The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes this. It aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C above the preindustrial level.

This means ceasing fossil-fuel use before 2050, increasing ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and improving human well-being.

We, Blue Planet Laureates, wholeheartedly and emphatically support this transformation.

It is technologically possible, economically beneficial, and our best chance for a prosperous future.

Our planet is finite. But human possibilities are not. The transformation will succeed if we apply people’s greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and care for each other.

Examples across the globe show positive results.

Cities like Zurich, Curitiba, Malmö, Masdar, and Reykjavik have shown leadership. Regions have taken charge, including California, where Gov. Jerry Brown will convene the Global Action Climate Summit next year.

China has made creating an Ecological Civilization in harmony with nature a priority in its latest 5-year plan.

France and the UK have announced the end of fossil fuel cars by 2040, and Tesla surpassed General Motors earlier this year to become the most valuable US auto maker – without ever building a gasoline-powered car.

Other companies such as Schneider Electric thrive on driving down their clients’ carbon emissions and costs. Achieving Paris is possible.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of this transformation is sparking the imagination of people around the world and making them realize that a zero-carbon world is much more likely to secure long-term prosperity than continuing our destructive path.

We also need to start to recognize that this transformation primarily builds on foresight and innovation, not sacrifice and suffering.

Even with the UN projecting world population growth of 13 percent by 2030 and 28 percent by 2050, flourishing lives on this one planet are possible through walkable cities that are renewably powered and sustainably fed.

Encouraging smaller families and empowering women around the world will also produce immediate positive health and educational outcomes for those families.

Such steps will also substantially reduce the carbon footprint and ease the resource budget for each country in the long run. Indeed, ‘family planning’ and ‘educating girls’ rank sixth and seventh in Project Drawdown’s ranking of solutions to reverse global warming.

We stand for one-planet prosperity. ‘One planet’ means that we recognize the physical context of our economies. ‘Prosperity’ means that we choose flourishing lives over misery. Will you join us?

Press link for more: Impakter.com

One Planet 🌍 #auspol #qldpol #climatechange #StopAdani

Climate Change is our greatest challenge it’s a race against time, and we’re losing.

Australia & the United States should be leading the world.

Instead we continue to invest in fossil fuels and refuse to put a price on carbon pollution.

Corporations have corrupted our democracies.

Our children & future generations will pay for our greed & negligence.

Nature’s Shock & Awe for The U.S #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani

Shock and awe. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is meant to be, in Southern California, the start of rainy season.

Not this year.

The Thomas Fire, the worst of those roiling the region this last week, grew 50,000 acres on Sunday alone; it has now burnt 270 square miles and forced 200,000 people from their homes.

There is no rain forecast for the next seven to ten days, and as of Monday morning, Thomas is just, in the terrifying semi-clinical language of wildfires, “10% contained.” To a poetic approximation, it’s not a bad estimate of how much of a handle we have on the forces of climate change that unleashed it — which is to say, hardly any.

“The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself,” Joan Didion wrote in “Los Angeles Notebook,” collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. But the cultural impression is apparently not all that deep, since the fires that broke out last week produced, in headlines and on television and via text messages, an astonished refrain of the adjectives “unthinkable,” “unprecedented,” and “unimaginable.”

Didion was writing about the fires that had swept through Malibu in 1956, Bel Air in 1961, Santa Barbara in 1964, and Watts in 1965; she updated her list in “Fire Season (1989),” describing the fires of 1968, 1970, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1982: “Since 1919, when the county began keeping records of its fires, some areas have burned eight times.”

We could use further updating: Five of the 20 worst fires in California history have now hit since just September, when 245,000 acres in Northern California burned — devastation so cruel and sweeping that two different accounts were published in two different local newspapers of two different aging couples taking desperate cover in pools as the fires swallowed their homes.

One couple survived, emerging after six excruciating hours to find their house transformed into an ash monument; in the other, it was only the husband who emerged, his wife of 55 years having died in his arms. As Americans traded horror stories in the aftermath of those fires, they could be forgiven for mixing the stories up or being confused; that climate terror could be so general as to provide variations on such a theme seemed, as recently as September, impossible to believe.

But if last week’s wildfires were not unprecedented, what did we mean when we called them that?

Like September 11, which followed several decades of morbid American fantasies about the World Trade Center, the brushfires that began last week north of Santa Paula look to a horrified public like a climate prophecy, made in fear, now made real.

That prophecy was threefold.

First, the simple intuition of climate horrors — an especially biblical premonition when the plague is out-of-control fire, like a dust storm of flame.

Second, of the expanding reach of wildfires in particular, which now can feel, in much of the West, like a gust of bad wind away, and never impossible no matter the time of year.

Over the last few decades, the wildfire season has already grown by two months, and by 2050, destruction from wildfires is expected to double (for every additional degree of global warming, it will quadruple).

But perhaps the most harrowing of the ways in which the fires seemed to confirm our cinematic nightmares was the third: that climate chaos could breach our most imperious fortresses — that is, our cities.

With Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Americans have gotten acquainted with the threat of flooding, but water is just the beginning.

In the affluent cities of the West, even those conscious of environmental change have spent the last few decades believing that, and behaving as though, we had — with our street grids, our highways, our superabundant supermarkets and all-everywhere, all-enveloping internet — built our way out of nature.

We have not.

A paradise dreamscape erected in a barren desert, L.A. has always been an impossible city, as Mike Davis, among many others, has so brilliantly written.

The sight of flames straddling the eight-lane 405 is a reminder that it is still impossible.

In fact, getting more so.

One response to seeing things long predicted actually come to pass is to feel that we have settled into a new era, with everything transformed.

In fact, that is how Governor Jerry Brown described the state of things this weekend: “a new normal.”

The fact that the news cycle has already moved on, while the fires are just as out of control, is another sign of our eagerness to normalize these horrors — or at least to look away.

But normalization is problematic, as perversely comforting as it may feel to think we’ve settled into a familiar nightmare.

Climate change is not binary, and we have not now arrived at a new equilibrium; as I’ve written before, the climate suffering we are seeing now is a “beyond best case” scenario for our future.

With each further tick upward in global temperatures — each tiny tick — the effects will worsen.

And further ticks are inevitable; the question is only how many.

It would be much more accurate to say that we have passed beyond the end of normal, into a new realm unbounded by the analogy of any human experience.

But two big forces conspire to prevent us from normalizing fires like these, though neither is exactly a cause for celebration.

The first is that extreme weather won’t let us, since it won’t stabilize — so that even within a decade, it’s a fair bet that these fires will be thought of as the “old normal.”

Whatever you may think about the pace of climate change, it is happening mind-bendingly fast, almost in real time.

It is not just that December wildfires were unheard of just three decades ago.

We have now emitted more carbon into the atmosphere since Al Gore wrote his first book on climate than in the entire preceding history of humanity, which means that we have engineered most of the climate chaos that now terrifies us in that brief span.

The second force is also contained in the story of the wildfires — the way that climate change is finally striking close to home.

Striking, in fact, some quite special homes: Last Thursday, for instance, there were reports that the fires were threatening the Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades and Rupert Murdoch’s Bel-Air estate.

There may not be two better symbols of the imperiousness of American money than the Getty villa, a San Simeon built on the pure blue Pacific with Texas oil money laundered through art philanthropy; and the nearby toy vineyard of climate-change-denier Rupert Murdoch, built on some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

One imagines that Murdoch will not be writing tweets like this one again anytime soon; then again, who knows?

When, on Thursday, I tweeted that NBC News was reporting that Murdoch’s vineyard was on fire, it immediately spawned a thread of gleeful, crowing responses, more than a thousand of them. But, of course, his property and the Getty were not being singled out; they were fighting off flames because the entire rest of the county was, too, and — no matter how well-equipped or well-defended or well-heeled they were — having just as much trouble. Which is, as uncomfortable as it may be to admit, a very useful allegory for the rest of us to keep in mind.

By accidents of geography and by the force of its wealth, the United States has, to this point, been mostly protected from the devastation climate change has already visited on parts of the less-developed world — mostly.

The condition of Puerto Rico, nearly three months after Hurricane Irma hit, is a harrowing picture of what climate devastation can do to the least among us. That it is now hitting our wealthiest citizens is not just an opportunity for ugly bursts of liberal Schadenfreude; it is also a sign of just how hard, and how indiscriminately, it is hitting. The wealthy used to build castles to defend themselves against the world; more recently it’s been a more modern kind of fortress, cities, enclosing more and more of us in an illusion of man-made security. All of a sudden, it’s getting a lot harder to protect against what’s coming.